Matt Steady is not a “science guy” after all. The talented singer-songwriter didn’t pen his first song until the age of 39, but now that’s found his musical stride, he’s all in. In fact, Matt recently left his job of 16 years to make the leap into music full-time. On the verge of releasing a new album, Feels Like Coming Home, we asked him about his “late” start and what changed his perspective.
How did you get your start as a songwriter? Do you remember the first song you wrote?
I’ve been singing and playing instruments as long as I can remember, but I didn’t write my first song until a couple of years ago at the age of 39! For whatever reason, I’d had it in my head all those years that I was a “science” guy rather than an artist and thought I didn’t have the required spark of creativity to make original music. Big mistake! I truly believe now that if you put the time in, you can do pretty much anything you want to.
There were two events that completely changed my perspective. Firstly, my good friend Morocco Dave got me into home recording, which is the thing that I needed to help me experiment and find my voice. Secondly, one of my favourite artists, Jeff Black, put out a request for people to record covers of his songs to put on his website for an event. I worked basically most of the night for an entire week to record versions of his songs in completely different styles and got them uploaded in time.
This really stretched me; it was the first time I’d recorded anything other than plain guitars and vocals, and I just loved the results. Listening back to the songs they were so different to the originals that I realised that perhaps I could write some myself. The first song was called “The River”, very basic acoustic guitar and vocals over the sound of water. I released it on a fundraising EP along with the Jeff Black covers [Rambling on the Black List]. If you listen now it’s quite raw but full of emotion and actually stands up quite well.
You recently made the full-time leap into music, is that right? What was the turning point for you to consider this?
I left work for reasons other than music; I’d been in that company for 16 years and it was time to make a change. But if you’re going to make a change, why not take a risk and do something crazy? If I didn’t try it, I’d always look back and wonder and regret it. Don’t get me wrong. I was good at my job, but making music is something that feels like something I was meant to do. It enables me to give back and make a small difference to people’s lives.
How are the emotions at this point concerning the leap?
I’m thoroughly and exhaustingly enjoying it! Really the leap is too early. I haven’t built up a huge fan base or tour schedule like you should have to go full-time, but it was now or never and sometimes you just have to go with your gut and take a jump. I’m starting to build up not just my recording and gigging, but also enabling other musicians with session work, production, mixing and mastering etc. It’s a slow process, but I am in the fortunate position of having a good commercial skill set, and I will be able to pick up temporary contract work to tide me over if necessary.
How long have you been thinking about making this move?
About a year! Remember I’ve only been writing songs for a couple of years so this is all very sudden.
The new album is Feels Like Coming Home. How does it compare musically with Blood is Thicker Than Gold?
Because I’ve been listening to music and playing all sorts of different styles for decades before writing my own songs, I’ve found it quite hard to settle on a particular sound. Everything I’ve listened to is all mixed up inside me and influencing what I write. I love to experiment and try new instruments, rhythms and flavours. Blood is Thicker Than Gold is incredibly eclectic; it’s all roots-based but the roots are diverse – blues, folk, gospel, celtic, country. I’m still using all those sounds in Feels Like Coming Home but it’s matured into a more consistent sound and texture.
My vocals have improved substantially. I’ve actually had singing lessons! I wish I’d had them years ago, since they’ve made a massive difference not only in how I sing, but what I sing. I’ve also kept the instrumentation a little more consistent across songs. What is the same is that I prefer raw and real to polished perfection, and the songs all mean something to me – music has to come from the heart otherwise it’s just noise!
Some fans can co-write a song with you. If you could do the same with another artist of your choice, who would you choose?
Oh, so many to choose from! I’m going to narrow it down to songwriters — there are so many musicians I’d love to record with but that’s a different story! — and the ones that have really impacted my life would include Damien Rice, Gretchen Peters, Martyn Joseph and Neil Finn, but for being the catalyst that got me on this recording journey, I’d have to go with Jeff Black. He’s a man that can stand there and sing simple acoustic songs with a guitar and get inside your soul.