After a two years hiatus, Australian artist Matt Corby is back with his eagerly awaited debut album, Telluric. The first release, 'Monday, is a gloriously gospel-tinged song that racked up an impressive 250k YouTube plays in one week. Its a stark move away from anything youve heard Corby sing before which, as it turns out, is a fitting theme for his album.
Gone are the wailing falsettos, replaced with something a little darker, a little more complex. Instead of writing about heartbreak, hes questioning his place in the world, singing about his anxieties and working through fears of selling out. Heard most notably on 'Empires Attraction, with its cyclical piano chords and phrases, its the track that also happens to be one of Corbys favourite.
Empires Attraction is about how no one person will ever make a massive change, he explains. Weve been fooled into believing we should be comfortable, that we shouldnt do anything about how things are or try and fix it. I spent a lot of time on that song, trying to get it right.
If this all feels a bit dark, its not. Two years ago Corby wrote and recorded a full album, but it never saw the light of day. Why? Put simply, he didnt like what he heard. I recorded those songs in Los Angeles. When I listened back it was just everything I dont like about the music and myself, my ego. It was the immature ramblings of a fuckwit of a twenty-two year old who had no idea what he was doing and seemed to think that he did. Harsh, maybe, but it was a big wake-up call for the singer and ultimately proved useful. I didnt think I was going to fail and it was a humbling experience. To come through a recording process and at the end go: you know what? This is actually shit. I said to myself: 'Im going to go away, do things right and not rush.
True to his word, Corby spent the next 18 months learning how to play a bunch of instruments. His aim was to become self-sufficient in every aspect of the recording process, not just writing, but song compositions and producing, too. This new-found autonomy wasnt only about regaining control, but, to a large extent, his confidence. Corby wanted to know he was good enough. I wanted to get to the point where I could jump on any instrument and groove. And that stuff takes time.
Its very possible you wont know that back in 2007, a 16-year-old Corby appeared on Australian Idol (he came second). In the years that followed, he struggled. I was young and I didnt really understand what I was doing to myself, to my reputation, he explains, and I didnt know why I was being exploited. Hes battled with critics ever since, those who wrote him off, or simply dont take his music seriously. I came out of that and believed everyone thought I was going to be a jerk for the rest of my life, he explains. So I wanted to work as hard as I could to find a shred of integrity that I could resurrect.
After honing his craft, Corby then bunkered down in the New South Wales town of Berry. He set up a studio in a tiny cottage with Dann Hume, who produced the record. Hes really good at asking questions and equating what youre saying back into reality, Corby says. All those late night conversations, every semi-fledged thought, ended up on the album a process Corby found therapeutic: Im kind of playing psychologist to myself lyrically.
The whole thing took two months. Every song the album, bar 'Good to be Alone, was written in Berry. More importantly, though, was the time before his spell there. The time between scrapping what Corby now calls his 'first album (recorded in LA) and what eventually did become his very first record ('Telluric). I couldnt have gone to Berry and played all of those instruments two years ago. I would have just sat there like an idiot. But [Telluric] is a pretty close approximation of what I like and wanted to make musically.
In this era of bedroom DJs making music solely off their laptops, Corbys new album is pretty unique. Each song was crafted himself, using only raw instruments and the sound of his voice. Listen to 'Monday and youll hear no kick drums, nor electronic samples, just Corby clapping and stomping on the ground. It was an attempt to make modern music but in a wholly traditional way. Nothing is played by humans anymore, its just robotic and I wanted to do the opposite of that, he explains. I wanted to make something that is worthy of being released but is all-human.
Corbys career can depending on your levels of dedication be split into two sections: pre and post-'Brother. Back in 2012 it was weird if you hadnt heard the soul-lifting single, which garnered attention from One Directions lothario Harry Styles. Racking up a cool 5.5 million plays on YouTube, the song went six times platinum in Australia and made him a globally recognised musician. Prior to this hed released three EPs, though arguably to muted success, and this crossover hit finally felt like Corbys time had come. A year later, single 'Resolution (from the Resolution EP) topped the charts in Australia, the UK and New Zealand, and went three times platinum in Australia. Off the back of its success Corby toured across Europe and played at some of the UKs biggest festivals, including Glastonbury and Latitude.
Fast forward two years and Corby is gearing up to hit the road once again. In the run up to the release hell be playing in Australia, then in the UK and USA for the very first time later this month. Details of a full tour are soon to be announced, but hes already in high demand: each UK date sold out in less than 24 hours, with Brixton Electric in London selling out in less than an hour. Furthermore, the US tour dates sold out almost instantaneously. Due to high demand, more dates and larger venues were added. Not half-bad for a guy whos kept us in the dark for two years.
After a long hard slog, it feels like Corby is finally where he wants to be. You can hear it on his album: he started out frustrated with himself, and a certain idea he had about himself but worked through it with stony grit. The result? A soothing, soulfully mature debut that wouldnt feel out of place sandwiched between Gnarls Barkley and Bon Iver. This is the sound of Corby finally getting comfortable in his own skin, and its remarkably good to hear. Or as the man himself puts it: I hope that when people hear the music it makes them feel really good. Thats all I really care about.
[via artist's EPK]