Albums of 2023: Matt Maltese

Penned quickly and prolifically during a period of professional success and personal turmoil, LP4 is set to nod to both - creating some of Matt’s most vulnerable yet confident work to date.

What do you do when you’re in the throes of your most successful career peak to date, when unexpected viral fame turns into genuine real-world success, sending you around the world to play for crowds of universally excited converts? Well, if you’re Matt Maltese, you have a little panic and write a new record in a prolific three-week stint slap-bang in the middle of it all.

“I was a bit of a nutter maybe, where I was stressed about not having enough time and then it was almost like exams where it just came out in a spurt,” he explains, speaking from the abyss of “two jet lags,” having returned from shows in America and Thailand in immediate succession. “I know that sounds like the most uninspired way to write an album, but making myself write about my life and having a time pressure on it just works for me. Not in the healthiest way, but I also don’t feel that comfortable until I have the next album written, which is a terrible cycle really…”

If ever there was a time for the 27-year-old balladeer to feel like he could finally take his foot slightly off the gas, it would be now. With three albums under his belt, the last year has marked a notable shift in Matt’s fortunes; following the TikTok resurgence of old single ‘As The World Caves In’, the crowds have grown to a level where even the ever-humble singer himself can’t deny that things feel markedly different. “This whole year has really blown me away. I played Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia - places where you think, surely when I’m away from the spots with the most people it’ll be less crazy. But in America, it’s quite relentlessly like that,” he notes.

“Maybe if this had all happened four or five years ago, I wouldn’t have stopped to appreciate it as much. But it’s very nice to have had it when it wasn’t like that and to have it when it is like this now - for me, it’s been the right way round. When you’ve had shit shows and then you have shows like these, it’s just amazing. It’s that George Clooney vs Leonardo DiCaprio thing: Leo got famous at 21 whereas Clooney got famous when he was in his thirties after having loads of failures. I think having failure is good.”

“It’s what most people will tell you about life: try and be who you really are, and the most joy will come from that.”

Despite these objective career successes, however, it was from the midst of a personal quagmire at the turn of 2022 that Matt found himself back at his piano, writing what would become LP4. He’d relocated to North London (a bad move - he’s back South now) and just been through a break-up that had knocked him for six. “I just wasn’t feeling very hot [in general],” he recalls. “I was in this new place that I didn’t really like being in, and I’d gotten out of this relationship that was kind of a whirlwind and then a quick reckoning. I just felt quite detached from myself and like I was searching and longing for something.”

The resulting material unsurprisingly mirrors some of these ideas, eschewing much of the wide-eyed romance of 2021’s ‘Good Morning, It’s Now Tomorrow’ for songs that address separation and sorrow. Matt’s customarily warm, sideways lens remains, however - such as on recent single ‘Mother’, which looks at the breakdown of a relationship through the eyes of a parent who’s also losing someone they’ve grown to love.

“I played it to my mum on a motorway, driving back to Reading, and she was really moved. It was from a real conversation we’d had, and I feel really happy that I’ve eternalised that conversation because it’s an important thing that I don’t think I’d really thought about until we talked about it.” In the video for the track, the singer’s real-life mum plays a starring role. “She’s an opera singer so she also loves the spotlight; she’s very happy about it.”

Elsewhere across the record, Matt credits co-producer Josh Scarbrow as helping to push him into more varied sonic realms. If his last two albums, he concedes, “were quite in my comfort zone”, then their follow-up sees the singer often changing the pace. “I think I probably will be guilty of that Metallica thing of making the same record for 25 years, but it’d be nice if they were a BIT different…” he chuckles. A notable addition comes from Biig Piig, who lends her vocals to a duet. “Her intimacy as a singer, I just think it’s pretty second to none. She makes you feel like she’s whispering in your ear in a really believable way,” he says. “I met her a few times, writing for her a year or so ago. There’d been some confusion and she came in on the second session like, ‘I can’t believe you’re 19!’ I mean, I wish… But it was cool that she was down to have me in the room with her, thinking that; I’d never let some 19-year-old kid write for me…”

Clearly, the prolific songwriter doesn’t need any help in the writing department. But even when he’s penning some of his most raw and tender material to date (“I listen back to the last song on the album and think, ‘Oh Matthew, you were so sad when you wrote that song…’”), there’s an ever-increasing group of fans on his side, ready to prop him up when he’s down.

“The timing of [this last year] is kind of what most people will tell you about life: try and be who you really are and the most joy will come from that,” he nods. “When you’re comfortable in your own skin, people gravitate to it because they believe it.”

Tags: Matt Maltese, From The Magazine

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