Following on from the success of his singles Football Song, The First Time, Behind Closed Doors and Testament, Matt Fishel releases his eagerly anticipated debut album Not Thinking Straight.
Matt has crafted his own unique style of songwriting and production, with themes of sexuality, education, love and lust running through his work. His songs and lyrics deal openly with the joys, pains and experiences of growing up as a gay teenager and young man.
Over the past 3 years Matt has received growing recognition for his pop-rock driven style of music and candid lyrical content, including support from the likes of Stephen Fry and Tom Hiddleston. This culminated in 2012 with Matt winning twoRightOutTV Music and Video Awards for Football Song Best Video So Far and Behind Closed Doors Song of the Year 2012.
Matt set up and launched his own record label, Young Lust Records, which he now runs from his London studio.
Matt has been collaborating with San Diego-based comic book illustrator Joe Phillips - creator of Joe Boys Comics to create the artwork for Not Thinking Straight.
Matt's popular release, Football Song was selected by Attitude Magazine as "Our 2010 World Cup Anthem".
I made a decision very early on that I was going to continue to follow my heart, write these songs in a truthful way, and refuse to shy away from directly referencing other guys in my lyrics just because some people may deem it ‘offensive’.
Throughout 2012, Matt has been hard at work in the studio with UK producer Mark Crew, recording his debut solo album. A blend of heavy guitars, big vocal harmonies and anthemic choruses, which contains 13 tracks that deal with themes and issues surrounding gay life, relationships and experiences.
One of the things we love most about you is that you never ride the fence with your music and your mission. You produce mainstream sounding tunes with queer messages and stories. Was that an intentional decision you made when you started?
I grew up listening to a lot of punk and hardcore bands and have always been inspired by artists with a message and with something to say. Ever since I started writing, my songs have always been very narrative and autobiographical and I always try to write about what is true to me and to be honest and candid. It just so happens that I’m gay, out and proud, and so the stories, relationships and experiences I write and sing about have always been from that perspective, whether it’s about my experiences of growing up gay, my views of the society around me or the various relationships and experiences I’ve had along the way.
It was only when I started playing the songs to people (and record labels, especially) that I started to get the feedback: “your songs are great, you just need to get rid of all the gay content, you’re alienating your audience” etc etc. This has always made me frustrated.
My sexuality is never something I’ve been prepared to shy away from and I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the idea of ‘dumbing down’ my lyrics for any kind of monetary or commercial gain. Growing up as a gay teenager, I was always searching for songs sung from a gay perspective (especially in the rock genre) and they were so few and far between, so I made a decision very early on that I was going to continue to follow my heart, write these songs in a truthful way, and refuse to shy away from directly referencing other guys in my lyrics just because some people may deem it ‘offensive’. Plus, I’ve always been quite rebellious at heart and if someone tells me I can’t do something and I disagree, it makes me want to do it even more.
So I decided to set up my own record label to retain artistic freedom and be able to make the art that was true for me. I feel it’s very important for LGBTQ men and women to have a voice and to be represented in all forms of media and I feel proud and excited to be able to make these songs in my own way without having to compromise or hide behind any veneer.
Many artists are finding it more and more difficult to make any kind of decent living performing live in America. What are your thoughts on the trend for musicians to perform live less and promote themselves mostly on the internet?
I think the internet has been an incredible way for musicians to get their music out there to people in parts of the world they were never able to reach before. I can only speak from personal experience, but I’ve found the online community a great place for me to share my work with people from all over the world and to get my music, videos and message out to a much larger audience. I have fans in places like North and South America, Australia and Indonesia – places I’m not currently able to tour, due to budget constraints. This album has been a very international project and I’ve been lucky to collaborate with a lot of awesome artists (directors, illustrators, remixers, etc) from around the world, none of which would have been possible if my budget had been spent trying to tour another continent. So I think the online opportunities we now have at our fingertips are amazing. Of course, it’s awesome to play to your audience or to go and see your favourite artists in a live environment, so it’s sad that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for many artists to sustain a living from doing that. But personally, I’m grateful there are still other routes and that I can still support the artists and bands I love by buying their music and following their activities online. Plus, artists are now posting live performances online all the time so, although it’s not the same as being in the room, at least you can still watch some kind of performance.
What do you hope that people get from listening to your new album?
Overall, I hope the album will make people smile and feel joyful,
sing along and punch the air triumphantly! :) Some songs are loud, angry and
full of energy; some are fun, celebratory or tongue-in-cheek and others are
quieter, more reflective and nostalgic. But they all have big choruses, big
guitars and lots of vocal harmonies and I think the general vibe is
uplifting and fun.
There are songs on the album about boyfriends and relationships, coming out and the places I’ve lived, religion, hypocrisy, sexuality and education. Hopefully people (whether gay, straight, bi, etc.) will be able to relate to the lyrics and experiences I sing about and feel positive and warm. And perhaps find a different perspective from other pop/rock songs that are out there at the moment. The beauty of music is that it’s subjective and everyone has their own interpretations. I’d just love for people to enjoy listening to these songs as much as I’ve enjoyed making them.
"And for anyone younger who may be going through a tough time, feeling alienated or coming to terms with their sexuality, or who are looking for songs they can relate to which they haven’t necessarily heard in this particular genre of music – well I hope these songs can play a small part in helping them to feel inspired and empowered and know that they’re not alone and that there are other people out there who understand what they are feeling."
Can you give us a peek into your personal life...what do you look for in someone to share your life with?
I love guys with a gorgeous smile. That always wins me over. I find free-spirited people super sexy! Someone who’s lots of fun, intelligent and political and up for great discussions. Someone with a devilish sense of humour. Someone who’s ‘rock ‘n’ roll’, who follows their own path and doesn’t conform to any societal stereotype. A guy who‘s uninhibited, willing and able to talk about his feelings and also a good listener. An equal passion for beautiful, inspiring art and fabulously trashy TV. Any of the above is a good start… oh, and someone who can put up with my endless hours of working, haha!
Exclusive Interview with Matt Fishel
Official Album Sampler
Radio-Friendly Pop Song is the album’s 5th track and comments on his (and others’) experiences of the entertainment industry as an out, gay artist.