Rolling Stone (Australian Edition) August 1997
By Carrie Nutchinson
"Workwise, the shit is about to hit the fan" says singer/songwriter Wendy Matthews. Having just returned from a month-long sabbatical in her home country, Canada, Matthews is about to embark on the whirlwind of touring to promote her fourth, as yet unnamed, album. Over five years in the making, the album is a departure for Matthews with the singer co-writing and co-producing all 13 tracks.
"A lot of the songs were actually written before I started recording the last album (The Witness Tree), but I wanted to hang on to them for this project," she says.
Much of the material was developed with friend and writing partner, British producer Glenn Skinner, who has worked with Deborah Harry, Boy George and Alison Moyet. Two tracks, however, were recorded last summer in Canada with Pierre Marchand, whose work on Sarah McLachlan's album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Matthews admires a great deal. While staying at her mother's house in the country, she happened upon Marchand's number and after weeks of contemplation gave him a call.
"I'm not very good at calling up strangers and saying, 'Hey, love your work,"' she explains. "I gave him a tape of songs and said, 'I'd really like you to like what you record if we're going to do something."' The result is a collaboration on the album's opening track "Break the Girl" and "Halcyon Days".
The rest of the work was recorded in Australia with Skinner. Matthews admits the way she approached the album creatively was a new experience for her. "The choice of songs really defined a whole course for me," she says, "just putting them in order so there's a bit of a story and a cohesion there."
Then there's the overall tone. "It's not a radical huge jump over the lake," Matthews states matter-of-factly, "but it's definitely a foot over the other side of the stream. People with my kind of voice usually put a lot of reverb on things to make it sound big and floaty. This is much more dry and in-your-face."
"I've always had an extreme aversion to guitar solos - I can't stand them. Yet with this album we went for much more of a guitar sound than I've used in the past."
While the change in style is subtle, it is still a far cry from the song that caused a thousand tears and the one Matthews is most remembered for, "The day you went away". But she says she feels no pressure to produce material in the same vein as the ARIA award-winner. "As wonderful as that song was for me, accolades and success are a real drag," she says. "They kind of box you in."
Matthews is now on the publicity trail breaking new ground. The petite, raven-haired singer recently appeared in the black + white Album revealing, nearly, all. The photos show Matthews posed in rather revealing rubber, a scenario based on the movie The Night Porter with Charlotte Rampling. "I've never really seen the connection between nudity and music," she says with a slight grin, "but I thought it would be an interesting thing to do." Now, wearing rather more acceptable latex-free garb, and with the album's first single "Then I Walked Away" receiving radio airplay, she's ready to hit the road. "I'd like to shake up the live stuff this year," she says. "I just feel a desire to get back to how I used to feel."
But even for someone who loves what she does as much as Matthews, the constant pressure to perform and produce can be draining. "The whole process of touring is a strange thing to begin with. To me music is about spontaneity - it rises inside until you just have let it out. But when you see that you're playing for eight nights, and then you've one night off, then you're playing for nine and then two off, it becomes a whole other thing. I've tried all along not to let it, but it gets kind of weary sometimes," she says with the air of someone who knows what to expect during the next few months.
Matthews is the first to admit the nitty gritty of the business does sometimes get her down: "There has to be a dark side to every thing. Sometimes you feel that you're selling tins of baked beans, that you're a salesman out on the road. I guess I was a bit naive about that whole aspect of it. Sometimes you expect huge and wonderful, magical things and it's a lot more realistic than that ... I think with this album, more than anything, I've felt that. Hopefully, I'm on the right track again."
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Made by J.A.D. van Renesse van Duivenbode (Alex)
The Netherlands, Europe
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