If the name Matt Gresham sounds familiar, chances are it’s because of his appearance on X-Factor. But he deserves your attention for reasons other than that.
The 27 year old has a swag of song writing awards under his belt as well as three successful albums to his name. And to add to the mix, he’s just about to launch his fourth album Beautiful Emptiness. Matt says the album is his most honest work to date.
“It tells a story of beautiful emptiness, the spaces between sound,” he said, with the album title coming from an interview he heard with Paul Simon about the Graceland album. “He was talking about African music and how he loved how some music has a beautiful emptiness to it, which really resonated with me so that became the album title,” he said.
Many of the songs from The Beautiful Emptiness were recorded across the world using an array of session musicians that included Ben Harper’s band in Los Angeles. After a devastating separation from his wife just two years ago, Matt travelled extensively. He wrote some 70 songs in that time.
“The more I travel the more experiences I get and I tend to write about things the occur in my life,” he told Blank. “I’m lucky to be an independent musician, it gives you a lot of freedom to be yourself and do what you enjoy all the time.”
“I tend to write music most of the time unless I stop travelling then I don’t write much and get a bit lazy with it,” he said.
After years of gigging around Fremantle, in 2013 Matt appeared on X-Factor, where he was selected as part of the top 12, before making the decision to leave the show.
“X-Factor was a very different experience to what I’m used to,” Matt said. “My musical experiences before the show were a lot less rehearsed. My music was jam session type of stuff unless I was recording. The show taught me about myself – good and bad. The show wasn’t for me but if gave me a lot of perspective.”
Before I spoke to Matt I checked out his songs on youtube (as all good music writers do) and I was frustrated to see that his X-Factor audition (covering Ain’t No Sunshine) has had more than half a million views, with his song See The World having 34,000 views. That number of views is significant, of course for an independent musician, but I asked Matt what he thought of that disparity.
“The X Factor audition had more views because it was aired on national television and had the marketing of the show behind it. You just don’t get that as an independent musician,” he said.
“I would love to sing an original song on TV, rather than covers.”
For the past two years, Matt has continued to play live performances in Western Australia and travelled, played and recorded in the US, South America, Japan and Bali, writing those 70 songs along the way. It’s a lot of travel. Matt says he’s learned three things as a result of so much wanderlust.
“You have to be grateful in life for the simple things. You must try your hardest to not let your ego get in the way. The world is beautiful,” he said before I asked him about his separation and any reflections on that.
“In the beginning separating from my ex wife was the most horrible thing I’ve been through, as you can imagine. But looking back to where I am now, it taught me a lot about myself and it helped get rid of my ego problems that arose from being ‘famous’ locally, after X-Factor. It helped get back to a simple life,”
“It also helped my music because I had something so powerful to write about and I wrote my Beautiful Emptiness album after the experience.”
“Love is a beautiful thing. I have found love again and I’m happy,” Matt said.
Matt’s Soundlounge gig isn’t his first on the Gold Coast – he’s just been here for a surf trip and has played The Arts Centre Gold Coast before. He said he’d love to get a good crowd so he could make the GC a “once a year show.” And what can we expect at the Soundlounge? Matt says his Gold Coast show will be acoustic.
“So it will be beautiful and raw,” he said.
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Matt Gresham hits the Soundlounge on Friday 29 May. Tickets $30 at the door.