|Courtesy of Matthew and Emma Shepherd|
After pleasantries we settle down to talk music. It's immediately clear how approachable and affable he is. He makes you feel at ease and you can tell he is passionate about his craft. He enjoys the grind, the process of putting everything together, and he's only 21! He talks about the process, he writes, he advertises, he tours. All the time juggling work life and other commitments. A day doesn't go by without him picking up his guitar, even 30 minutes is better than nothing. He got his first guitar aged 14, £40 from Argos. He's toured with his school choir to Italy and played in a jazz band. His musical roots formed. He's also had vocal training, knows when and where to breath whilst singing. His gratitude to the school and these early years of practice in the bedroom and pub gigging are clearly visible, they have motivated him to decide that being a musician is his goal.
We discuss the writing process. It is all about being alone. Locking the door to outside distractions or sitting in coffee shops jotting down lyrics. He likes good coffee. The results of these endeavours so far are an album, (Top of the Tree - released in 2015) and the new EP - The Sea. The album hit the top 100 on iTunes, he puts himself down when saying this, but that's no mean feat and is to be congratulated. Remember this is all done without the backing of a record label.
The Sea EP
We move onto his latest release, The Sea. Striped back songs, that take you on a personal journey. He suggests this is more his direction and style than the album. Lyrics such as 'Is she still lost' and 'I don't know where you are', give some indication of the personal content. Youth finding their feet in an ever changing world. Each song is a little like a fluffy white cloud on a summers day. Individual and pretty. We ask Matthew about where he gets his inspiration, The Corrs and Kate Rusby are mentioned. Lyrics from everyday situations, oh and coffee shops! And these songs certainly hark to these influences. There are six songs in total and the cover (see above) has been beautifully illustrated by his sister, Emma. Keeping it in the family. He's currently on a UK tour promoting the EP. With a date at Ronnie Scotts Jazz club coming soon. Clearly an important milestone in his career. He then heads to the Isle of Wight for three dates, and with other possible gigs coming before Christmas. Certainly busy times ahead. He talks about the live process, being up close and personal is where he prefers to be. The buzz and enjoyment this brings.
As with any creative talent, the thoughts move onto the future. It seems Matthew is already planning ahead. Although a break is almost certainly scheduled as well. He's started to use a tenner guitar, and he's keen to have a cello on his next record, (cello players over to you!) Clearly there is a lot more to come from this talented individual and what direction his music takes will be interesting to see. Made all the more impressive by the fact he is doing this all independently. From future gigs to the next project, Matthew is not going to sit still.
Heading to the Sea
We talk for probably far longer than we both originally thought, but he is an engaging presence. We discuss Brexit (good writing material?) Happy to discuss everything thrown at him. It may have been a muggy Friday evening but on the journey home I felt a certain renewed hope. The English music scene stretches far beyond the manufactured pop of today, and it seems is in a healthy state. Young musicians, working to the bone, deserve success. They should be championed, celebrated. Matthew is one of those, and his work deserves, no requires your time. We depart with a firm hand shake, wishing Matthew well on his career. Who knows we might just be seeing him on the big stages around the world in future years?
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