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Artist of the Week – Matt Charles

October 6, 2010 by · 2 comments

An interview with the singer and the songwriter Matt Charles by Lyudmila Yordanova

Matt Charles and Lyudmila Yordanova

Matt Charles and Lyudmila Yordanova

Matt Charles is a singer and a songwriter, born in Tasmania. His home town is Hobart, on the island of Tasmania. More recently he lived in northern Australia and down to the port town of Fremantle on the west coast. He now finds himself in Hamburg Germany.

 Matt Charles has only recorded one full studio album “Java Tsunami” (10 songs), released in 2002. He also has an EP, “Cosa Nostra” (6 songs) recorded at Red Planet studios just before he left Australia to live in Germany in March 2008. “Cosa Nostra” is more a ‘preview’ of the next fell length studio album.

Matt Charles says about “Cosa Nostra”:

“This is a collection of 6 songs recorded on a couple of trips I made to Hobart, just before I moved to Hamburg. They are not 100% finished as we’d like – but they still represent a moment it time and have become the first foundation stones of a new full length record in the future hopefully.

The title? I was watching a documentary on the Mafia, and the narrator explained the basic English translation of the Italian term, “Cosa Nostra” is; ‘our thing’. So more than a tribute to violence – it was more an indie tip of the hat to the musicians in Hobart – our gang, our club – our thing.”

Matt Charles - On Zug 2 - Colour - DSC08453

“In the meantime, “Java Tsunami” is a rich seam of light and shade, a song set that is uplifting and hopeful, dark and truthful. It’s a conversation Charles invites you to join – come in and sit down for a while  – wrote Rob McGlynn, freelance journalist. – Matt Charles writes songs that are honest and clear, in the way that neither the music nor the lyric gets in the way of the other. Its themes are universal, and tips its hat to the tradition of folk and blues, where life, love and loss strikes the chord in each of us, regardless of what musical fashion dictates.”

“Java Tsunami”, currently only available on iTunes, but will be re-released on CD in October/November 2010 and available direct from

Many, many songs by Matt Charles are waiting to be recorded.

At the end of 2008, Matt Charles met Bernd Kühl (well known German lead guitar player), have been doing duo gigs with him and planning recording.

In 2009, they formed a Trio with famous German drummer, Mickie Stickdorn – playing as a trio around Hamburg.

Matt Charles is planning to add a bass player soon and working on recording a new album.

Matt works with his German girlfriend in their own company “Legwarmer Productions” – producing corporate and documentary video projects.

For more information:

So, Matt, imagine that we are sitting in small pub and we are talking about… the weather 🙂 No, only for starting! Well, I ask you…

 The weather – before my eyes, in my head, in my heart….? Physically, Hamburg weather is much like my home – maybe that’s why I fell in love with this town so easily – familiar – but still different. In Australia, many trees are deciduous – they never lose their leaves – so it’s always green. We still have a beautiful Autumn with golden leaves on the ground, but when I visited Hamburg the first time in September 2006, I was really impressed by the beautiful city – even watching the small cyclone of leaves curling behind the Taxi.

 Do you know something about Bulgaria, Matt?

 Not a great deal I’m sorry to say – The history of Europe is an amazing cultural journey I hope to explore more soon – maybe a gig in Sofia, one day?


 For me Tasmania is like another planet… What we must to know about it?

 The island state of Australia – about twice the size of Switzerland – about half a million people. Some of the cleanest air on the planet – wonderful natural produce and technological innovations. Beautiful wilderness and great supporters of the arts.

How did you choose Germany and Hamburg? Why Europe? Is it the place important when someone wants to make blues, rock, country?

Hobart and Fremantle are both towns with well-known harbors – and Hamburg’s harbor was another thing that inspired me in a way – always something happening.

 Everyone I meet thinks I’m crazy to leave Australia, but for me – I’ve spent my whole life there – and even with global warming, I hope the country is not going anywhere soon. I never planned to move to Germany – but had always liked the idea of moving ‘somewhere’ and experiencing more of the world than my own backyard. Even though there are still parts of Australia I haven’t seen yet.

 I first came to Europe in 1996 (Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Turkey, England) and more than anything, just wanted to hear the different languages, use different money and experience some unique cultural moments. To be inspired by the different and the unfamiliar.

In September 2006, I was invited on short notice to support another musician from Hobart, Tasmania who was performing in Hamburg – at a “Hamburg Sound” music festival held at the Hamburg Museum. I was based in Fremantle, near Perth in Western Australia at the time – we knew of each other, but had never played together, until we both met in Hamburg. In the end he was rushed to hospital felling ill and I ended up playing with Spencer Davis (of the Spencer Davis Group) at the last minute – who we’d just met – and after seeing my musical partner rushed to hospital, he offered to help me out with a couple of gigs. An amazing day…

I returned to Hamburg again in September/October 2007 for another small music tour.

For the second time I met a lovely Hamburg girl – who was involved with planning the music tours. Soon after this trip – we both decided to change our lives and continue the journey together, so in March 2008 I moved from Fremantle, Western Australia to the city of Hamburg.

 In the last two years I’ve played over 250 gigs – after only playing about 20 gigs in the 15 years before that in Australia, due to other work commitments. So the last couple of years in Germany have really changed my life in a way I never planned or expected. After the two music tours, I hoped to play a bit more music if I moved here – but the ongoing support of local venues + listeners has been amazing.

I have also developed my own video production business with my German girlfriend – “Legwarmer Productions”.

 You are a singer, a composer, a poet… What is the First? How did you understand what you want to do in your life?

 Thanks for the poet accolade 🙂 The fact is – I want to do too many things in my life – to learn too many things.

I was too rational to follow a career in music as a kid. I had a musician friend say in a studio once: “Matt, what are you going to do with your career? I’m not sure sitting in an office in a few years saying to an employer you ‘specialize in writing sad songs’ will get you far.” He had a point, but more than that I was smart enough to know it’s a lottery + a fashion business most of the time – and if the talented, experienced and older people around me could not make it work as a full time job, I had no hope.

 So in the end I pursued a life as a video editor in Hobart – even working on a series for the Discovery Channel in the USA in my early 20’s. This turned into an all consuming life. There was little time for music and in Hobart, very few live venues to play in either. Then karaoke started becoming popular…and poker machines – both helped put a bullet in the brain of live music.


 How does one song appear?

 Space and time help a bit. I don’t bother trying to hard – it either comes or it doesn’t. There’s no plan. When I was younger I used to write a lot – less so now, but hopefully better songs. Kinda just wait till I have something to say – then often the song knows it before I do.

I keep feeling I have so many songs no one has ever heard, why try to re-write the same idea again. Playing live and especially recording helps give as sense that ‘someone may hear it’ so that inspires me a bit – otherwise it’s like screaming into the abyss and feels a bit pointless. Just before we started recording “Java Tsunami”, all those years ago, I had some songs selected – but once we rehearsed with the band, the experience triggered something in me – I wrote ‘I Will Not Break You’, dumped a lot of the other songs and found myself writing new tunes with the new energy of the band in my head and heart.

 Bernd Kuhl, Mickie Stickdorn and Matt Charles

Bernd Kuhl, Mickie Stickdorn and Matt Charles

 What makes you sad?

 Considering everyone on the planet is basically made up of the same stuff – it saddens me there is such violent conflict all the time. Arguments are good – I love a good argument – people discussing things and resolving issues – sometimes having to compromise – learning – allowing yourself to see someone else point of view – and if even if you don’t agree, you can still respect their opinion, as much as you’d like them to respect yours. Blowing people up makes it a bit difficult to have a conversation with them.

 I’m annoyed by the fact that almost without fail, EVERYONE loves music, movies and the arts – but so many bastards don’t feel the creators of that work deserve to be rewarded for creating it. Some people steal everything off the internet as we know – I bet if I turned up to their office and said “work all week and I keep everything you earn”, they wouldn’t like it.


No honest person fills the car with petrol and expects to drive away without paying – the last 10 years has made me very disappointed in the short-sighted, small-minded attitudes of the general population.

 Of course I agree the Net is a great way to share media – yes, I think just like the old cassette days, you should be able to share music with others, this is how I’ve been introduced to great music and done the same for others – but I think human beings should take some responsibility for their actions. There are many ways to preview samples on the Net and if you download something out of interest, you listen to something once and trash it – end of story. However, I feel if you like it – if you listen to it more than once – I think you OWE all the people who have spent their lives making it – for you to enjoy! It’s about respect. I’m no saint – but even lacking a secure income for many years working as a freelancer, whenever I made some money, a lot has always gone back into buy the proper recording of something I have enjoyed – or in most cases, more debt – but at least my conscience is clear.

 I remember watching the movie “Amadeus” as a kid – thinking how amazing it would be, to be commissioned by someone to live in the garden house of an estate – and all you had to do was perform for the family on a Sunday night. Just the idea, that people respect art – I always liked that. Now there just too many people, too many outlets and distractions – not enough time – making it more important than ever to support those you can, who still take the risk to create and share something with the world – if you like it that is.

 Imagine a world without a stereo, a radio, a TV – your computer, books, painting, sculpture – the human expression – the true reflection of who we are as a society. Now who would want that? Still many seem happy to silently let it die by stealing it. This seems to be a good point to point out I have an album on iTunes 🙂

 Ok, so some TV talent show doesn’t do it for me – but at least people are watching and listening AND thinking about what they like.

 I can see how this maybe seems like a crazy rant – but this is my reality. Many people have no idea or appreciation for the hours of preparation, travelling, equipments costs, recovery time costs, that it takes even to playing even little gigs like I do – it’s ridiculous if you think about it – a few euro an hour if you’re lucky – if want money, wash dishes somewhere.


 What makes you glad?

 A roof over my head, good food and drinks – the inspiration taken from a good argument 🙂 The beauty you see in the world – the hope that there is enough smart people on the Earth to make sure society can move forward in a fair and positive way.

The presentation of one song can be a very lonely occupation… What is it to be alone in front of the people?

 Still surprises me I’m doing it – I’m honestly not hungry for attention, or think I deserved to be listened too… it’s not an ego thing… I do ask myself why a lot, especially walking home in the rain in the middle of the night – and all I can come up with is: It’s the challenge – the adrenaline – the release + excuse to yell as loud as I can, then the satisfaction that I made it to the end of the gig…somehow. Whether it’s to a good size crowd or only a hand full of people – I never feel like I ever leave anything in the tank – I’m honest with myself and sometimes feel I’m trying to sing myself inside out. So at the end of the day, even if someone didn’t like what I was doing, I can say – I bloody tried as hard as I could.

 Now that all maybe sounds out of control, but it’s still very much in the framework of trying to make a connection and present the songs as best I can. Sometime I just keep playing until I feel like I satisfied myself – searching for that moment when for a few minutes, everything makes sense and feels right.

What does change when you are with band, when around you there are other musicians? Who is the most preferred collaborator for the show of your music?

 I’ve been very lucky in my life to be surrounded by some wonderfully talented musicians – the down side is, I’ve never had the chance to record as many songs with them as I have wanted.

 Playing music with skilled players is a great feeling. Recently, performing in a duo with Bernd Kühl on electric guitar – some of my songs have really started to grow up. The addition of harmonies and guitar riffs can turn an original song no-one knows into something that sounds ‘accessible’ to the drinker at a bar, even if they’ve never heard it in their life. It adds power and confidence to the message of the song, making it easier for people to jump on the train – instead of just retreating to every safe old song they’ve heard a thousand times in their life. I understand and have the same feelings sometimes:  you’re out for a drink with your mates, you want the comfort of a song you all know – but in the end I think there is enough people doing that in the world – so I’d rather not play at all if I was forced to ONLY play cover songs.

 I love to play other people’s songs – but I prefer to listen to them, enjoy them and then get on trying to write my own. It feels great to sing a song like U2’s “ONE”, and have people really appreciate it – but it bloody feels a truck load better to have an even better reaction to one of your own tunes. Karaoke can be fun – but it’s not a soul satisfying experience for me.

What is your favorite song?

 Too many great songs in the world to pick one – but a couple from this week, a few would be: “Missing Pieces” by John Hiatt, “Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan… Or did you mean my songs? I’m not a fan of competitions, and at the risk of offending one of my songs, I’ll not comment further 🙂

 Matt, how can save himself a man who deal entirely in what he does?

 By doing more than he normally does – maybe. I think everyone is at risk of becoming locked in a bubble of their own world. It’s easy to hide from new experiences.

 And let me say, Lussi – thank you for listening, coming to some gigs and giving your time to make this interview possible. A big Australia hug for you!

 cheers // Matt

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