BORN TO BE IN MUSIC words + fashion Maisie Daniels - photography Filipe Phitzgerard
Introducing to you artist and model Matthew Roberts. And if you don't know him already, Matthew is instantly recognisable for his Mod haircut and impeccable sense of style, straight out of the 70s. Matthew’s unique style wasn’t formed from jumping upon a retro bandwagon, oh no. Having had this sense of style from the early age of just 12-years-old, he’s a true authentic. This also means that he wasn't a part of some awful subculture that you'd rather forget about, and are eternally grateful for the fact that you didn't have Facebook as an early teen (phew!)
Since being in bands- playing both guitar and backing singing- Matthew took the brave move to go solo, writing and singing Folk music. And no, not modern Folk, the original kind- think John Denver and Bob Dylan.
Coffee and cigarettes in hand, F Word talks candidly to Matthew about everything from family to fashion, to failed singing lessons.
Listen to 'Autumn Rain' by Matthew Roberts
Maisie Daniels: Where did you grow up?
Matthew Roberts: Beckton, East London
M.D: And how did you find it growing up there?
M.D: When did you first get into music?
M.R: When I was about 10.
M.D: And was that because of parental influence, or…
M.R: Yeah! Well, my Dad was a Hells Angel and my Mum went to Iron Maiden gigs and everything. So it was sort of always going to happen regardless. My Grandad was into John Denver, The Beatles, The Stones. So I branched out from there and went more towards my Grandad’s path- less the heavy music.
M.D: That’s amazing, and yes, seems like a life in music was always meant to be…
M.R: Yeah. My Dad saw The Faces, T-Rex..all of them! His first gig he ever went to was Thin Lizzie – the original line up.
M.D: Wow, that’s so cool. Have you got any siblings and are they quite similar to you?
M.R: I’ve got an older brother. Nah! Like, he’s 6”2 and butch as fuck. He works in a factory…
M.D: And musically?
M.R: He does like music, he just didn’t bother.
M.D: So when did you first pick up a guitar and start playing?
Matthew wears full look TALENT'S OWN
M.D: And are you self-taught?
M.R: Yes. Well, I had one teacher and he was the guitarist of The Automatic, Paul Mullen. He gave me some lessons. I’m left-handed (and so is he) and so when I started playing guitar, I was playing upside down for about 2 years before my Dad had the money to get me a cheap busted old thing!
M.D: [Laughs ] do you still have it?
M.R: I don’t even know! Do I?! I don’t think so…
Yeah, that’s how it all started really. And from then on, I just went on and did it.
M.D: And what was the story with singing? Did that come when you started playing or?
M.R: Nah, singing came well later!
M.D: It must be quite a daunting and scary thing when you begin to sing?
M.R: Yeah, being in bands and working with people, I was always the guitarist and backing singer. And backing singing is easy. Then when it came to singing my own stuff, it was like ‘ah shit’, I don’t know what I’m doing. So I had to get a lot of help! Plus I was trying to sound too high and my voice is so deep, so that was really embarrassing! That took about 2 years.
M.D: How long have you been doing your solo stuff?
M.R: 3 years. Take 1 year out for actually learning how to write.
M.D: And how did you learn that? Did it come naturally, or do you need to get yourself into a ‘zone’?
M.D: And can that happen to you say, first thing in the morning, or when you’re sad, etc?
M.R: It depends on my mood really. The stuff I write about is more about what I see- it’s not all about love and crap like that! I use environments and nature.
M.D: And how would you describe your sound?
M.R: A lot of people say I sound like Bowie. My wife says that. I don’t really know it’s just very old, Folk music.
M.D: So you also did a degree in Contemporary Music & Technology, how was that?
M.R: I learned nothing from it. I got the degree- barely!
M.D: Well you already knew music, so what made you want to do it?
M.R: It was more a family pride thing. On my Dad’s side, there was a load of people with degrees but my Mums side, no one ever had a degree. So my Grandad, when he was alive (he was more my Dad than my grandad) when I told him I got into Uni, he was happy. So I thought I’ll ride this out and get a degree and make him proud. Luckily I got the degree before he died.
M.D: That’s really touching. So, who would you say are your influences musically?
M.R: John Denver- he’s a big one! Glen Campbell, early Ray Stevens (before he went a bit loopy) and embarrassingly, David Gray.
M.D: I don’t mind a bit of David Gray but I get the piss taken out of me too, so I know the struggle!
M.R: [Laughs] He’s doing a tour at the moment…! Also, Rod Stuart, in some sense because I look like him...
Matthew wears shirt ROKIT VINTAGE; trousers TALENT'S OWN
M.D: Yes, so this brings me onto your style. Where does that come from?
M.D: Have you always had this sense of style?
M.D: So you never had an awkward phase?!
M.D: That’s amazing! I had so many. I think ‘angry Mosher’ was my worst, and probably my best all at the same time!
M.R: [Laughs] Everyone does though but for some reason, I didn’t. When I wanted to dress in the 70s style, I had ‘the haircut’, which I had before I became a model. My Mum’s hairdresser was the original person who did this. The clothes- I knew of them and what colours I liked. The thing is at the time of 2004/5, I had no idea where to buy them. I knew my parents wore them back in the day but they bin them, don’t they?! My Grandad chucked some amazing gear in a skip! eBay was one of the first places and as my old band was touring – with The Vaccines at the time- there was a shop in Birmingham and it was vintage and it was amazing. They told me about Brick Lane also, so I went there and I went mad.
M.D: How long have you been modelling?
M.R: I was with D1 for 3 years and AMCK for 1 year and a bit.
M.D: And do you think modelling has helped with your career musically?
M.R: Not really.
M.D: What are the pros of modelling?
M.R: Money and friends.
M.D: Let’s talk about your tattoos. You have quite a collection! When did you get your first one?
M.R: Not that long ago!
M.D: That surprises me! I thought you were going to say years ago.
M.R: Nah, not like when ‘I was 15 and down an alleyway’ [Laughs] 2010, I think…
M.D: And did you only intend on getting one at first?
M.R: Oh no, I was in it for them all! I was so on it. I knew the artist, Jamie Benstock, and he’s quite well known in the tattoo world. So I just said ‘mate, blast my fucking arm’ and I got that all done in one day. So I had a breather for a bit…
M.D: That sounds painful! I’ve had a couple of small ones, on each rib cage, and that was enough!
M.R: It was alright. I had Nando’s and was watching some shitty Netflix thing.
We did the jaws on my right hand, and then we did the whole of my right arm…
M.D: What’s your favourite tattoo?
M.R: Probably the penguin…
LEFT: Matthew wears t-shirt AMERICAN APPAREL; suit REMUS UOMO; pocketsquare SIMON CARTER
RIGHT: Matthew wears shirt and trousers ROKIT VINTAGE; belt R.M WILLIAMS; shoes JONES
M.D: Back to your music. There aren’t many people doing Folk these day; so it’s really refreshing to hear it’s coming back in the modern-day.
M.R: And that’s the thing, all the bands, and festivals, I’ve never been to a gig when it’s been like ‘is there a new Bob Dylan?’, or ‘I’d like to go watch a Folk thing’. I mean you’ve got Ed Sheeran and James Bay but that’s not even Folk, that’s Pop. There is some around though and I believe there will be a revival! The 90s had it with Travis, David Gray, Amy McDonald, Texas…but that’s all modern Folk. There’s no one doing John Denver.
M.D: Your new single 'Autumn Rain' drops today. Congratulations, it's a great track! Can you tell me what it's all about?
M.R: The song is about my favourite seasons, Autumn and Spring.
M.D: And can you describe the single in three words?
M.R: Warm, deep and caring.
M.D: What is it that you love most about nature?
M.R: Nature has always been a part of childhood, a place to relax. It’s also a place where I can escape from the city life and get my musical inspiration.
M.D: How does it feel releasing music out into the public?
M.R: Releasing my first single has been a great experience for me as a solo musician. I’m just happy to get the ball rolling.
M.D: I love the retro artwork for Autumn Rain. Who took the picture? Is there a story behind it at all, or a connection to this image?
M.R: The cover photo was taken by myself back in 2008. I was given a 70s Polaroid camera and to be honest, I was just testing to see if it worked. I love bright colours and nature, so I already had an idea of what the aim was.
M.D: And do you continue to take photos?
M.R: Yeah! I’ve taken lots of photos since then. I may use the others for later single covers…
M.D: I look forward to seeing! Do you have anything coming up/ gigs etc?
M.R: At the moment I haven’t, as I have been focusing on getting the single ready, but I have a live session coming out next week.
M.D: Now you've got the taste for releasing music, can we expect an EP?
M.R: An EP... let’s see [smiles]
Matthew wears full look TALENT'S OWN
M.D: Let’s round things up with a quickfire round:
M.D: Best gig you’ve ever been to?
M.R: Paul McCartney
M.D: Dream artist to support?
M.R: John Denver
M.D: Fact about you that not many people would know?
M.R: I like eating cheese, grated into a bag of crisps.
M.D: Favourite lyric?
M.R: “Welcome to my morning, welcome to my day.”
M.D: Most awkward age?
M.D: Favourite F Word?