MATTHEW FREDERICK fuses an early love of classic singer-songwriters with more recent influences to create a distinctive and timeless blend of acoustic pop, indie folk, ballads and blues, with a touch of Cymrucana and contemporary classical thrown in for good measure.
With headline shows in the UK, US and Europe under his belt, as well as fronting BBC Introducing favourites Climbing Trees, the Rhondda Valley musician has released albums, EPs and singles since his 2012 debut EP ‘Venus & Mars’, with tracks being used by Netflix, Sky and ITV, among others.
Matthew talks to Tunebubble about finding Laura Jones, navigating one man projects and getting his first solo spin on Radio 1...
For people who haven’t heard your music yet, persuade them here in 5 words or less!
It’s not bad. Try it.
You’ve played every instrument on your album ‘Fragments’! Have you always worked this way and how many instruments can you play?
I started off playing solo with just the piano, and it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started popping over to the acoustic guitar for a few songs (although I did used to play one or two numbers on the acoustic and drums with my band, Climbing Trees). I’d still class the piano as my main instrument, though, even though the guitar (both acoustic and electric) is probably more of a feature across ‘Fragments’ as a whole. I really wanted this album to be as much of a one-man project as possible, even down to designing the artwork, and I think I play around ten different instruments on there in total. I’m not claiming to be a master of all of those, by any means, but can get enough of a tune out of each to do the trick.
Your last single ‘Laura Jones’ resulted in you hunting for Laura Jones’ across the world - how many did you find?!!
Quite a few! The tagline in the chorus is ‘Whatever Happened To Laura Jones?’ – so I put out a post on Facebook asking people to tag and share with any Laura Joneses they may know. Living in South Wales, there are a fair few knocking around, but there were also plenty further afield, alongside a few other Laura's who’d either lost Jones as their maiden name or gained Jones as their married name. Either way, they were all entitled to a free download of the song, so if anybody reading this knows of another, point them in my direction. The offer is still open!
It’s great to see actual physical versions of your album, even including cassettes! So which do your prefer? Downloads/streams; CD’s, vinyl or cassette?!
I’ve been a lover of vinyl since I was a kid – I just always found it fascinating, and still do. I’ve got a soft spot for cassettes as well, though, which is why I was keen to put ‘Fragments’ out on tape as well as CD – and I’m currently on the second pressing (weaving?) of those, so they’ve proven a lot more popular than I expected. I’d love to do a vinyl run a little further down the line as well, though – I was lucky enough to put out a limited edition red seven-inch single with the Climbing Trees a few years ago, which I’m still chuffed about.
Is there anyone you would love to perform with?
My new backing band, The Hindsights! My solo gigs have been well and truly solo up until this point, so I put The Hindsights together at the start of the year ahead of the album launch show, which was originally scheduled for April 2020, followed by a bunch of festival dates. We were tantalisingly close before having to postpone the show just before heading into Lockdown, so I can’t wait to meet up with the band again when restrictions allow and pick things back up. At the moment we’ve rescheduled (for the third time) to April 2021 – that could all change, of course, but it’ll be great to finally share the stage with them when things are a little more normal.
We’d love to know your top 10 favourite songs?
To narrow it down to ten would be impossible, so I’m just going to pick ten songs at random that I absolutely love, and, for no particular reason, all happen to be by artists beginning with B (either band name, first name or surname). Ask me the same question this time next week and it’d be a completely different list (and letter), but here goes:
Band of Horses – The Funeral
Band of Skulls – Honest
Banhart, Devendra – Sea Horse
Bees, The – These Are The Ghosts
Ben Folds – Fred Jones, Pt. 2
Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
Benjamin Francis Leftwich – More Than Letters
Bombay Bicycle Club – Leaving Blues
Bon Iver – Holocene
Broderick, Peter – Below It
Honourable mentions also for The Beatles’ ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ and Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’, which are both absolute bangers.
How have you found it performing via live streaming?
It was a bit strange, and nerve-wracking at the start. I’m usually a very confident performer, but during the first one I was terrified of some technological mishap ruining the whole thing, particularly as it was doubling-up as an album launch in place of the postponed real-life show. I’ve warmed into them now, though, and although nothing beats performing face-to-face, it’s definitely served a purpose throughout the last few months, and enabled that almost-instant connection between artist and fan, which has been just as crucial on both sides, I think, in terms of staying sane!
What’s your favourite song of your own?
That’s almost as difficult as the Top 10 question! They’re all special to me for different reasons, as are the Climbing Trees songs, but if I had to pick one at the moment I’d probably go for ‘Morning Smile’, which is the closing track on ‘Fragments’, and along with the title track that precedes it, is probably a good indication of how the next album might sound. I started writing ‘Morning Smile’ in a house in Aberystwyth in the Autumn of 2011, and it wasn’t until a couple of days before heading into the studio to start recording the album in 2019 that I finally got around to finishing the lyrics to a point where I was happy with them. So it’s one that feels both new and like an old friend, and I’m glad to finally release it into the wild, even though I’ve not had much of a chance to perform it live yet.
Congratulations on the beautiful new single ‘Leave The Light On’! What’s the inspiration behind this song?
As with ‘Morning Smile’, ‘Leave The Light On’ had been floating around for a while in various incarnations – it first appeared on my 2015 album ‘Live At Long Row’, but I feel like the version on ‘Fragments’ is definitely a lot closer to how I wanted the song to sound when I first wrote it. Lyrically, I think it’s similar in theme to the album as a whole – nostalgia, a sense of loss, muddling your way through – and musically I think it’s a good introduction to my ‘sound’ for those that haven’t heard me, which is why I chose it as the opening track on the album. I think, along with ‘Morning Smile’, you’ve got that contrast between the end of one day and the beginning of the next, which bookends things nicely.
Leave The Light On was played on Huw Stephens’ Radio 1 show! How does that feel?
Yeah, it came as a bit of a shock, I must admit, considering it’s a piano-led ballad, and over five-minutes long! Huw’s played the Trees a couple of times in the past, but this was my first solo spin on Radio 1, so definitely a nice feeling, and another thing to tick off the list. He announced that same week that he was leaving the station, though, so I do hope the two things aren’t related…