It has been quite the journey for Mat McHugh since he woke up one morning at the start of his last tour in pain, with a paralysed right arm. It turned out there was a fracture and a torn disk in Mat’s neck and the doctor recommended surgery. Mat decided against the surgery and has worked hard at healing the injury with less invasive, more natural methods to get himself back into performing. He recently toured with The Beautiful Girls and for the first time took to the stage without a guitar, just his voice.
On 4 June McHugh returns to the Gold Coast to complete the solo tour he originally started last year. Now able to play again, Mat will bring something a little different to this tour. He’ll take to the stage as a three-piece with an acoustic and vocal’s focus, making use of live loops.
“It will be pretty raw; spiritually, mentally and physically stripped down,” said Mat. “The lyrics are the most important part and allow for a stronger bond with the crowd.”
Audiences can expect a more introspective and emotional set from Mat’s solo show. The gigs will be mostly songs off his recent release Waves but will have a wide mix of songs from Mat’s back catalogue and influences.
A strong African, reggae and dancehall influence is very apparent throughout Mat’s music.
“Reggae and African music allow you to transcend your shit,” he stated. “No matter what you’re going through there is always something celebratory, and you can use music and art to move you through the rough parts of life. To put deep, cathartic thoughts to happy, driving beats allows you to confront sadness but not wallow in it.”
Mat says he doesn’t want to put more angst out into the world, rather give people something positive.
On top of the heavy dancehall-style bass lines Mat favours, run beautifully written and highly personal lyrics.
According to Mat writing can be a harrowing process, he’s turning himself inside out. With even just a quick listen you can feel this depth in the tracks on Waves.
The album is available for free via musicplug.com.au. And it’s not the first time Mat has offered an album for free. I asked him why he chose to give his work away.
“I get so much out of music. Making it straight commerce takes the art and spiritual balance out of it,” he explained.
“The first one was the best experience I’ve had in music. People shared because they like it. Nobody taking, just giving all around, it felt like good karma.”
Mat said he’s found it truly humbling that more people have chosen to donate to download rather than choose the free option for Waves.
He says it’s life-affirming and it creates a small independent music model that resonates with him. Choosing to cover his costs by touring rather than album sales, acknowledging the value people place on the experience of live shows, the experiences so far have paid off for Mat and he says that for as long as he is able to he will continue with this model.
In keeping with this spirit of sharing, Mat has decided not to tour with just one support artist. For the solo tour, each date will feature a local artist as support. The idea is to help people get their music out to a wider audience.
Mat explains. “It’s hard as an independent artist, with no one on your side and every little bit helps”.
Independent Gold Coast artists who’d love to connect with Mat and the audience he attracts, should get in touch and send their music! He says he’s always super interested in other people’s music and wants to support you. You can reach him through his website, matmchughmusic.com.
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Mat McHugh is at Soundlounge Currumbin, 4 June.