There are not many people who can make a song like To Love Somebody or Love Will Tear Us Apart even more emotional and touching that the originals, but the Australian singer-songwriter SCOTT MATTHEW managed to do so and with his new album Unlearned he created something unique and fantastic that all sounds so much like him, though every track is a cover. He is currently touring around Europe and NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION had the chance to talk to this fantastic guy before his moving show in Weekender Club in Innsbruck, Austria.
First of all: Do you still get mixed up with the British musician SCOTT MATTHEWS?
I get mixed up with the British songwriter yea!
Is it annoying?
Yea I mean what should you do, it’s not like you can change your name and obviously when I started making records I didn’t know about him. It happened that a really great artist wanted to go on tour with me, but they asked his management so yea they were like no, why would he go on tour with you? I really would have loved to go on tour with her and we had same friends who suggested it but yea… she thought it was my management… you know things like that kind of happen. Or for example in London people come to my show and then they complain that I am the wrong guy. (laughing) It eventually happens.
How would you describe your music and yourself as an artist to someone who hasn’t heard about you yet?
It’s pretty traditional you know. Basically I am a singer-songwriter and it’s all very acoustic.
Would you say it is melancholic?
I think there are some elements of melancholy but I don’t think it’s sad.
You play the Ukulele a lot, not really a standard instrument. So what do you think is so special about it or what do you like about it?
I lost the use of this finger in New York, so it doesn’t work. I am not a very good guitarist anyway and when that happened I was like fuck, I can’t play guitar on tour what am I gonna do how should I write songs so I picked up the Ukulele and it was really easy to me to play with these three fingers. I love it it’s really fun.
Yes it’s pretty cool! Strangely the German Wikipedia says not a lot about you – but that you are vegetarian. Do you think it is important information that influences you as an artist?
(laughing) That’s weird. I mean yes I am but that is not something that important. I did an interview about my vegetarianism once, but yea it is not like I need three kilometres of meat free stuff.
You just released an album full of covers “Unlearned”. How did you get the idea for that and what should the title express?
Unlearned for me means to rethink all things you’ve learnt, to undo it. It’s all covers but I wanted each song to be my own. It’s sort of like having a new original experience with an unoriginal song.
What do you think are the main differences between writing a song and rewriting a song for you?
It’s not half as scary to cover a song than to write your own one. To redo someones songs you already love – that is really fun. Writing your own stuff makes me a bit crazy. It is just lest self-conscious doing other peoples songs.
SCOTT MATTHEW: “I really like coming to Europe. The audience is better”
How did you choose the song for the album? I mean there is a really varied mix of songs on it… JOY DIVISION, WHITNEY HOUSTON, NEIL YOUNG….
They are all kind of obvious songs and these songs I suppose were in my life through either in my childhood my father playing the songs or in my adolescents. They all just touched me somehow through my life and they represent times and places and people.
What do you think is the best and worst cover ever?
Best cover – anything that CAT POWER did on the coves record is just genius to me and really inspired me I am a huge fan of her – it’s just spectacular… I opened for her in Italy recently — worst cover… wow… I really don’t know!
What about remixes?
I think it is great. People are very precious about their work but I am not that precious. I think if people enjoy doing mixes they should go ahead and do their thing it is out of my hand on that stage. I don’t do it because my mind really doesn’t go there but my bandmate has remixed a song of mine and it was cool.
Your record is available as CD, Vinyl and as a digital version. What do you think about each medium and what do you prefer? Do you think the cassette has the potential of a relaunch?
(laughing) No, unfortunately not! Definitely not! I’d say my favourite is definitely the vinyl, it never totally died out. It is just such a wonderful thing to own.
You are currently touring around Europe. For you being from Australia and living in New York do you think it is weird to have such a big fanbase over here and do you think audience are a lot different?
It is weird – but it is good weird though. My life is always a bit odd and the fact that I am Australian, living in New York and touring mostly in Europe is fun and fascinating to me. I really like coming to Europe. The audience is better.
Do you think there is a big difference in performing a cover song and performing one of your own songs?
Yea I think it is really interesting the audience has the chance to get a connection to a song especially when they are not super familiar with my work or whatever so it is cool in that way and for me it is just really fun. Like I said the fear factor is gone. I always joke and say if you don’t enjoy what I am writing don’t blame me, because I didn’t write it. (laughs)
If you could choose any place in the world to play where would it be? Would you prefer playing alone or with someone?
It’s hard not to sound too cliché and say Madison Square Garden or Carnegie Hall. But yea I guess Carnegie hall would be pretty amazing.
What do the things hope and passion mean to you?
It means everything. Why do you live if you don’t have hope and passion? – it is just the basis of everything. I connect it with love. And hope is a really integral thing to have and live wouldn’t be worth living without it and I know people might think it is weird for me to say that because of things I write about and stuff but the reason I do it is not only for myself and when people like what I do I would like it not to be something negative.