Matt Gresham on debuts, record deals and staying true to his beliefs
I love how a song can speak to people instantly when a subject is really powerful. You can actually hear an opening line of a song and just be like – woah. That’s what I try to do.
Instant fame and fortune versus following your heart: Sydney-based storytelling balladeer Matt Gresham is well accustomed to the internal struggle between the two. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter first caught Australia’s attention during his time on X Factor, auditioning two years in a row before finally making the top 24 in 2013. Despite being a crowd favourite, Gresham eventually made the difficult decision to leave the show, inadvertently granting Dami Im the second chance she needed to win.
“In the initial stage they were letting me call the shots,” Gresham said. “They were saying, ‘if you like Bob Marley you can sing Bob Marley, if you like Bill Withers you can do that.’ But at the end of the show it got really controlling and I felt like I was being pushed into a confined space. They were pushing me to be someone I was not so I left the show for that reason.”
And with four albums, a handful of awards under his belt and a recent tour supporting folk songstress Vera Blue, Gresham has proven he’s doing just fine on his own.
“Practise is the key, really. I might write 20 crap songs and only one might help someone in their life but that’s when you know you’ve done your job.”
Making the most of every opportunity, Gresham even went as far as temporarily relocating to Los Angeles in preparation for SXSW in Austin, Texas last March.
“In my opinion, as far as music talent goes, I think America’s the best so I just wanted to immerse myself,” said Gresham.
“I learnt so much. I performed with the best keyboard player I ever heard. He plays with people like Sia. I also got to work with John Mayer’s band so basically I played with the best players in my eyes.”
As a result of his hard work and unforgettable performances, the sandy-blonde vocalist has been signed to Warner Music Europe in a three-album deal, the first of which sees him collaborating with Los Angeles musician Jaymes Young. Together they’ve released Spotify hit Small Voices and latest single Ghost.
“(The album’s) heavily influenced by storytelling music but also James’ background is electronic so it’s kind of a fusion of acoustic/electronica. I’m super excited, man.”
“People are responding more to this new stuff so it’s exciting to bring out more. We’ve kind of released not our strongest songs first so it’s good to have the best ones still in the bag.”
Another upcoming treat for fans is Gresham’s debut headline tour in mid-July, where the tattoo-clad crooner will play a series of intimate venues throughout the country.
Even with a busy schedule Gresham still takes regular breaks, seeking out places where he can feel inspired and remind himself what’s most important.
“It sounds cliché but I spend a lot of time in the water; every morning I surf. It gives me clarity being in an open space, away from the phone. As long as I’m around nature and the phone’s turned off then the lyrics come.”
“It would be amazing to have a really successful song, but it’s more important to just be present and happy with life, that’s the goal. To stay humble.”
Tickets are available from Matt Gresham’s website.
Friday 15th July – The Milk Factory, Brisbane
Saturday 16th July – The Oxford Circus, Sydney
Friday 20th July – Babushka, Leederville
Saturday 30th July – Indi Bar, Scarborough
Sunday 31st July – Mojos Bar, Fremantle
Saturday 6th August – Roebuck Bay Hotel, Broome
Saturday 13th August – Toff In Town, Melbourne