Thursday, 8 October 2015

Matt Henshaw and the Neurotic Nature of Top 5 Listers - Interview with Shutter 16 Magazine, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Original Article ...

Matt Henshaw is a singer-songwriter from the UK. He does these tender acoustic pop songs that are rather minimal yet, due to his powerful voice, feel much larger than the sum of their parts. His song “It Ain’t Easy” immediately brought the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson to mind, specifically when Robinson crooned the hit “She Talks to Angels.”
However, like with much of pop music, I wasn’t immediately won over. No, it was a gradual conversion. The next song of Matt’s I played was “I Need Sleep.” Something about its cliché, all-too-ready-for-radio lyrics bugged me. Seemed like standard fare, paint-by-numbers, sad bastard music to me. Until that final verse. Matt adds a little twist at the end singing, “I know that I need you. But I know, it’s more than you’ll ever need me.” That specific moment of sincerity had me go, “Fuck. Now I have to listen to this one again.” And that’s the gut punch that a skilled pop songwriter delivers: They get you to listen again. But I am hoping that when his next set of songs comes out, he goes further in this territory, opens up a bit more, gets more personal, bleeds a little. Because a little emotional bloodshed combined with Henshaw’s voice; now that would be truly interesting.

Henshaw writes music meant for drowning in on those nights when you’re bitter or lonely, looking back on all the lovers you’ve let slip through the cracks. His voice is dripping with sentimental emotion and, as Nick Hornby wrote, “Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time.”
I chose to quote Nick Hornby in regard to the music because, when interviewing Matt, I found common ground in our love for Hornby’s High Fidelity and, much like its anti-hero Rob, we have a neurotic obsession with making Top Five lists. Some people can crank out a Top Fiver like it’s nothing, without any hesitation. But those clowns aren’t the true obsessives. They’re the lucky ones. They’ll never struggle over deciding which film, book, movie or actress on any given list gets that fifth spot. When you view works of art with such an intensity that you feel as close to them as your own friends, eliminating one of your favorite films from the list feels like that friend, I mean film, to fuck off. Now you don’t mean for it to fuck off. You love that film. But deep down you know it warrants a sixth spot and not the fifth. But you’re not making top ten lists, just five, so you have to be harsh. Ruthless. This is the neurotic, perhaps unhealthy, nature of being a Top Five lister.
I wrote down my Top Five list of films:
  1. Black Snake Moan
  2. The Place Beyond the Pines
  3. American Beauty
  4. Buffalo 66
  5. Girl, Interrupted
— then awaited his list:

  1. The Godfather
  2. Midnight Cowboy
  3. Wall-E
  4. Fight Club
  5. An Education
But he’s a musician so, “Fuck it,” I thought, “Let’s get into the heart of this thing. Time for the Top Five that would keep a musician up at night,’ wondering if he should swap one choice out for another. “Matt, what are your top five personal favorite albums? Not what you consider the five greatest of all time but rather the five that mean the most to you.”
“To limit me to five is almost like punishment,” he replied.
This guy gets it.
  1. Definitely Maybe by Oasis. “It was the first record I bought, it went straight to number one in the UK album chart on my seventh birthday and changed my life forever.” I appreciated this answer because the song “Supersonic” is on this album and it is one of the first songs that made me realize vague lyrics (which essentially mean nothing) can indeed get me to feel something. A great song allows you the space to project your world onto it.
  2. Revolver by The Beatles. “I could’ve honestly just made a Top Five of Beatles records but this is always my go-to favorite from the Fabs. All four of them shine on there. Some of Paul’s best tunes, definitely one of George’s and what an amazing opener, Ringo doesn’t get any more Ringo than on Yellow Submarine.” He also nerds out a bit, in the best way, when talking about the song “Tomorrow Never Knows:” “That’s one of John’s finest moments. He wanted George Martin to make him sound like a Tibetan mountain goat.”
  3. Stanley Road by Paul Weller. “I’m not sure how many people in the States will know this one but, for me, as a young kid growing up in the ‘90s in England this one formed a lot of my sensibilities. An amazing record from the bloke from The Jam to most people.”
  4. Otis Redding Sings Soul. Matt said he was “blown away” when he found out that album was recorded in 24 hours on a two or four track tape-recorder. He expounds on the album for a bit, and concludes that it is “the greatest soul record and a beautiful homage to the greatest soul singer, Mr. Cooke.”
  5. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. What hasn’t already been said about this album? Matt recommends checking out a reggae cover version of this album by a group called Easy Star All-Stars.
That concluded our Top Five discussion. I asked him a mix of things on his songwriting process but what I’ll leave you with is Henshaw quoting one of my favorite guitarists. “Songs come to me pretty quickly. I have no idea where from. Keith Richards describes songwriters as people all fishing from the same stream, and occasionally one of us will pull one out, all hoping for the best one.”
#matthenshaw #ineedsleep