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The Wendy Matthews interview

From Citysearch Melbourne, by Shane Robert Cooper

Wendy Displaying new strength and setting new benchmarks, Wendy Matthews' latest album, Ghosts, not only reaffirms Matthews' reputation for possessing one of this country's most gifted voices, it also provides a rare insight into her emotional make-up.

Weaving themes of identity, heritage, belonging, fortitude, courage and love, Ghosts travels effortlessly through a diverse range of rhythms and moods. It also marks the first time that Matthews has co-produced her own work. "Well, I guess it's because I've never written so much of an album before," says Matthews. "I think, save for four songs, I wrote most of Ghosts with my friend, Glenn Skinner. I didn't want to pass it over to a stranger whose work I may have admired and heard of over the years but had never met, and who has his own circuit of musicians he calls in for stuff like this. We just wanted to see it through from the very beginning to the end."

Compared with her previous albums, it is apparent on Ghosts that Matthews is expressing herself in a way we've never heard before. There is a freshness in her singing that reflects her present attitude. "I guess I've just been through a few major things in the last couple of years. I've been doing a lot of personal work, I suppose, which has brought about some lifestyle changes. So, it's kind of forced me to be a lot more personal with what I do."

I really can't write or sing a song unless it means something to me. I'm not particularly interested in singing fluffy happy stuff. I need to feel passionate in order to sit down and write, which is usually when I'm either angry or sad. I do tend to feel things deeply and I wish that wasn't the case sometimes. Then again, if I felt the full emotions of my songs on stage, I'd be a blithering idiot. I mean ... oh god, I'd end up on my knees sobbing and smashing the stage with my fists!"

Childhood memories, for instance, are thoughtfully broached on the album. As Wendy explains, the influence of life's early years may produce delayed reactions in later life. "It's extraordinary what I've discovered over the last year or two. I mean that expression: 'Give me a boy at seven and I'll show you the man,' is so true. So much of our early years are indelibly tattooed on our chromosomes, you know. I just find it really interesting and I'm just trying to explore a little bit of that now.

Wendy Talking on the eve of the release of her fourth album, Wendy is understandably a little anxious. Considering the disappointing chart performances of Kate Ceberano's, Jenny Morris's and Chrissie Amphlett's last albums, some critics have even suggested there has been a changing of the guard in Australian music; however, Wendy is not convinced. "Well, I think it's got more to do with the size of Australia. You don't often hear in the States or in Europe of the changing of the guard. There's all kinds of music and there should be room for it because that's the very nature of music. That's the nature of humans ... we all like different stuff. I think in any genre or whoever is popular at the moment, the industry makes it such that it can get to saturation point where you really do need to shake things up a bit. So people think of it as a new guard but it's simply a change. And I also think it has a lot to do with the fact that this industry flogs a good thing and signs up a million more. Think about how many young Alanis [Morisette] copies there are at the moment. You know, if you like that sort of music that's great because it doesn't matter what brings it out, just as long as it's out there; but hopefully there's room for everybody."

"I feel kind of brave with Ghosts more so than my other albums. Just in so far as, 'Oh gosh, did I say that? Am I really going to put that into the world?' But I'm proud of that, because I think it takes a lot of guts to put yourself in a vulnerable position."

The new single, Beloved, is an gorgeous ode to lost love, which Matthews reveals is based on personal experience. "It's about the break up of a long-term relationship ... and it felt like somebody had died. I tried to imagine the concept of being invisible in a long-term living situation and watching that person without you. The song was written in about 20 minutes; it just all came out in its entirety and it really hasn't changed ... I'm pleased to see Beloved finally getting some radio support. It can be disappointing when you slog your butt off and tour ... for radio to decide not to support you. Radio seems to play a lot of my older stuff but they haven't really picked up on this new record. Commercial radio in this country tends to be very safe and doesn't take many chances. It is frustrating to work so hard only to have people then ask me, 'Where have you been?' "

This article is a combination of the October 1997 and June 1998 articles from Citysearch Melbourne both written by Shane Robert Cooper.


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