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Wendy wants to lay a few ghosts

Sunday Times, November 9, 1997
by Chris Thomas

Wendy Matthews has often been regaled as one of Australia's premier female singers. Not bad for someone who only released her debut album six years ago and has chalked up three more albums and several awards since. Before that she scored a No 1 as the voice behind Absent Friends' Nobody But You. And in the 80s she did backing vocals for the Machinations and the Models and did a blues album with Kate Ceberano. With the release of her fourth album, Ghosts, she has plenty of experience under her belt but she has found the music industry continually frustrating.

"Ghosts was the change I wanted to make personally and it's also the album that's copped the most flak." Matthews mused. "Sometimes I think the lavender farm up in Queensland is looking better and better each day. I'm happy with the album which, to me, is the basis of it all. It's kind of in somebody else's ball park once I finish an album and it is pretty tough out there at the moment."

Wendy More and more female singers are popping up all over the place but Matthews was adamant there should be room for everybody. She is frustrated by the tunnel vision of commercial radio and cannot believe the stations wil only play her if she is in the top 40. "How can I get in the top 40 if they don't play me?" Matthews asked. "Radio stations are all run by the same computer. I can't bear this thing that's going around that you've got to get rid of one to make room for another. I'm going to get out there and let people know about the album any way I can."

Baffled with radio and the reception to her album, Matthews has thrusted herself into live performances. She said people were sill interested in what she did, despite the muted reception to Ghosts. Matthews has found this harder to accept because she feels the album is more her than any of her previous efforts.

"I've been copping it in the reviews," she said. "It's hard to take when you believe in something and put a lot of yourself into it. It's a syndrome in the industry; they've built me up and now it's time to whack me down. "But it's not happening with the live stuff, I'm still getting packed houses and people going away with big smiles. Constructive criticism is fine, everyone's entitled to their opinion. It's when you get those guys that go in for the kill and they don't cite one song. But even if I don't ever make another record again, I'll keep enjoying playing music."

So what of the Ghosts album? It's an exploration of ghosts from the past, written during the past six years. Matthews wrote many of the songs with Glen Skinner and said if the tracks were not directly related to her, they were about friends or snippets of information she had heard. But the underlying theme of the songs on Ghosts was the patterns in life people kept repeating.

"In relationships and other parts of life, you do what you know and even if it's painful, you keep doing it," Matthews said. "It keeps recurring and you keep setting things up to happen that way. The past couple of years I've been looking at how to change that and recognise these things in one's self. Writing these songs was partly my way of doing that."

Despite being an established artist, Matthews often felt like a newcomer although she admitted she had learnt a lot since her debut solo album, Émigré. There are other projects she confessed she would like to work on, maybe even a few collaborations. But the cycle of music industry has prevented her so far pursuing any of these ideas because much of the year is taken up with recording, then promotion and touring. "Ghosts is my fourth album and it's only now starting to be a decent body of work behind me," Matthews said. "You get to a certain point with what you do and you forget there are other ways of doing things. You need to recognise the time for a change and have the guts to do it."


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