“I don't know where my brief, brief spurts of confidence come from…” ponders Matt Maltese. It’s just under a week since Matt wrapped up his final headline tour of 2018, one which showcased him at his fullest and most tongue-in-cheek.
Bartering back and forth with crowds, like a master of ceremonies in a packed pub full of friends and family, cracking jokes and crooning his earnest tales of love and devastating realities across the nation - it was a songwriter in his element and coming to terms with a momentous twelve months.
His debut album, ‘Bad Contestant’ burst into life in June, a collection of unmistakable and essential odes that made Matt stand out as a fresh voice for modern times, one unafraid to be upfront and honest about life’s ridiculous turns.
Since then, he’s played all over the place, emerging and growing into a confident force and now looking ahead to what comes next. “It’s a funny thing, confidence, isn’t it?”
Across its eleven tracks, ‘Bad Contestant’ stood out as a distinctly real snapshot of living through difficult times. Hilarious at one moment, devastating at the next and vibrating with this warm classic sound of songwriters past, it was the coming-of-age and crowning first step for Matt - something he can reflect on after a packed and important year.
“I’m in a good place about the album,” details Matt. “I feel it was an accurate description of that time in my life. It was a series of a lot of different mindsets, that first album. Having a pretty middle-of-the-road upbringing and ending up in London and there being such vast opposites in the city and what that does to you. You find yourself trying to make your place, but also changing yourself subconsciously - you go through all of that.
"It’s special in its own way, but without even knowing you put these irrational hopes on it as like, ‘Oh, it’ll sort me right out when it’s released, it’ll be this incredible moment, and all these things will happen' - but really, it’s just another day.
“It was important not to put too much pressure on that moment, and I guess since then I've kinda had a little bit of reflecting but not allowed too much, and dived into the next thing y’know? Looking at the next one, writing the next one and recording that.”
Playing live to so many people, and witnessing first-hand the reaction and impact the record has had on people has been a key inspiration for Matt, one he would never have expected.
“The recent shows I’ve played have been a bit of a surprise,” he admits. “You see and you hear about stats online, about people listening to your music, and you think ‘Oh, that’s cool’, and you go to a show and there are people who have made an effort to come down, some singing along to the songs.
"You meet them after and they talk about the album as a big part of their lives, and that’s probably the most surprising part of it all. It’s that it’s reached people in a certain way that other albums have reached me - that’s been a really special thing. Weirdly, it makes you feel more like you’re communicating with people rather than just talking to yourself the whole time.”
Wasting no time at all, 2019 promises to be just as eventful - with Matt in prolific form and a new album already forming together, spurred on from returning home and reflecting.
“It was almost like I had a real moment, an up and down moment with it all, as it was such a big thing [to release the album],” Matt confides. “The mix of overwhelming and underwhelming, there are so many amazing things happening but life goes on - and you’re still getting up every day trying to be as happy as you can be so there was a lot of that, and that in its own way triggered a lot of songs.”
Written across the summer, they come from an “I don’t give a fuck place,” as Matt puts it, “which I think is a good place. The best way to talk about feelings is to not worry about them being too this or too that. Just saying, that the feeling is exactly this.
"It’s essentially how humans should connect; it’s what we need more of. We don’t need more faces or masks - as much as I love surrealism, theatre, the stage and making things bigger than they are, I’m a lot more straight-up about things this time around.”
Debuting a few tracks on his recent headline run, they certainly back everything up. Bolder and bigger yet cutting right to the heart, it’s the next evolution of Matt Maltese as a modern-day bard of life going on around him. Frank and vital in his observations.
“I feel like actually, the biggest contribution a musician can make is to talk about things everyone feels,” he points out. “To do that you have to be comfortable being vulnerable. Especially as I’m not preaching anger or whatever, I’m essentially preaching love - how cliche that is!
"I think if I do that, then I have to be comfortable in talking about sadness, happiness and romance, and this time around I do feel a lot more comfortable with those things.”
“I'm probably just a lot more confident in who I am, and what I do and not as...” Matt pauses. “Not as self-deprecating about it. I think I’m going through a period where I’m a little bit less taking the piss out of myself - to describe it simplistically.
"It’s important to take the piss out of yourself, and I’ll always keep doing that, but, for want of a really cliche phrase, I’m taking what I feel a bit more seriously.”
Teaming up with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado once again (“I respect his musicality and his mind so much,” explains Matt), expect it to be a glorious state of the nation address. For an artist who took on the year with such a sharp burst, it’s been a learning process which shapes him up nicely for what could be his most defiant work yet.
“I don’t want to rehash old ground,” he declares. “Pretty much every album will be some form of self-discovery or trying to work out what you are all the time, which I think every human does anyway. This time around, I have a clearer idea of what to expect from the whole process, and to be a little bit more level-headed with it all a second time around.
"Probably what I've learnt from the first album is to maybe not have any expectations. I have ambition. Obviously, I’m not going to sit here and say I want my album to be heard by five people, but I do just want to make another album I haven’t compromised on.”
In 2019, Matt Maltese is finding a new voice - and it’s one impossible to miss. Now that’s confidence.
Taken from the February issue of Dork.
Featuring The Japanese House, Yak, Sunflower Bean, FIDLAR, White Lies and more.