Matt left us fifteen years ago in 2004 and, as I am about to find out, has packed a great deal into those years. Leaving with A levels in Music Tech, Media and Sociology, whilst waiting to take up a degree course at Westminster, he found himself working on the ‘American Idol’ Christmas album for the record producer James McMillan. So fascinating, challenging and focused was the work that he swiftly decided to follow a vocational route, acknowledging at once that this was a world of ‘connections and working hard’. He set up a studio at home, and when James moved away he set about developing his own projects, continuing to gig, build on his skillset, and widen his network of work connections.
It was while working on one of the musicals at Hurtwood that the next key connection emerged. Jon Clarence spotted Matt’s potential and this led to work over the next couple of years up at the New London Theatre. All kind of shows followed on, balanced continuously with gigging, working with individuals recording their work, building those skills and connections, ‘honing my production skills in this big, big industry, as Matt puts it. He worked on ‘Joseph’ at the Adelphi, took over on ‘The Bodyguard’, toured with ‘The Girls’ and right now finds himself Associate Musical Director on ‘Only Fools and Horses’. The consummate skill? ‘The ability to get on with people.’ Alongside all this he has always maintained his work connections with Hurtwood, recording the annual student album and working fruitfully with students on their song-writing skills. Amongst these lucky candidates were the two sisters who have now gone on to become ‘Ward-Thomas’; Annie Bailey; and with the twins, Lizzie and Catherine, with whom he wrote 5 songs at Hurtwood and then recorded in Nashville, which ‘just sort of worked’. They have all gone on to remarkable success in a very short time. ‘It has been an amazing 2 or 3 years,’ he observes. ‘If I hadn’t come to Hurtwood none of this would have happened. It has totally shaped everything.’ Good to hear.
Any other solid advice, I ask. ‘It’s all about the people,’ he repeats. Hurtwood has given him so many solid pointers and connections. In particular, he cites ‘people who come from the real world of all these industries,’ so that the students really benefit from their expertise, and leave ‘more confident, more skilled.’ How would he describe himself, I ask? ‘Musical director, song-writer, musician?’ Take your pick. The key element is flexibility and those ubiquitous ‘people skills’. ‘You just need people to get on with you,’ he reiterates. ‘Ask, watch and absorb,’ he advises, and aim to get it right first time. He has clearly managed this, as well as many vital practical skills like writing everything down, mastering new software as it emerges, streamlining where possible, and always aiming for ‘industry standard’ outcomes.
It has been a really illuminating chat about an industry that is such a broad-church of potential jobs and career possibilities. His final piece of advice is to find out ‘what really works for you. For example, university isn’t for everyone’. This is very clearly what he has done, and I leave him to get back to his wonderfully varied work roles. Happy in his work? Absolutely! Thanks, Matt - it’s been really good to catch up.