All stages great and small.
Matt Woosey has made a career of defying expectations. His albums break down the confines of genre. His performances span from eyeball-to-eyeball solo sets in fans’ living rooms, to thundering full-band explosions that shake the most prestigious venues in Europe. He’s an artist who slips the creative handcuffs of the industry, a trailblazer with no reverse gear, a guitar visionary whose palette bleeds into folk, rock, ambient and more, having been first turned on to the world of music by the blues.
“You’ve got to keep progressing,” reasons the British singer-songwriter. “Like John Martyn. Like Robert Plant. Like Radiohead…”
2020 // 2021.
The New Album "Compass And The Sand"
With an abundance of time, and like most musicians during this period, Matt has allowed himself to step right back from everything he has done up until and including 2019's "Live! in Gallaghers Nest" album and take stock, evaluate what kind of a musician he wants to be and decide in which direction to aim next. Without the all-encompassing lifestyle of being on the road and without the self-induced pressure to produce a new album or new material, Matt has found his zone, the place he wants to be musically. We find ourselves looking at a musician who has managed to break free of the strangle hold of the music world and who walks now with no weight on his shoulders and a new evaluation of what he "must" do. The gift of time has been the most positive experience.
"I've really been able to work on this album, like I've never had chance to do before. I spent so much time working on the original demos. It has been a joy to do and totally stress free! Allowing other musicians to come in a do their thing at their own pace has been very productive. For me some of the most enjoyable sessions have been working on the backing vocals. That is one of the biggest differences between this album and the rest of my work - the melodic interplay of more than one vocal line".
"Realising the scope and limitations of my own musical abilities has also been key. It has brought me so much joy to have ideas or parts oin my head and getting other musicians in to bring those ideas to life, rather than doing a half-baked effort myself. Having other people do a lot of the guitar parts has been such great fun".
On listening to the work that has gone into the writing of the album, it is evident that Matt Woosey has found a new flow. Having always been one with a fear of repeating himself, Matt seems to have found his way out of a stale and musically boring blues scene whilst often harking back to the music which first turned his ear. If roots/blues music is the seed, "Compass And The Sand" is his forest.
Yet all the great artists come with a backstory, and there’s no doubt this artist was forged by an early career that took in passion, hardship and redemption. 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 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 stirred into the mix (“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.”
“When I listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rory Gallagher or Roy Buchanan play electric,” he reasons, “I just can’t add anything to that. 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.”
Right now, Matt stands at his most fascinating creative crossroads to date. It’s two years since the release of "Live! at Gallaghers Nest": the ground-breaking album, capturing the most daring music of Matt’s career, it was toasted by Classic Rock as “one of the year’s most ambitious and electrifying releases”, and the ripples spread far beyond his early fanbase.
“The reaction was great,” he nods. “it picked up people who aren’t necessarily blues fans, because it was a much broader album than anything I’d done before.”
The same might be said for the twist-and-turn career of Matt Woosey. In a world where mainstream musicians make all the obvious moves, here is one artist who travels without a map.
“I have a real fear of repeating myself,” he says. “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.”