2017 has proved to be a very exciting year for Musician Matt Carstens; he welcomed the launch of his debut album 2D Heart and then he was selected as the winner of Francois Van Coke’s #VanCokeColab competition, that offered young musicians the opportunity to collaborate on their own original track with Van Voke. Carsten’s single “Broken Society” was selected and the two musicians headed into the studio to put a more diverse spin on the track.
You have been composing music since the age of 12 years old – what sparked this desire at such a young age and do you remember the first song you wrote?
“Music has always been a large part of my upbringing. I was always exposed to it while I was growing up through my parents, who are both music lovers. It was a very easy and natural progression into making music myself. I was fortunate enough to start playing guitar at a really young age. It was my saving grace. By the time I was 14 I was writing my own original songs, the first one being a particularly cringe-worthy song called “Runaway”. It was a pretty terrible song, but I’m really grateful for it as it sparked my love for composing lyrics, which only snowballed from there.”
You released your debut album, 2D Heart, in April 2017 – tell me about the album; what inspired it?
“2D Heart was a really big turning point for me. It was my first attempt at a fully original album and I’m really proud of it. Because of the fact that I was still in high school my inspiration for the album was very much focused around my pursuit of love and relationships. It was a really innocent time in my songwriting and I have a lot to owe to the album personally. I went through a lot of change with me moving down to the Western Cape and being met by so many new people and opportunities. 2D Heart encapsulates that.”
You first single “Paper Planes” did well on radio – tell me about this song?
“Paper Planes was the first song I released off the album. I wrote it in Pringle Bay on the beach one day whilst watching a sunset. The fact that it got the positive response that it did really gave me perspective and motivated me to keep composing. I don’t go into my songs with any expectations of grand success or anything. I think it keeps me grounded, plus, it’s always a really pleasant surprise when a track does get well received. It makes the hard work that goes into making it worth while.”
In June Francois van Coke announced the #VanCokeColab – offering young musicians the once in a lifetime chance to collaborate on their own original track. Why did you decide to give this a chance?
“I’ve never really been a huge fan of competitions regarding music, which is why the decision to take part in the whole initiative was so last minute. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with one of my musical idols. It’s been an amazing experience and Francois is one of the nicest people you’ll meet and work with. It was a real honor being involved in this whole experience.”
Tell me about the moment you heard that your song “Broken Society” had been selected as the winner of this competition?
“I was in bed scrolling through Facebook when I saw I was tagged in Francois’ post. I freaked out and ended up waking up half my residence. I felt really accomplished at that point in time.”
Tell me about your experience working with Francois Van Coke, plus how has it helped you improve as a musician?
“As I said, Francois is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet, as well as being an amazing musician. The whole process was so easy and we meshed pretty well musically. I think it’s because we were both really excited about the potential that the song had. I learnt a lot about real musicianship from Francois in the sense of staying humble and going into creating something new with an open mind. I really enjoyed it.”
Tell me about Broken Society?
“Broken Society is really a tuning point for me as an artist. Not only because of the fact that I got to work with Francois, but I feel like it indicates a new era in my songwriting. I’ve gone through a lot of change this year and I feel my music and lyrics have grown with me. The song is about escaping the idealistic societal norms in pursuit of one’s self. It’s about embracing the change and experience that life throws at you and embracing what you’re about personally by escaping this robotic mindset that people get stuck in. It’s an evolution in my music and I’m excited to see how the song is received by the public.”
This single was reworked – was it difficult to have someone else take your creation and change it (even though you worked together with Francois on this change, it must be difficult to have to go through that), also how did you ensure that the integrity of the song wasn’t compromised?
“I think it’s a bit silly to get too precious about your music. Music is an art form and art is flexible. The point of a collaboration, is to create something new and unexpected, which is exactly what we did. Francois and I both brought our own unique vibe to the track and made a weird and cool musical creation. We both had respect for one another’s musical inputs and I think that’s why the song came out so well. We just had fun with it.”
You’ve worked with Francois Van Coke (not everyone can say that) – anyone else in the industry you would love to work with?
“There are a whole lot of amazing SA artists I’d love to work with. I could definitely picture myself making some interesting stuff with Majozi, Matthew Mole and Karen Zoid, to name a few. But at the same time I’m a lover of rap and hip hop, so collaborating with one of SA’s many great rap acts would be really rad as well, like BitterEinder or Reason. I’m really open to exploring new horizons musically.”
Going forward what are your plans?
“I’m just going to keep making music that makes me happy, while working hard and playing as many gigs as I can. What more could a guy want?
Watch Broken Society here:
De Akker, Stellenbosch
The Vic Bar, Cape Town