Self-admittedly, Scott Matthew has led a Jekyll and Hyde existence for some time now.
“The majority of what has happened to me has sort of happened in Europe, still,” Mr. Matthew told Brooklyn The Borough on April 22 at his record release party at Grasslands Gallery on Kent Avenue. “And we seem to be on a very fast and great trajectory over there.”
Though the Williamsburg based singer-songwriter enjoys his time off bumming around Brooklyn, he’d rather be playing shows like this one, surrounded by a scatter of adoring friends and fans.
“It’s so strange for me to sort of find validation, and then when I’m here, it just feels like there’s nothing going on,” continued the bearded singer in a fading Australian accent, as he pushed back a swath of hair.
His eponymous debut, released in the United States that evening, has already been wafting through iPods across Europe for over a year. Despite the staggered timetable back home, Mr. Matthew’s second release, with a lengthy title (“There is an Ocean that Divides… And with my Longing, I Can Charge it, With a Voltage that’s So Violent, to Cross it Could Mean Death”), has already hit the waves overseas, too.
“Everything [in the United States] fell through – we got all these sort of nibbles, but no one really wanted to follow through,” Mr. Matthew said of his debut. Until now, that is. Brooklyn-based Defend Music has released it nationally.
The debut is a collection of beautifully introspective ballads; whose soulful rhythms feed the body while lyrical truisms feed the mind. Particularly inward is Laziest Lie, when Mr. Matthew croons, “And again the mistake we call love/ to apologize adds to insult/ Your words they scream out beyond blasphemy/ a pin in the eye of all I hoped to be.”
Just after recording it in late 2007, Mr. Matthew was attacked on his way home from a local bar, mugged and left with a broken finger. Benefit shows were held to pay for surgery and costly physical therapy sessions. Now, his left middle finger is permanently injured, and Mr. Matthew has been (happily) relegated to strumming a pint-sized ukulele along with his sultry vocals instead of a guitar, though not often in America.
“There’s not a huge amount of money for us to tour America yet,” he said. “I don’t know if it was the best thing to do to release my second album so soon in Europe, but that’s how it’s worked out, so I’ll just show up.”
And show up he will – fast-forward a week, and Mr. Matthew would be boarding a plane to Munich to kick off a month long tour of Europe, before bouncing between Japan, New York and his native Australia later in the year.
It turns out that Germans have been some of Mr. Matthew’s biggest benefactors. Glitter House, an independent German label, has become the foreign champion of this Brooklyn star, and the singer is booked all over the place – and opening for Antony & the Johnsons in July at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival held on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
With a German manager, record label and even a German in America releasing his debut, Mr. Matthew encountered a somewhat obsessive, and at times intrusive, prodding by overseas fans when he was last there – even from the press.
“I had to do this phone interview and this guy was like hyperventilating on the phone he was so excited, and he was like ‘So, Scott! Looking at you, you look like a cross between a porn star and Jesus Christ. What are your fetishes?’ I was like Jesus man I’m not telling you that,” Mr. Matthew said a few days later over coffee and cigarettes at a café on Metropolitan Avenue.
“You can feel that energy when someone’s a bit like, crazed, or a fan – it kind of weirds me out,” he continued. At a show in Italy last year, Mr. Matthew required security as crowds mobbed the entryway.
Meanwhile he had just returned to Brooklyn from New Hampshire where he performed at a small Unitarian church in the town where his band’s cellist grew up. “It was really sweet, I mean I had to sort of stop myself from laughing because it was so absurd – like, a lot of old people. It was cute, and they paid us and it was fun.”
Mr. Matthew takes his opportunities to perform in America where he can, even playing a show at the Spence School in Manhattan where his band mate often substitutes when they’re not on the road.
Though Mr. Matthew is looking to play more shows in New York and Philadelphia and perhaps even the West Coast upon his return from Europe, here in New York he is Jekyll – listlessly taking advantage of nightlife, more often than creating it, and for now at least, he blends into the scene.
“We were in a cab getting back to Brooklyn yesterday from the bus and our cab driver was berating us,” he said before parting company. “He was like, ‘See that building, I used to work there for 36 years – I was a silversmith and then you bought it!’ He was basically kind of saying that it was our fault – you bought it. You all moved into the neighborhood.“
(Photo by personanongrata via Flickr)
(Photo by SpinningOnAir via Flickr)