Interview: Matt Hill

Matt Hill

Byron Theatre | Friday 17 August | 7.30pm | $25–12

Matt Hill’s music has been cited as having ‘echoes of Nick Drake and Bon Iver’. He launches his new album, Stars and the Moon and Satellites at Byron Theatre with Barry Hill on guitar, Cye Wood on strings, Chris Mason on drums and Gabriella Hill on clarinet.

The Echo spoke with Matt about his musical journey.

Where did it all begin?

I learnt piano from age six. I was not a great student; I didn’t like to practise much and I found doing AMEB exams very stressful – although I’m very glad now that I did them. I discovered guitar and drums when I was about 13 and had much more fun playing music without notation in front of me. I wrote my first pieces of music around about this time; they were mostly instrumental things for guitar. I didn’t try writing lyrics until I was 18 and had had my heart broken for the first time! Those songs were pretty bad.

After such a diverse and awarded career, your multi-award-winning previous album, have your sources of inspiration changed? And how do you continue to find inspiration for your work?

Inspiration comes from many places. Practising, playing with others, listening to new music, singing along to the radio with my kids. I love practising. If I’m practising a lot (which is much harder now with work/family commitments) the ideas just seem to come. I’ve found reading about other artists’ careers something that is very motivating. The Miles Davis autobiography (written with Quincy Troupe) was very influential when I first got into jazz, although playing long solos doesn’t interest me that much any more. I’ve been reading a bunch of other rock star autobiographies this year: Jimmy Barnes, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen – it must be the way that ageing artists make money these days – they have some great stories to tell.

Tell us about your new album. What is the inspiration behind this piece, and is there a message to it?

The album is the first one I’ve done that is all songs with lyrics. The music sits somewhere between ambient post-rock and contemporary folk. While in the past I have used a lot of electronic sounds, this album has a very acoustic flavour. The songs were mostly written sitting at the piano or with a guitar, then I’ve gone on to embellish them with other instruments. The album title gives the sense of openness and space that is important in most of the tracks. The stars, moon, and satellites are always there but are only visible at night – a time when the anxious insomniac in me comes out. The album cover features a painting by my father-in-law, who died earlier this year. The painting was one of many he did that dealt with his grief after his wife died. Art can work wonderfully on that level as a conduit for intuitive expression.

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