Matt Woosey – Desiderata

Matt Woosey - Desiderata



Keep moving. Keep growing. Never repeat. Never look back. It’s a bold ethos, at a time when most artists are flogged for more-of-the-same by their record labels. But from his arrival on the post-millennial British music scene to this year’s eighth studio album, Desiderata, Matt Woosey has always been a man in motion. “You have to keep pushing forward,” says the Malvern-based songwriter. “And if you’re not doing that, I think you’re doing it wrong.”

Released March 2nd on RoBar Music Records, Desiderata is an album for modern times, by an award-winning singer-songwriter reaching unstoppable momentum. The title might be borrowed from Max Ehrmann’s deathless 1927 prose-poem, but this Desiderata is unmistakably Matt’s own worldview: the sound of a man slipping between life stages and expressing that transition in song. “The new album represents changes in my life,” he explains. “Y’know, getting married, having a baby, turning thirty. I guess the music is a musical interpretation of those things. To me, it doesn’t really sound like anyone else.”

Not like anyone else. It’s true: since he hit the radar with 2008’s solo debut, Matt has always been a genre unto himself. The spellbinding acoustic fretwork and soaring vocals might be broadly established as his calling-cards, but the man’s output has walked a deft tightrope between folk, rock, blues and beyond, defying glib classification at every turn. Fiercely independent, his insistence on original material and decision to opt out of social media have made him a beacon in an age of banal tweets and songwriting-by-committee.

While every studio album has marked an evolution, Desiderata is Matt’s greatest creative stretch to date. Recorded in snatches between tour dates at five separate UK studios, it sees his songs nudged into uncharted waters by an all-star cast of musicians, with producer Tony Hobden catching the sparks between drummer Clive Deamer (Radiohead/Robert Plant), bassist Danny Thompson (John Martyn/Richard Thompson) and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Head Of Music, Bruce O’Neil, on masterful piano.

“The instrumentation on this album is very different for me,” reflects Matt. “There’s upright bass, piano, some pedal-steel, electronica. Having the other musicians pulling and pushing in other directions kind of takes the stress off me. I’m just letting it happen around me. There’s so many different styles and feelings on the album musically, but that’s where Tony comes in, because it’s all tied together by the production.”

The results are eclectic, but consistently stunning. Try album opener Always Be The One, with its wistful lilt and lyrics that explore the duality of Matt’s character and his dedication to his wife. Who Do You Love’s finger-twist riff is a thrilling reminder of Matt’s status as one of Britain’s most respected acoustic stylists, while Million Miles offers tumbling harmonies and an electric solo. “That song was on my first album,” he recalls, “but I thought it deserved to see light of day, because back then I only sold a few CDs to drunk people!”

Elsewhere, the smitten You And Me calls on the listener to “celebrate your lover, tell her you love her” over autumnal chords and evocative piano, while Loving Me Ain’t Easy explores the flipside, on a rueful piano ballad with a reflective mood (“I made you cry a thousand times”). Mystified is a hypnotic slow-burner driven by classical guitar, while One Love’s rolling folk chords carry a lyric that could be Matt’s mission statement: “If all you ever do is follow those in front of you, you’ll be living a lie…”

Amongst these highlights, it’s perhaps the six-minute, trip-hop-inflected Lighthouse that gives the album its thematic fulcrum, openly tipping a hat to Ehrmann’s original Desiderata poem (which laid out the ingredients for a worthwhile life). “A copy of that poem has been hung in my mum and dad’s toilet for fourteen years,” laughs Matt, “so every time I have a pee there, I read bits of it. It’s very poignant, with very simple language. It means a lot to me. Lighthouse is my version, just my very simple thoughts on life.”

As both man and musician, Desiderata finds Matt Woosey stood at the crossroads, ready to set off down another new path. Whether you’re a long-standing fan who has followed him from the rat-holes of the West Country to sell-out acclaim, or a newcomer to his catalogue, you’ll surely want to ride alongside him. “When people come up after a gig and ask which CD to buy, I’ll always recommend the newest one,” he concludes. “I have a real fear of repeating myself. My music has to be creative and artistic. It has to keep pushing things forward. I just want people to come with me on my journey, whatever changes I make. And this album is a bit special to me…”

Upcoming Gig List

02 MAR The Jazz Cafe (w/ John Parker) Camden, London
04 MAR Goin’ Up The Country Roots Club (w/ John Parker) Worthenbury
05 MAR West Malvern Social Club (w/ John Parker) Malvern
06 MAR Bristol Folk House (w/ John Parker) Bristol
08 MAR The Robin 2 Bilston
12 MAR Scarborough Blues Festival (w/ John Parker) Scarborough
15 MAR The Kitchen Garden Cafe (w/ John Parker) Birmingham
18 MAR Winchcombe Live Winchcombe
22 MAR Number 39 Darwen
24 MAR Sofa Sessions (w/ John Parker) Kettering
25 MAR The Marrs Bar (w/ John Parker) Worcester
26 MAR The Florence Arts Centre Egremont
27 MAR The Blues Bar Harrogate
30 MAR St James’ Wine Vaults Bath
02 APR Dorchester Arts Centre Dorchester