The unsigned artist is no longer just that girl you pass by playing “Landslide” on her acoustic guitar or the boy whose hat you throw a dollar in because his version of “Yesterday” was particularly touching. With the rise of the internet and a slew of sites dedicated to unsigned artist enabling talent to get their music to a huge audience without a single contract, the unsigned artist now has the ability to be a steady force in the ever changing world of music. Matt Monaghan is proving that with a heavy dose of unabashed talent the dream to play in front of live audiences in Europe and the states and listened to by a global audience can come true without being “discovered” by a record label. All it takes is true, unequivocal talent: something Matt quickly proves, through his music, he has plenty of. While his surname is quite familiar due to a brother whose face has been seen in Middle Earth, the strange island of LOST and even the dubious world of X-Men, Matt, song by fantastic song, show by amazing show, is making the Monaghan name synonymous with more than acting.
BeatCrave was fortunate enough to get an exclusive interview with the rising star of the music world and discuss the benefits and drawbacks that come with being an unsigned artist, his process for creating the music for which he is quickly becoming known and whether or not the fictional Driveshaft will ever become a life imitating art reality. We had a great time getting to know Matt and, dear reader, are confident you will too.
When did you decide to pursue a career in music?
With complete respect to your question, I would hate to think that I am pursuing a ‘career’ in music – I love to play music; everyone’s brain needs a creative output. Music happens to be mine. Writing songs and playing live gives me that creative buzz that we all crave. If I can dedicate more time in my life to making music and people enjoy my creations, then I am very happy.
Every artist has a different method for creating, what is your process when writing a new song?
I discover the music first, messing around on the guitar – I could be making a cup of tea and – bam, the last few notes or chord combinations I play just leap out in techni-colour and dissipate into the air around me. It’s a bit like waking up after a good dream. I chase after these chords and the notes that surround them, play them lots, develop them. I then peg lyrics to them, taken and adapted from stories and poems, or sometimes written for the music over time. Sometimes this takes a while. I take pride in lyrics that convey some sort of meaning; a story or idea. I don’t like songs that are lazy with lyrics, for me it’s an important part of the creative process.
Why did you decide to name your newest EP “The Lost Boundary?”
The name ‘The Lost Boundary’ was a name for a music project I had in Manchester (UK). It’s always stuck with me. I like the idea of some boundary or limit that is lost, possibly something important that previously kept things in check or held things together. The songs on that EP have a definite ‘spooky’ thread that connects them – the name ‘The Lost Boundary’ seemed to fit nicely.
I really like the song, “The Corner of Your Mind.” What is the story behind that particular track?
Ha, well you picked a song that for me is quite unusual – it’s a ‘diary entry’ song, simply about missing someone and expecting to see them around each corner. The lyrics were inspired in part byRadiohead’s song “Black Star.” When I recorded the song I was looking for an ambient feel to the introduction and outro. Brandan Walters, an amazing guitarist who plays for Greg Laswell, offered to have a go and set down a soaring guitar solo using an ‘E-Bow.’ We kept his first take and, well, I think it sounds amazing and it fitted the song perfectly.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of being unsigned? What are the drawbacks?
Well, complete freedom is a benefit. If I want to spend the next year surfing in Morrocco, I am free to do so! The internet has completely changed things for unsigned artists via MySpace, Facebook and sites such as Sonicbids I am able to publicize myself and I released my EP on iTunes without any problems. However, I would like to make use of the know-how and expertise of a record company. There’s only so much you can do alone and with the right sort of people; I am sure the music can go a lot further. I have an idea of a tour that plays at surf spots around the world, the artists in the water, surfing with the crowds… I am sure Jack Johnson will be up for it. I just need a record company to join the dots !
Where would you like your music career to be in the next five years?
Five years ? Well, if I am still able to survive by on playing music, I’ll be happy indeed. By the way, “Five Years” is a David Bowie song – a mind blowing song. Check it out if you don’t know it!
Being one who mostly plays in Europe, how do you feel European fans differ from those in the states?
I found the fans in the US very similar to Europe. In both places I played in places where they wanted to listen and others where they were happy to drink and talk. I understand though, its cool. The ’400 club’ in Minneapolis and ‘Hotel Café’ in LA were memorable places to play with the audiences being very knowledgeable of their music. This winter I’ve been playing in Spain; the audiences there seem to appreciate alternative music more than I thought. It’s not all about Flamenco and they know their Morrisseys from their Morrisons.
Do you think having a famous sibling, Dominic Monaghan has, in any way, affected your career? Why or why not?
Dom’s a great actor and has achieved a lot; I am very proud. We both move in very different circles and, unfortunately, on different continents, both doing our own things. As a result, I don’t think there has been any influence on the development of my music due to his success. I’ve asked Dom to name some of my songs, I play him the new song and leave him to think up some names. He’s good at it. He named “The National Geographic” and “The Telescope Dream.” Dom is very supportive of the music and always wants to hear new songs. He’s a fantastic brother, so in that supportive way he has a lot of influence.
In LOST your brother’s character is in a band with his brother, Drive Shaft. Did you and Dominic ever consider starting a band together?
Errrrrm.. I think when we were very little we did joke at being in a band together, but Dom was always passionate for theatre and acting. Dom would be doing Hannibal impressions (the A-team) and preparing for his next performance. We were both busy with school and friends, so we had little time for that.
If you could only listen to five albums for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
These days I only seem to listen to contemporary music – I am a big admirer of bands like My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, Ambulance LTD, and solo artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Mason Jennings and Ryan Adams. But, if I am to pick five albums for the rest of my life, then I ll have to go with the tried and tested… albums I can’t live without and continually return to, year after year – albums whose songs have caused me to stop my car and just listen.
Here I go:
In no particular order:
- David Bowie – Hunky Dory.
Bowie is the master songwriter. He can paint a visual masterpiece in a single verse. His ability to create a scene or story, woven with the most eloquent poetic prose. Well, he’s the Einstein of the songwriting world. Light years ahead of us all.
- The Smiths – The Queen is Dead.
Morrissey and Marr at their best, melodies and lyrics to die for, literally.
- Whiskeytown -Pneumonia.
My favorite album from one of my favorite genres – Americana.
- Paul Simon – Still Crazy after All These Years.
The album to nod off to, in a state of bliss (but not in my car).
- Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream.
This one is hard to explain, but it’s always there, getting played again and again and again. The changes in tempo, the edginess of Corgan’s singing style, and above all the blistering, brain imploding guitar solos that hit the spot every time, other rock albums just fade away.