Singer-Songwriter Interview / Matthew Fowler

If you listen to the mesmerizing debut album ‘Beginning’ from Orlando based singer-songwriter Matthew Fowler, you’d think it was done in a recording studio. But the truth is, it was recorded in his parent’s kitchen with some of his close friends. Matthew wanted to challenge himself and with no recording experience, he’s made an album worth admiring by even the most established artists. His storytelling, beautiful melodies and hypnotic vocals create a very special atmosphere. Matthew and his music possess a unique charisma and you can feel the heart and soul he puts into his work. Being blessed with such a grand talent, there is no doubt this 19-year old musician will soon get the recognition he deserves.

Find out more about Matthew and his music in our following interview and listen to his album ‘Beginning’, which is also available for a free download on Bandcamp.

How would you describe your music to the UK audience?

It’s essentially a singer/songwriter album with roots in folk music.

What got you into music and made you want to pursue a career in it?

Even as a kid, I was obsessed with music. I remember having conversations with adults when I was just a kid about Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra and how they made me feel. I think musicians have always been people that I looked up to and wanted to emulate. The first time I picked up the guitar was when I was 14. I got one for my birthday (the same Yamaha I still use live) and that was really it for me. I don’t remember even consciously choosing to play music, I think it just happened.

Your debut album ‘Beginning’ is available for a free download. What made you decide to give it out for free?

In this day and age it’s really easy to get the music you want to listen to for free. I just would rather people go through me to do it than the torrents because it gives me a chance to connect with the people who want to listen. I think they repay you in other ways – maybe coming to a show or even showing the album to their friends. In the long run, that’s more important to me.

Can you take us through the recording process of this record?

Recording was something I had absolutely no experience with, whatsoever. Apart from voice memos on my phone, I never recorded anything before, so I really had my work cut out for me with the making of this album. I knew I didn’t want to go into a studio, I wanted to see what I could do with a bit of time and a couple of cheap mics. So the recordings were done in my parents’ kitchen, and most of the songs were tracked live. I think there were only a couple of parts here and there that were added in afterwards, but the majority of the songs were recorded with all of us playing together.

It just always sounded the best to me – the most natural, the most energetic, the most emotional performances always seem to be captured through that shared energy. I had a couple of friends help me with the recording and mixing process here and there, but I did most of it myself, which I’m really proud of. I learned some things from other people, experimented on my own, and figured out how it all worked. So at the end of the day, I made the album that I wanted to make, and I was the one responsible for it. It’s been really cool actually when people ask me where I went to get the album recorded, and I get to say that I did it in my parent’s kitchen with a couple friends and a lot of sleepless nights!

Is there any song or two on the album with a special story behind it, which you’d like to share with us?

Well there are definitely a couple of stories about every song. But the first track on the album, “Leaving Home/Open Road” was inspired by a road trip I took in high school with a couple of buddies of mine. We had time off from school for spring break and drove from Orlando to the Grand Canyon and back in like 8 days or something. It was the first time out on the road in that fashion by myself and it really inspired me. Seeing the world the way we wanted and experiencing nature in its purest form. It was really life-changing.

Which other musicians would you class as your main influences?

Well obviously the legends like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Van Morrison have been greatly influential on my music. I would say recent artists like Glen Hansard and Damien Rice have also had really huge effects on my music. I remember pouring over everything Glen Hansard had done and loving all of it. He’s definitely my favorite musician, and I think we share the same outlook on what music and performing are all about, I think that’s why I really connected with his music.

How often do you get to perform live and what are your favorite parts of playing to a live audience?

I honestly try and play live at every chance I get. That’s my favorite part of music. There’s something about playing for total strangers and getting them to feel the words and emotions in a song that is so wonderful. It’s great to be able to connect with people in that way. You can never predict how a live show will go. Sometimes it’s really intimate and intense, sometimes it’s lighthearted and rambunctious. I like the changes and never knowing what to expect.

What is the music scene in Orlando like at the moment and how do you think the type of music you’re making fits in?

The music scene is interesting. Don’t get me wrong, there are great bands coming out of Florida. Really fantastic bands coming out of Orlando, but it’s not the typical place to find people playing the type of music I play. Florida is a lot more open to Rock bands, Funk and Soul, and more bluesy stuff than Folk music. A lot of punk as well. That has been my experience with it. So it is challenging sometimes, but then again, it’s great to win over people who might not necessarily listen to my genre as often. To get people on board who are relatively new to the particular style of music I play.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I’ve been listening to Dawes’ new album quite a bit. I think it’s excellent. Also, “Home Again” by Michael Kiwanuka has been on repeat in my car. I think the album is so beautifully done, truly one of my favorite records right now. Other than that, nothing really new has been catching my ear as frequently as those two albums. For whatever reason I’ve been obsessed with “Graceland” by Paul Simon. I remember last month there was like a whole week where it was all I listened to.

Are you planning to record or release any new material in the upcoming weeks/months?

Well, “Beginning” was released in June, which is pretty recently. So I don’t think I’ll be releasing anything very soon, I don’t want to rush into a new album. I want to take my time for the next one and really focus on having quality songs – not  that “Beginning” didn’t – I just don’t want to put something out because it’s expected, I want to put something out when I’m ready and confident about it.

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