Q&A: Matt Boylan-Smith

Singer-songwriter Matt Boylan-Smith is about to debut his new single ‘We Can Be Together’ tomorrow (Saturday, 7/10) at The Chippendale Hotel. Boylan-Smith took the time out to answer our questions regarding the new single, forthcoming album and his gig tomorrow. Read his responses here.

Could you please tell us how your new single ‘We Can Be Together’ came about?

I actually wrote We Can Be Together when I started out with music. Upon playing the chord structure it made me reflect on the feel of the melody and it made me thoughtful about my childhood. I recorded it before I’d done a gig and also didn’t actually fully comprehend the meaning of the song as it came out in a stream of conscience. So I left it but decided to play it at a festival this year and found I now fully understood it’s meaning and also saw that it resonated with the audience.

So you’ve said that you recorded the demo many years ago before you decided to show Jeff Martin and then the song finally came together like you imagined it would for years – Was there a reason it took such a long time to develop the track?

I recorded the song at the genesis of my career and I think that in the ten years since I wrote it I learnt the meaning of it more and therefore was able to fathom it better and give it the love that it needed. I think this helped in my overall construction and delivery of the song. I think that I grew into the song and was ready to realise it’s full potential only this year.

Do you often develop songs over such a long period of time?

With some songs I do. I tend to not fight against my tracks as a means to get them finished. I’m happy to take them as far as I can and then return to finish them once I have learnt the meaning of why I was writing them. They come from a sub conscious part of me that has more wisdom than my own logic. There are some songs that I can write in an afternoon but most songs I work on over time as I make sense of their meaning.

Speaking of Jeff Martin – what was it like to work with him to produce this track?

Jeff is a fantastic producer. He’s obviously a talented musician in his own right which brings it’s own wonderful elements to the production process. I feel his experience and our close relationship has meant that each song is given the respect it deserves and is taken on it’s own merit without recourse. It’s a gentle and reflective song played acoustically and we worked on replicating this feel without the need to over do it. He was as excited to hear it the first time as he was at what could possibly have been the 1000th listen and that kind of innocent excitement about music is hard to come by.

Would you say ‘We Can Be Together’ is what we can expect the upcoming album to sound like? If not, what can we expect?

You can expect similarities although each song is different in construct, instrumentation and themes. The story-telling element of the song is pervasive throughout the album which is a common theme. In terms of sound it’s one of the more reflective pieces so we were more subtle in the delivery than with some of the other tracks on the album.

Your video clip for an unreleased track won ‘Best Shorts’ in Madrid International Film Festival – how important would you say these visual aspects are to your music? 

They’re extremely important because what I write is based a lot on the memory of things I have observed and I find it wonderful giving a visual aspect to what is in my mind when I write. I don’t write songs with a film clip in mind however the narrative course of the songs lends itself to strong visuals which makes coming up with film concepts as engaging for me as song writing. This particular song called Johnny is a war ballad I wrote about World War 1 based on a story a appropriated about a soldier I met after a gig that had just returned from Afghanistan. The story is similar to what I was told but I changed some details to try and give both myself and maybe listeners some insights about aspects of war that aren’t always particularly talked about. This particular method lent itself to strong imagery which was highlighted in the video that Carl Emerton shot which I think resonated with people.

So you are playing the Chippendale hotel this Saturday – what can fans expect from that show?

Indeed. I think people can expect it to be bigger in production than they’re used to. I’ve arranged the songs with a bigger scope for harmonies with my band whilst also adhering to the sound of the recordings that Jeff and I worked on at Riverhouse Studios. I think people can expect an honest and powerful delivery of the two years of recording and touring.

So to end with a couple of fun questions the first being – If you could write any song in the world, which would it have been?

A hard one, but pertinent today I’d probably say Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty – I love the last verse and especially the line “I’m going to write her, name in the sky”. It’s simple but effective in showing what I feel is the development of his character in the song. To start the song with a bad boy breaking hearts to at the end changing to the point where he wanted to move the sky to spell her name set fire to my heart when I first heard the track a long time ago.

If you weren’t making music, what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d still be wandering the world figuring out when it was that I would start to write music to make sense of things. No I just get to wander the world doing it.