21 year old Matt Carstens burst onto the music scene in 2016 and is making his mark.
The last time I chatted to Matt was in 2017; he had just launched his debut album 2D Heart and had collaborated with Francois Van coke on a single entitled “Broken Society”.
2018 proved to be a highly successful year for this young musician; he embarked on his first-ever international tour to the UK as part of the Coffee House Sessions initiative. During this tour he played 20 sessions at universities across England over a course of 2 weeks.
It has been great to see his progress and journey and I decided another catch up was in order.
2018 was a huge year for you. Tell me about your experience on your UK Tour; how does the music scene differ in the UK from South Africa?
“I had never been overseas before so it was a lot to take in. On the tour, we targeted all the students’ unions. We played at all the universities mainly; me and the Germein sisters from Australia. They are really excellent. One thing I found, is that music scene is so integrated in their lives. Everyone will go out during the day to watch live music. We would play at 12pm and fill up a venue at a university. People are really hungry for new live music, which is so interesting to see. It isn’t that much different from South Africa, but people are more willing to pay for an entrance fee to watch music. They support the music more.”
What important lessons did you learn while touring?
“It might sound weird, but constant promo of your brand – branding is very important. They are very conscious of the networking aspect. Other than that, South African musicians are world class from what I saw – I watched a couple of other acts, but South African bands in general can definitely compete with the international market. Another thing I took from this was to take the risk and try make it overseas – it might not be easy but it is definitely worth the try. It is possible to integrate in the international scene.”
While on tour, two of Matt’s original songs made the top 5 on the Coffee House Sessions Chart for 2018; and his single ‘Somebody Else’ was chosen as Track of the Week on Manchester Student Radio.
When you are in a foreign country and people respond to your sound how does that feel?
“Yeah, they really fed my ego a bit. It was really cool and so surreal. I am totally new to the experience abroad. It was mind blowing that anyone who lives that far away could relate to what I am saying. It was a fantastic experience.”
Why do you feel they resonated with your song?
“I think the music is a bit more honest and to the point. ‘Something Else’ is a break up song and is very personal, and I think anyone can relate to it. The key to making a good pop song is taking sad lyrics and putting it with a happy melody. I think they resonated with that. I can’t pin point it, I am only speculating at this point. If you don’t put a honest product out there, people can see that.”
This year, Matt released two singles entitled ‘You Do You’ and ‘High’ – two very different sounds and messages.
“With pop music every genre is so integrated into each other. You are allowed this artistic freedom to change sound dramatically. Take The 1975s, where each song is a different style and feel, but it has one concept and story line. Humans have different spectrums, we have different parts to this spectrum and I try to explore this. Ultimately I try to keep it interesting for myself – if you enjoy what you do and it keeps you on your toes – the crowd can pick it up.”
On Matt’s latest single ‘High’, Peach van Pletzen produced the track.
In my last interview with you, I asked you who you would love to collaborate with going forward and you mentioned that you would love to do something with Bittereinder.
Matt: “It was insane. I am a huge fan of Peach Van Pletzen and all his music. So that was really cool.”
Now that you’ve ticked that bucket list off – who else would you like to collaborate with?
“So many people – I think it would be a great vibe to collaborate with Matthew Mole – sound wise we could work well together, or I would like to go full hip hop and collaborate with a rapper.”
“With the new album I am playing with a full band, and so that has given me the chance to work with other musicians, learn more about music, spend more time in studio and focus on my writing more. In that regard, I have certainly explored different sounds to make it more diverse and genres, so I think a rapper would be epic to put in that mix.”
With 2D Heart the crux was becoming more emotionally aware – where is Matt now at the moment with this new album?
“Matt has become more cynical. You bump your head a lot after High School. I have had a lot of life lessons, made a lot of mistakes, but it is supposed to be like that. This is the part I will look upon one day and fondly write about. I am also trying to keep my head above water now but things are going well and I am happy in the space I am in at the moment, but I am a bit more realistic about my expectations from the universe.”
What advice would you give to yourself (your younger self), two years ago?
“Stop stressing over the little things and be patient; things don’t happen as instantly as Millenials want. We are so used to instant gratification. There is this whole culture that affects us. Patience – patience is a big lesson and Perseverance!”
Plans going forward?
“Hopefully jamming as many shows as possible. I actually did my 100th show for the year about two weeks ago. My goal for the year was to do 100 shows, so anything from here on out is going to be a bonus. I have been very fortunate that people have been very responsive. Playing more shows, producing great content, collaborating more and being more involved in the scene and mostly creating a big show with a big sound for people with my new album.”
If you were trapped on a desert island what album would you take with you and why?
“I would take Fokofpolisikar, maybe a best of.. if they release one, but any album at this stage. I worship Hunter Kennedy’s lyrics.”
Matt will be performing at the ANALOG ON TAP event with Arno Carstens and Albert Frost – see link for details:
For my interview with Matt in 2017 – see link: