Interview with Matt Steady

Last year I featured Matt Steady, and his album ‘Blood is Thicker than Gold’ which I feel is something that was created for the love of music and not just something that fits the current trends. This is a musician who creates audio art which is right for him and just about not what the world of music wants. To find out more about this album then check out the feature Introducing Matt Steady.

Matt is now back with his new offering ‘Feels Liking Coming Home’ which became reality thanks to a very successful fan funded project with PledgeMusic. But before I talk about this collection of songs I want to share a little chat that I had with him. We talked about the Pledge campaign, the album process and what he has planned for the future. This is what he had to say:

How did it feel that this album was helped to become a reality thanks to your fans?

The PledgeMusic campaign really felt like a team effort – it was an amazing experience! It was so much fun sharing progress with the group and we discussed lots of things like the artwork and musical direction. Coming from full-time work in a project team, DIY music could have been quite a lonely experience when you write the songs yourself, record them, produce them, mix, master, release etc. Making it bigger than me made it much more special. I actually knew 99% of the people who pre-ordered and bought rewards by name – they may like my music, but I would prefer to call them friends rather than fans. I don’t have vast tracts of unknown listeners – we’re actually more like a little musical community, including quite a lot of other musicians which is great!

What were your goals when you began working on your new album ‘Feel Like Coming Home’?

My goals changed as I went along. I knew as soon as I had finished ‘Blood is thicker than gold’ that I would write another album. I had a couple of songs that I felt really deserved to be an album, but I hadn’t quite managed to capture the right spirit when I recorded them and they needed a rethink. I also had quite a few ideas for new songs too. But then when I decided to leave full-time work, the goalposts moved. I had a long notice period, as I wanted to finish off a particular big and important project, so while I kept writing and recording in my spare time, I was also saving and planning ahead. When I did finally finish work at the end of August, I had all the songs written and most of them I had recorded skeletons to work around. 3 months full-time solid hard graft finished off the recording and finalising everything so it was released in December. At the start, of course I wanted to make the best album I could. By the end, I knew that if I were to stand any chance of being a full-time musician, I had to make a belter! It had to be able to stand up along side other records from full-time professionals and not look or sound amateur in any way. The stakes were raised, and with them came pressure. Pressure from myself, not anyone else!

What were some of the major highs and lows while you were working on the album?

Co-writing “Steel and Rust” with Darren Ellis was a lot of fun! We wrote the song, recorded it and gigged it the same evening. It normally takes me weeks to do that! I released a cover of Hurt midway just as a change of pace for my vocals and a kind of tribute to Johnny Cash, and the positive feedback on it was so overwhelming that I had to fit it into the album! That was very encouraging. Lows? There was one point where I had 10 songs recorded and I listened to them all in a row and just thought ‘love the songs, but they just don’t gel together’. That was a bit upsetting actually, but I dusted myself down and worked out ways of making the overall sound across the songs a bit more cohesive and consistent. So for instance, I put some dobro on a few tracks that it wasn’t originally intended to be on, and that had a magical effect helping to tie them together with that similarity. Also taking the purely acoustic Indecision and adding a string section and again dobro stopped it sticking out like a sore thumb.

The crowd-funding itself had major ups and downs too! It’s so much work if you actually do it properly rather than just “post and hope”. It went off like a rocket at the beginning – there were quite a lot of people raring to go who pledged almost immediately, so we were pretty much half-funded within a few days! Then it flat-lined for quite a while which was really worrying. I had known it was likely to happen, but still! Then near the end it suddenly went off again when a few big-ticket rewards were sold, and then there was such a sense of relief!

Ordering the CD manufacturing is really nerve-racking. You’ve checked and double-checked everything, but what happens if the CDs won’t play? Or if there’s a grammatical error on the sleeve notes? Or they come out the wrong colour? When they finally arrived, and they looked amazing and played fine, again I was greatly relieved! It feels so good holding that CD in your hands…

While listening to the final version of the album, what emotions and thoughts were going on?

Honestly? More relief than joy or excitement. Thank goodness it’s what I hoped for. There were no surprises. It’s a bit different for me. Because I do the mastering and final stages, I already know exactly what it sounds like. A lot of musicians will hear the recordings in the studio, then one day will hear a mastered version of the album that is so much clearer and louder and more awesome that they have that kind of YES!!! moment, but not me. Just relief!

Now that the album is loose on the world, what are your future plans for your music?

Oh I’m really excited about what’s starting! I’m planning on releasing the next album in 6 months (the other two took a full year), and I doing something completely different that I haven’t seen anyone do before. When people buy an album, they normally hear the final polished product and are amazed at the genius skills and voodoo magic that the musicians must have had to be able to create it.

This is so not the case! You start off with unfinished lyrics, bad melodies, banging them out hesitantly on an acoustic guitar. Then you gradually refine them, record demos, arrange them, rearrange them, rewrite them. Then there’s the whole recording process which is fascinating and when you see it in action it takes away some of the mystique.

I’ve started a video log which I’m going to keep up for the 6 months taking you all the way from writing a bunch of songs right to the final stages. It is warts and all. You’ll hear me play stuff live that I’m still writing, making all sorts of mistakes and duff notes. You’ll hear the songs evolve and get to help choose which ones make the cut for the album. You’ll see everything. All the little tricks of the trade in the recording and production processes. Every bit of the graft and polishing required to make a great-sounding record. I want other musicians just starting out to be able to watch this and think ‘hey – I could do this!’ and be inspired. I want listeners to realise that musicians are just normal people with a set of skills that they’ve honed over decades and a lot of hard work. And I think as a community of friends, we’ll be able really work together on the project in a much more detailed and open way than even the PledgeMusic campaign was for ‘Feels like coming home’. It’s going to be awesome!

It is going to be completely free. However, if people enjoy what I’m posting and finding it useful, I will be accepting tips! I’ll be posting the videos up primarily on my official Facebook page, and copying them onto YouTube. However the best place to actually get involved with all the discussion is in our Facebook group ‘Blood is thicker than gold’ (click HERE). That’s where we really get into it! Only join this group if you’re wanting to be a part of the process and get stuck in!

The best way for me to describe Matt’s new album is ‘ruggedly eclectic’ and this is a big compliment, let me explain why. This is yet another album which takes you on a journey with the different sounds it has to offer ranging from folk/Americana through to a captivating Celtic tone. This wide ranging soundtrack is delivered to you by an array of instruments that include bagpipes, fiddles, guitars, harmonicas and more. These are all performed by Matt himself, showing more of his musical talents which is evident on the superb instrumentals ‘No More Blood in this Stone’ and ‘Zikaras Lament’.

Adding to this are his stories which are shared by his raspy, rough around the edges vocal style, but this gives his music an authentic charm which ‘One more Round’ demonstrates. I don’t normally talk about covers but I do like his cover of ‘Hurt’ as it fits his sound and this makes it stand out for me.

Overall, this is another album which confirms the talent that Matt Steady has to offer. If you need more convincing then head over to his Bandcamp page to listen to the album in full (click HERE). You can also listen to his previous release there as well as his new EP ‘Live at the Big Comfy’ which can all be purchased.

I am looking forward to catching up on the videos that Matt Steady has shared so far during the recording process of his new music. Think it is going to be a fascinating journey to follow and hearing how it all grows into the new album. You can keep up to date with this on his YouTube or Facebook pages and I’m sure there will also be updates on Twitter and his website at Matt Steady.com. All of these sites are also great places to find out about upcoming shows.

It’s the likes of Matt Steady who make me really appreciate what independent and unsigned musicians create. They follow their own path and create what is true to them. For them to continue to do so, they need our help to spread the word and support the music. So go tell the world about your favourites TODAY!