From Cream Magazine
After spending her childhood days in cold Montreal, Canada and late teens years in steamy LA, Wendy Matthews moved to Australia equipped with an in-bred warmth and a certain sense of cool, That, and an idetible singing voice that has managed to strike a chord in a million listener's minds. Craig Jacobs goes heart to heart with the gospel/pop/soul singer who once had a gig on Sesame Street.
It was not a conscious decision on Wendy's part to make this, her fourth solo album, her most personal to date. "I didn;t want to write mst of this record which makes it more personal but being more personal wasn't really the intent. I've got a songwriter partner in London and we get together once a year and come up with things and really we were waiting for the right, [she pauses looking for the right word] home. So some of the songs are very new and some were written before I started the previous record. I think the first track on the album, Break the girl, we wrote six years ago."
The songwriting partnerships she speaks of is with Englishman Glenn Skinner (they co-wrote nine of the 13 tracks on the album). "He was great," Matthews says, "when we first met we just clicked. It's a rare and nice thing to find somebody you can write with like that,"
Over the years, between the cycles of recording and touring either Wendy would go over to England, or Skinner would visit Australia and they would write intensely for five weeks at a time. Skinner also co-produced th album, and together they dealt with the several pressures in developping it.
"You live in each other's pockets and you eat together and fall into your own beds at night but basically first thing in the morning, you're there together again. But it's fantastic."
Mathhews' seven ARIAs "live" on the cactus shelves in her Bondi home. "They seem to be weathering well," she says. She doesn't hold them up as trophies to success; as barometers of how far she has come in her adopted country, just as, well, cactus shelf company.
Matthews isn't one to do well on nature of her popularity and fame. She doesn't have any conception as to how she fits into the Australian music scene of things. "I think a lot of us [fellow Australian artists] are just so busy doing whatever we're doing that we don't, or I don't, see it objectively at all. That's really one of those questions when I have to turn to the person next to me and say, "I don't kno!". Even to people that say "What sorts of music do you do?", [I say] I don't know."
What she does know, and this is transparently clear, is that she loves to make music. She adores singing. She was always meant to sing, and she didn't care in which capacity. Even today, you'd sense she'd be content in the shadows, singing backup for some other soul. Perhaps the earliest sign that Matthews would forge a career as a singer was at the afe of four, when she performed on Sesame Street, the lon running Canadian children's television show. "It was no career move, believe me," she shrugs with a deep laugh. "My mother knew some people in the Canadian film board and they needed this little voice to sing the songs about a letter, you know, the song for the letter "O", so I did some of those... I don't even remember it really. There was something about a goat going over a hill... it was a while back now. I hope they've got some new young kid to redo the song..."
Matthews was sixteen when she decided to leave her home in Montreal to go busking with friends. "My mother was very supportive and very lenient. I don't know if I could have been so lenient with a sixteen year old girl". She and her friends travelled around Canada and the US, as far south as a little town in Mexico, then settled in Los Angeles for seven years.
The city of silicon hyper-realism indeed left an indelible mark on Matthews. "I was well and truly ensconced [in Los Angeles]. It's a place that if you stay there for more than two years, there's something there that grabs you. And it's the kind of best and worst of everything. I don't mean to completely trash it because there is a lot of magic there, but really, it's just the epitome of magic there, you eventually forget that there is anything beyond."
She escaped the pseudo-seductive lifestyle of LA after being offered a tour to Australia. It was only supposed to last for six months, but she ended up staying and has called this home twelve years since.
The final track on Ghosts was written by another classic Australian chanteuse, Deborah Conway. "I really admire her lyric writing," says Matthews, defining the track Mountain as "the simplicity of that universal feeling that once you take that first step, something that was completely insurmountable, now seems to be just a little bit easier to get through. And the mountains turn into mounds of clay, hopefully."
On the back of the CD sleeve is a copy of a mosaic tile which Matthews made herself. It was one of the first mosaic peices she created (the art is now a great hobby of hers). She did a course and found the experience fun and therapeutic. "It's something about mixing up and pieces and putting them back together again that's really therapeutic," she explains. "Just getting into the cement and pushing it around and doing a bit of rendering. The image of the hands seems to be reaching out saying, "Head up! Head up! This mountain needs climbing..." It's an invitation by Matthews, extended to her listeners. Maybe then the mountains might seem a lot smaller, like mounds of clay.
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