INTERVIEW: Matthew E White | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Matthew E White is a man in demand. This in itself should not be surprising: his debut album Big Inner became a word-of-mouth sleeper hit that enchanted listeners worldwide with its heart-felt, immaculately produced blend of rich soul, cosmic country and seventies singer-songwriter sophistication. After two years of touring and a fine mini-album in the shape of the groove-orientated Outer Face, he’s back with album number two, Fresh Blood – a more concise, direct record that once again makes the most of the Spacebomb collective of musicians to bring his material to vivid life.

With critics falling over themselves to praise him and a hectic live schedule ahead, White is indeed a busy man. We still, however, managed to get a few questions through to him, and he gave me his take on the making of his latest album.

Speaking on the genesis of his latest work, White recalls how the record got its name. “I liked it early on. It’s in the lyrics on the opening song from the record and I always like when records have a title from the lyrics. To me it symbolises newness, freshness and rawness – all of which I wanted in the record.”

“Positivity is not about positive things happening, it’s about trying to find hope and positivity no matter what happens”

Returning to the Spacebomb studio in Richmond, Virginia after two whirlwind years that took him from local obscurity to international renown, White was determined to stick to his roots and stay true to his established modus operandi. “In a lot of ways, it was the same as Big Inner – same people, same place, same general approach. To me it was about committing to the people and the process and seeing how deep we could take it this time around. I think my song craft has grown – or at least that was the goal! I wanted this record to be about songs – that’s the centrepiece of the most effective records to me.”

Listening to Fresh Blood, what really cuts through is the delicate balance between the humour of tracks like lead single Rock & Roll Is Cold and the tender melancholy of a song like Tranquillity, dedicated to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. “Fun, warmth, humour – those are all immensely important to me and accordingly find themselves in the songs. Without sounding cliché, that’s our lives. We will all have to figure out that balance somehow at some time. Positivity is not about positive things happening, it’s about trying to find hope and positivity no matter what happens.”

As much as the luscious arrangements provided by Spacebomb players have become vital to Matthew E White’s sound though, his songs are more than capable of standing on their own, proving the point with a solo album launch concert in London and a limited edition stripped-down version of Fresh Blood, No Skin. “It’s something that felt exciting to me. I believe exploring different stopping places for the art can be really fresh. This felt like a way to learn about myself, the songs and the process in a pretty cool way.”

Matthew E White plays Sage Gateshead on Friday 17th April.

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