Revisiting old works is a much-underrated practice in the music industry. Time moves, on people evolve, the world evolves, and musical styles and techniques change. So, why not give some older songs a fresh touch? Scott Matthew already worked with other artist’s work on the previous album Unlearned consisting of covers of legendary songs like Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. On Adorned he refurbishes his original songs.
‘There was a similar feeling when covering my own songs with this album. The difference was with Unlearned, I was usually stripping songs down but with this new album, Adorned, we were adding elements to songs to dress them up’.
Make It New
Out of the extended discography of an artist active for more than a decade, picking out a few tracks to rework must have been challenging. For Dick off 2009’s, There Is an Ocean that Divides.. sits alongside the more recent single The Wish and very early works like Abandoned, which was first released on Scott Matthew’s self-titled debut. In the process of choosing the songs to rework, the artist says he ‘went through all the songs I had written and recorded and came to the ones that instinctually felt like they wanted to be remade in a different way.’ The musician especially considered the melody, beat, and tempo. The tracks that ended up being adorned are the ‘songs that felt like they could handle being larger and more produced.’
‘The concept for this album was to take a song and adorn. Give it a makeover. Put a new outfit on it, as you would a person. The person is still there they just look ‘adorned’.
In that manner, White Horse got some extra funky synth percussion underlying the falsetto vocals of the singer. The Wish was redecorated with a larger scale production highlighting the dramaturgy of the songwriting with echoing choirs.
Scott Matthew’s songwriting is always utterly personal, no matter what kind of story he is telling. It could be aching for a lover who is far away or a desperate wish for a better more open and accepting future. Revisiting these intense moments in his life and reconnecting with the experience and the emotions his past-self went through, Scott Matthew says ‘was not hard at all. I have never had a problem connecting to older material’. Even on tour playing live, the musician used to dig up the old gems and perform them alongside newer works.
‘The way I could clot back into the original intent was instantaneous. With this project, I was not required to relive these songs as much, but I did want to make sure there was some element of the first emotion still embedded in the new version.’
To achieve that, the singer used the original vocals on every one of the songs. It is his past-self singing over the arrangements, the artist composed today. He merges the past and the present to one record representing both. Much in the mindset of recycling, Scott Matthew is open to reworking and changing his own works. What is regarded as untouchable by many musicians, as past personas rest in past artworks, is something the singer has never been ‘precious about’. ‘I think this project proves that a song can be many things. And the ability’, he goes on, ‘to reinterpret them is an option is you want to experiment.’
Keeping The Essence Alive
To give each track a fresh touch, Scott Matthew collaborated with the producer Jens Gad, who, he explains, would give him several sketches of what direction the songs could go in. then the artist chose one approach to work with from there. ‘We were going back and forth adding and subtracting elements until we were satisfied’. The result; ten well-rounded songs. They keep the essence alive and stay true to the emotion they want to evoke, but as the singer puts it fittingly – they are dressed up anew. The mature production style makes the emotions resonate on a larger scale.
Especially, the core of Adorned shines with new polish. The previously released single, The Wish, soars to new highs enabled by the layers of synths accompanying the mellow piano melody adding a new dimension. But alongside the new elements, it is the one original that outshines them all; Scott Matthew’s vocals. Written after the assault on Pulse, the Orlando gay bar, the singer poured all of his anger and frustration in the heart-string tugging words. Expressing his devastating feeling of helplessness in the face of such horrific acts, humankind is capable of he bleeds musically with the victims of the hate crime.
It has been three years now since the attack. One would hope that things are changing but when it comes to the loose gun laws that enable such crimes, the United States has not made any moves, yet. Scott Matthew is part of an organization called ‘Gays Against Guns’ advocating for stricter regulations to hopefully prevent terrible events like the one he sings off in The Wish. ‘Maybe the public has continued the conversation and many organizations have been created to advocate for gun law reform but unfortunately, the government keeps avoiding it in order to not make a change. It is horrifying that murder like this has become a political tool and has thwarted any ability to make common-sense reform.’
‘The constant mass shootings in the US have made no difference to the policymakers. It is incredibly sad.’ Scott Matthew speaks out, shouts out his frustration about this issue on The Wish. Let’s hope the urgency of Scott Matthew’s plea will come through to the ones in a position to change something soon.
‘This is an assault against love
Still no-one helps, they just pray above
And I wish I could help
I wish I could have helped’
Adorned by Scott Matthew is out on the 15th of May via Glitterhouse Records.
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