Scott Matthew Lightens Up
Singer/songwriter Scott Matthew is probably best known for his contributions to the soundtrack of John Cameron Mitchell’s sexually explicit indie comedy, Shortbus. His haunting acoustic songs—“Language” in particular—gave the film a kind of bruised, wistful tone, his breathy voice and gentle ukulele shading in the spaces between the characters. With a couple more heartfelt and often reflective albums under his belt—2007’s self-titled disc and 2009’s 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—it’s not unfair to expect a certain amount of melancholy from Matthew’s latest offering, Gallantry’s Favorite Son.
“That’s my own doing though. I’ve made three albums now and all of them have a similar kind of genre and nature,” the New York-based, Australian-born artist says. “So, it’s an obvious expectation. And one that I don’t mind. I’m very happy with this kind of place I’m at musically. I don’t feel the need to change drastically. But, having said that, I think on this album, I kind of feel like I’ve got a better balance between the light and the dark. There’s less intensity to some of it.”
That balance is probably most evident on the album’s first single, “The Wonder of Falling in Love.” The song’s gently ambling euphoria has the feeling of a musical number, a stroll in the sunshine, cartoon birds chirping at your shoulder. “A thousand million butterflies make me smile/I fear the boy’s falling in love,” Matthew sings.
“I kind of wrote it as affirmation,” he says. “Because when I wrote that song I wasn’t [in love]. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m sick of writing all these really tragic sad songs.’ And, lo and behold, it worked!” Matthew stops short of crediting the song entirely for his current state of romantic bliss, however. “I don’t know if it has that power, but it’s a nice story, isn’t it?”
Gallantry isn’t a complete departure. There are still songs to break your heart, like opener “Black Bird” and “Sinking,” songs that aim for the part of us that’s waiting for something, longing for something. “I find it very, very easy to express emotion, and to not fear that,” says Matthew. “It’s something I’m very comfortable with, and I feel like I get power from it more than vulnerability.”
But that comfort with emotional honestly may be in part responsible for earning Matthew a label he wholeheartedly rejects: “androgynous.” “I think that’s false. It’s offensive and perhaps even homophobic,” he says. “Just because a man expresses emotion doesn’t make him androgynous, does not make him something between man and woman.”
And while it may not be unfair to expect melancholy from Matthew, sadness may not be quite the word for the emotions he’s trying to elicit. “The last thing I want to do is make people genuinely depressed,” he says. “That’s not what I want to achieve at all. For me it’s kind of a bit of therapy. But it’s also…you kind of get a sense of hope, even, from it. When I was a kid, growing up in the bush in Australia, I needed something to kind of, like, get me through it. Music is one of those big tools. It gave me solace. So, in a way, I always want my music to kind of do the same. It does that for me, but I’d also like it to do that for other people as well.”
Gallantry’s Favorite Son is available digitally February 7. Visit ScottMatthewMusic.com for more info.