project corona... matt maltese
talks lockdown creativity,
live streams and
image by amelia hazlerigg
6th July, 2020
“Playing to your phone screen is not the same, and the 'event' aspect of gigs is kind of lost, but it’s really just the only way right now”
Matt Maltese is a London-based musician.
Matt’s rise within the UK music scene has been prominent. His illustrative piano-based ballads have been championed by the likes of DIY, So Young and NME. No stranger to the festival circuit (Glastonbury, for one), Maltese has no intention of slowing down. A powerhouse creating work on a consistent level and basis, where lesser artists might fail, he’s been able to deliver song after song, even in lockdown, with a new EP released this Summer.
We spoke with Matt in May, deep in global and creative lockdown, to reflect on normalcy, live streams and post-corona gig life.
You’re usually very busy, either writing, performing or touring, how does it feel to take a breath. Do you think we should be using this time to look inwards?
To be honest I've still been writing a lot and just trying to make something everyday. But i think people should do what they feel comfortable with. If there are things you need to reflect on and change then this can be a time for that, but I also think too much of that is never a good thing, and that it’s also okay if you want to stay busy in other ways. It's about finding a balance.
Artists are generally used to a ‘self-imposed exile’ of sorts, creating from their studios or bedrooms - do you feel you’re well equipped during COVID-19, how are you using this time creatively?
In a way, yes. I made my most recent album in my bedroom last year over about four months, not really seeing anyone or leaving much, so yeah this does feel similar to that on paper. But there’s such a difference between doing that when there isn't a pandemic/lockdown and when there is. An imposed exile is very different to a self-imposed one.
‘Ballad of a pandemic’ is an ode to unity during such uncertain times, you could probably say that it’s your ‘Band Aid’ track, with profits going to Trussell Trust - a charity that works to stop hunger and poverty in the UK. There’s a darkly comical edge to the track. You openly admit that you’re “scared” and even suggest we “help our neighbour even if they’re not nice”. What brought you to pen the track?
It kind of just came out really. There was a period, particularly at the beginning of this all, when the uncertainty and fear was pretty overwhelming. I kind of sidetracked writing my third record to writing that song.
You recently took part in DIY magazine’s DIYsolation Festival, an online music festival. A lot of musicians have taken to online platforms to perform bedroom sets. It’s a good way to keep fans engaged. What was that experience like, and do you plan to play any more ‘bedroom sets’?
I've been doing a few live streams and they took some getting used to. Playing to your phone screen is not the same, and the 'event' aspect of gigs is kind of lost, but it’s really just the only way right now. It's a unique way of performing and consuming music that I’m definitely thankful for in this kind of situation. It allows a connection to take place even if it's a world away from a gig in person.
It’s arguably going to take some time for live music and its venues, particularly independent venues, to gain traction again, let alone the amount of jobs on hold - what’re your thoughts on returning to normalcy?
I really don't know if I'm honest. I kind of know as much as everyone else and everything is just a guessing game at the moment in regards to live music. I really miss it and I hope somewhere in the not too distant future we can see that normalcy again.
words: patrick taylor