Published on December 6th, 2013
We speak to the up ‘n coming Singer-Songwriter about his past and what his future might entail…
This soul-loving, tea-drinking gardener is a singer/songwriter of some repute from Ilkeston, between Nottingham and Derby, who is now living in Leicester and taking the local music scene there by storm. His penchant for acoustic sets and original songs showcases his love of guitar and vocal – based soul & blues, demonstrating his influences of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Steve Marriott and Sam Cooke, and earning him the description of ‘an old soul in a young body’. He has named his unique sound Acoustic Rhythm and Gospel, creating a new music genre and inspiring his audiences to follow the man and his music. Widely respected by his peers and well known to the gig-going audiences in the Midlands, he is now travelling the length and breadth of the UK looking to broaden his appeal, continue the journey that has taken him this far, make his mark on the national music scene, and see where the ride takes him. Questions answered by the man himself, Matt Henshaw…
When and how did you get started?
Mid-2013 I’d be knocking around in bands and making music on and off since I finished school, had my ups and downs as we all do and I thought why not just go out and start playing some of these introspective songs that only my bedroom and living room walls have heard out in public, and people seem to like it so I’m happy.
What have you been up to recently? Any plans for the near future?
Just writing and recording and getting myself out there as Matt Henshaw, solo, singer/songwriter. It’s a lonely business sometimes and you always have your back against the wall but when it’s just me, myelf and I, you’ve only yourself to rely on to pick yourself up and keep yourself grounded so I like it. As for the future, we’ll see what comes, what will be, will be.
How did your sound evolve… did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do from the beginning?
So organic, I’ve been in bands playing indie guitar music, blues, soul, funk, electronic stuff and hip-hop, and I forced myself almost to listen to a lot of esoteric stuff, but when I sit and write an inspiration hits me I always go back to something closer to home, I don’t think I’ll ever stray too far from the soul and a catchy chorus.
What can you remember of your first gigs, and what have you learned about approaching live shows since?
My first gigs are all blurry, I used to sing on buses if there was a microphone and at friend’s parties, I did Return to Sender by Elvis once at a mate’s 5th or 6th birthday party, very moving for the parents, I think everyone else was into their jelly and ice cream, I was always a little rock’n’roller and my music taste far advanced for my age.
Do you have any tips for working with promoters?
They’re all human, the same with sound engineers, record label people and anyone in the business, they’ll represent you how you represent yourself, the only tip I can give is to be natural, and try not to be a nuisance, it’ll only come back on yourself. Put the work in and they’ll put the work in for you, and if they don’t, it doesn’t matter because you put the work in yourself, and you’ll know not to bother with them in the future.
What do you consider to be your best 3 songs, and tell us the inspiration behind them?
I’m really enjoying playing one called ‘Stop Me Girl’ at the moment, it’s one I’ve been polishing up for ages, I used to sort of spar with an old mate at school, we’d always come up with song ideas then come in the next day and say “I’ve been working on this one, etc.” and it was a kind of friendly competition, this is sort of my ultimate soul ballad, falling so in love you can’t comprehend what you’re doing and lose control of all your senses and functions. ‘It Ain’t Easy’ is another favourite, it fell out of me late one night, I love it when that happens, it’s about having your life changed irrevocably by something or someone or an event and you know, for better or for worse, your life will never be the same again. And ‘My Life’ always gets a lot of praise, it’s not a love song and it’s a bit darker, always one for winning over the “chin strokers”, they won’t go ballistic when you’re playing on stage and singing but they’ll always come up to you after a show and say “well played mate, loved that one song about your life”.
Describe to us the process behind writing your music?
I write songs like you need the bathroom, sometimes nature calls and you just have to get it out there. Maybe it’s not as functional as that, more spiritual, a cathartic exercise, but saying that I’ve had a lot of good trips to the toilet.
How would you describe your own sound, or what do you hate being labelled as?
Soulful, heartfelt, someone told me recently I “stunk of musician”, I can only gather this to be a good thing as it can’t be Jack Daniels’ and body odour as I stopped drinking over five years ago and my personal hygiene has gone from strength to strength. I don’t know what I “hate” being labelled as, maybe I’ve not been doing it long enough to be labelled as anything in particular yet, but it is funny that originally being from Nottingham interviewers and radio jockeys always ask me about Jake Bugg, which I don’t mind, like I said, it’s funny, Jake’s a lovely soul, but all we share is geography and some of the same taste, I’m certainly not a Notts County fan.
What are your key influences (musical or otherwise)?
Whilst we’re on football I suppose being a Sheffield Wednesday fan has a huge effect on my mood, they can switch a song from a major chord to a minor chord in a matter of 90 minutes. Everything can be an influence, I write down all the things I like in a little blue and white notepad just to remind me there are nice things in the world. And musically, anything with soul.
Do new acts really need record labels anymore?
Not really. It just depends what works for each individual.
Many artists seem to be quite forward thinking when it comes to self promotion, what with the modern phenomenon of blogging, twitter, online releases etc. Do you think it’s important these days for bands to feel less segregated from their fan-base? What do you do to remain connected with them?
I’m always blogging and tweeting and doing all that stuff. Very approachable me. Drop me a line anytime, positive or negative feedback, I’ll always get back to you.
So far, what have you found helpful in getting noticed, and gaining fans?
Playing live is my bread and butter so I love that and always make new friends and fans out on the road, but the internet, wow, the internet. It’s huge, it’s a great democratiser and I know that people all around the world have listened to my tunes and read my beat poetry. That’s very cool.
Are there any online resource or sites you’ve found useful in promoting your band? How useful do you find Facebook and Twitter?
It’s all good. I was uneasy about it before but a mate of mine in another band said “they’re just vessels”, so if you just treat them as such you can make them work in your favour. I am enjoying YouTube at the minute, but just putting songs on there with minimal visual stimulus, getting positive reactions to my music is so heart-warming. And I love blogging, a music industry “insider” told me not so long ago that “blogging is dead” but I think I’d do it anyway if no-one read it, I love waffling on, as I’m sure you can tell.
Do you have management at present? If so, how has that changed things for you?
I’m looking after myself at the minute, I’ve had a few offers and worked with various people in the past, like I said earlier, all these people are just humans, you still have to work hard yourself, it’s all about finding different ways to connect with people, and the right people, that’s the most important thing.
What’s your favourite piece of gear, when it comes to live shows?
Would it be too twee to say my vocal chords? It’s just me and my guitar at the minute, and I’ve never had that kind of a adolescent fantasy feeling going for a piece of wood, as long as it’s in tune and I can get my words out I’m happy.
Check out his Music here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzdl3wOe7KA&list=PL7UCvjRIeiY9bHc8S5B10vDleLSXwSIdf
Or via Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/matthenshaw
Written by: jchick on 12/06/2013.on 12/11/2013.