Biography

Matt Woosey

Biography

Deutsch

2015-Matt-Woosey-HIRES-Stuart-Stott©MATT WOOSEY

Matt Woosey’s time is now. His eighth studio album, Desiderata, captures the most daring and progressive music of his career. His acclaimed solo shows dart between folk, roots, ambient and electronica. He’s an artist who slips the creative straightjacket of the modern industry, a trailblazer with no reverse gear, a performer who drags the acoustic guitar kicking and screaming into fresh relevance. “You’ve got to keep progressing,” says the Malvern-based singer-songwriter. “Like John Martyn. Like Robert Plant. Like Radiohead…”

Now living and playing in Germany, Matt has found a group of musicians who join him on the road and add ever changing dynamics to his music. Whether it be the simplicity of an acoustic duo or the full power of his dual-lead-guitar electric band or any combination in between, Matt’s music is reaching new places musically and otherwise, seemingly with no stage being too big or too small for the progressive and determined songsmith. “with these guys available to me, I can play the same set in a dozen different ways, allowing me to travel all over Europe doing my thing and not having to worry about whether or not I’m suitable for a particular venue, it’s very liberating”

Tipped by tastemakers from BBC Radio to Classic Rock, and braced for a headline tour across Britain and beyond, 2016 finds Matt looking to the future. Yet all the best artists come with a backstory, and it’s fair to say that Desiderata could never have been made were it not for a formative early career that took in passion, hardship and redemption. “If I’d become an overnight success,” notes Matt, “I’d probably be addicted to some horrible drugs by now. It’s like anything. You have to do an apprenticeship. You have to grow.”

Rewind to the late-’90s, then, and as the son of forces parents stationed in Germany, Matt found himself packed off to a Bristol boarding school with a rudimentary cassette player and a stack of dubious tapes. He had little use for ABBA and Simply Red, but was spellbound by the souped-up, shape-shifting power-blues of Led Zeppelin’s debut album and II. “That’s when I fell in love with music,” he says. “When I knew it would be part of my life.”

That early taste for Led Zeppelin quickly spilled over into blues-rock heavyweights like Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff and Peter Green, with Tim Buckley and John Martyn also mixed into the palette (“I always loved the way they used their voices as an instrument”). Soon, passive enjoyment alone no longer enough scratched the itch, and Matt duly pinballed through a string of local bands that included a Thin Lizzy covers outfit. “I had guitar lessons at school on nylon-string acoustic,” he recalls. “I played electric guitar in other people’s bands, and did a few backing vocals. Then I started writing my own material and singing, going out on my own to open-mics and folk clubs.”

Out of the blocks, Matt created alchemy with the bare minimum of equipment, needing little more than his neck-tingling voicebox and fluid acoustic guitar chops to tame a drunk mob or command a transient crowd. “When I listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rory Gallagher or Roy Buchanan play electric,” he reasons, “I just can’t add anything to that, y’know? For me, playing acoustic guitar in an inventive way that’s different to anyone else is the most powerful thing I can do. I like to do things that turn heads, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the songs.”

Indeed, by the time he came to record his solo debut in 2008 – an album released independently and flogged at gigs – Matt had established his ethos of all-original songs, whatever the cost. “I’ve never performed many covers live,” he says, “and my studio albums have all been my own material. As a gigging musician, that’s made my life ten times harder. I don’t earn anywhere near as much as if I was just going out doing covers.”

With integrity came uphill struggle. In past interviews, Matt has spoken openly of the solitude of the travelling musician, and the panic attacks sparked by the apathy and grind of a British pub circuit more receptive to Sky Sports and karaoke. Through it all, he endured. “I’ve played in golf clubs. I’ve played on boats. I’ve played with an Ann Summers party in the corner. I’ve played to the barman. I’ve done the toilet tour of the UK a hundred times. If there’s a five-square-mile radius I haven’t played in Britain, I’d be shocked. I’ve had the worst possible gigs, and I’ve had the most amazing ones.”

Personally and professionally, however, there’s no mistaking Matt’s upward trajectory in recent times. In 2014, his genre-hopping Wildest Dreams studio album was dubbed “a breath of fresh air” by Classic Rock, while his onstage prowess and booming live profile were thrillingly captured on the While The Cat’s Away release (recorded warts-and-all at Bristol’s Gallimaufry venue in 2014). Away from the spotlight, meanwhile, he has found equilibrium through marriage and fatherhood. “It was quite difficult to maintain the faith,” he reflected in The Blues Magazine of harder times. “But I like looking back on that time, and realising how wonderful my life is now.”

To his growing fanbase – achieved despite his recent decision to opt out of social media – there was a palpable sense that Matt was building towards something truly special. So it proves with Desiderata. Issued through the RoBar label on April 1st – and toured extensively throughout 2016 – it’s an album whose spark and invention eclipses the tired offerings spat out by the rock mainstream. “It’s hard to say what it’s inspired by,” he says. “And I can’t really tell you what other bands it sounds like. It’s just Matt Woosey, really.”

With its title and initial inspiration borrowed from Max Ehrmann’s famous 1927 prose-poem, and Matt’s eloquent worldview set to music that includes piano, pedal-steel, upright bass and electronica, Desiderata is a one-off in a world where you’ve heard it all before – and a signpost to what this fascinating artist might do next. “When people come up after a gig and ask which CD to buy, I’ll always recommend the newest one,” he concludes. “I have a real fear of repeating myself. My music has to be creative and artistic. It has to keep pushing things forward. I just want people to come with me on my journey, whatever changes I take. And this album is a bit special to me…”