Despite an amazing life-changing experience on the Australian X-Factor, Matt Gresham has not forgotten his roots and is still as down to earth as they come. Matt uses his life experiences and strong voice to capture audiences worldwide. We catch up with the artist to talk his latest single 'Home', being a minimalist, leaving X Factor and his upcoming album.
What’s got you motivated right now?
I’ve just released my new single, ‘Home’. I’m getting a lot of great feedback and it seems to be taking on a life of its own online which is exciting. Just this morning an incredible dancer Erica Klein from LA posted a video online of a piece she choreographed to another track of mine, ‘Ghost’. It’s things like this where people are connecting to with my music in their own ways that keeps me motivated, it really moved me.
Define yourself in 3 words?
Storyteller, family first, minimalist.
What was it like growing up in Rockingham, Australia?
My childhood was incredible, I was surrounded by nature all the time, I live by the tides of the ocean, the people are very honest and there is no ego. When I come home now it feels like I am stepping back into reality.
Did you face any challenges growing up there? And if so, how did you overcome them?
Yeah, I did, I was bullied as a young kid, primary school was a nightmare for me. I found it really hard to connect with other kids my age during that period, it made my life pretty difficult. I overcame it with music though, I found a way to connect with others through my music and things got much easier for me after that. Not to mention skateboarding… skateboarding gave me a feeling of freedom I hadn’t ever experienced prior. I was very lucky to have the love and support of such an amazing family through that time too.
So who or what got you into music in those early days?
My mother has always had a huge connection with music so I naturally did too. My older brother had an acoustic guitar and I remember him singing the Cat Stevens songs and Nirvana, and I was so inspired by him being the older bro I wanted to be just like him. SO it was my family I suppose, my home was always filled with music.
At what moment did you realise that you could make this music thing work?
When I left school I was offered a residency at one of the local bars in town, it was there that I crafted my live performance and started making some money. Bar crowds are the best to learn your craft in front of, they are unforgiving and make you work so hard to win them over. I found it really empowering the moment I could make a bar go quiet for just one song. It’s that feeling every musician, singer, songwriter chases.
What you inspired you to appear on the Australian X Factor in 2013?
It was my dad, he was always so supportive of my music and he suggested I give the show a go. It was such an incredible experience seeing how hard everybody works to put the show together and I learnt a lot during my time.
What made you leave the show eventually?
It didn’t feel organic to me, I felt like I was losing a lot of creative control of my music and I didn’t agree with the contract. It felt like I was doing myself a disservice in the end if I was to stay on.
What did this experience teach you about yourself?
To stand up for what I believe in, to stay true to myself and always go with my gut. You have to make some pretty big life-changing calls when you’re on the journey I’m on at the moment and I feel like that experience really taught me if something doesn’t feel natural then it’s probably not the right fit for me.
Are you making edgier decisions nowadays?
Absolutely, integrity means everything as an artist. I feel like I have been empowered to make some pretty wild calls on my music especially through the process of making my upcoming album. I have taken some risks and I think they have paid off. I’ve just been going with my gut and it seems to be working.
You now live in Berlin. Why the move?
I was invited to showcase at SXSW in 2016 and the showcase landed me a record deal with Warner Germany so the move made sense. I had spent some time when I was at school on exchange in Germany and fell in love with the country and the people. I actually think that’s where I learnt what work ethic meant ha! Germans aren’t afraid of hard work. I’m now splitting my time between Germany and Australia mostly when I’m not touring in the UK or in the US writing and recording.
Berlin has this incredible creative energy and gives an artist a sense of freedom to express themselves without judgment, it’s something I haven’t felt in any other city.
Tell us about your latest song ‘Home’?
Home is all about self-reflection for me. It was written a few years ago when I was at a crossroads with my music, I had to choose between staying in my comfort zone, Western Australia is the most incredible play on earth! Or take a risk and hit the road and travel with my music. I chose the road and to make home a feeling rather than a place. Since then I've been travelling basically non-stop.
Is there a message you are trying to get across in your music or with this song?
With music, I know nothing but honesty. When I discovered music, I discovered a way to express all of the thoughts and emotions I couldn’t before. So I guess the message is to try to find a creative outlet that gives you that power too. We all need it.
You also toured with James Arthur last year, any highlights?
That was an incredible tour and he is an incredible artist. There were some great moments in those huge old theatres playing to some of the biggest crowds I’ve ever played to. The whole experience was so humbling.
So if you could gig anywhere in the world - where would it be?
The Sydney Opera House. I think it is such a magical venue and so iconically Australian. The energy in there is so inspiring. My dream performance would be to just sit on stage un-amplified, me and guitar, the acoustics are mind-blowing.
You’ve also worked with Talib Kwelli, how was that? Any memorable moments?
I was sitting on the beach in Sydney after a surf and I got an email with the verse Talib had written for my track ‘Open’, it blew my mind. It was as if he had reached inside my soul and written this incredible verse expressing exactly what I had been trying to with the song. He is such an incredible talent.
What’s your proudest moment(s) so far?
Honestly, I’m proud of how honest I am in my music. That takes a lot of guts, to put it all out there fearlessly. I’m also proud of the real bonds I have cultivated with my family through this time, I would be lost without them and their support.
What is your life motto?
All you need is less.
Tell us something about you that is weird?
I’m a total minimalist. In my home, I have very few material possessions, only the essentials. Most people are shocked when they realise how far I can take this. I travel with a backpack a guitar and a surfboard, and that’s pretty much all I have in my house other than the essential pieces of furniture. I like to keep it simple.
What ideas changed your life?
My mother's ideology on life. She has taught me the importance of self-worth and freedom.
What would you do to make the world a better place?
Encourage people to use 'things' less and love people more, not use people and love 'things'.
What’s next for Matt Gresham?
The next few months are going to be pretty full on. I have promo tours in Australia and Germany. I have a couple of singles coming out before the album around August. A few festival performances over the summer, all the while I’ll be chasing waves to keep things balanced.
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