Wendy Matthews Chats About Playing The Regal Theatre

Markus Hamence presents for one night only on Saturday April 22 at The Regal Theatre Aussie icon, ARIA Award winner Wendy Matthews. Playing songs from her days in Absent Friends right through to her solo career, there’s no doubt it will be a night not only of soulful nostalgia but also showcasing Matthews hasn’t and won’t stop creating new music. Wendy Matthews chatted to Hi Fi Way about the up-coming show, her career and about that accent!

Are you excited to be performing in Adelaide at The Regal Theatre?
Absolutely! For a few reasons, I haven’t played Adelaide for a while. Last year I joined Tina Arena at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in her show Songs My Mother Taught Me but as far as my own goes I haven’t been in a while so I’m excited. Also, for me Theatre shows are special, and I really look forward to them. My old friend Glen Shorrock has played there a few times and quite a few people have told me it’s a beautiful theatre.

What can audiences expect from your show?
Oh…umm….I was going to say ‘Dancing Elephants’ (laughs) Let’s see, a lot of the older stuff obviously. When I go and see somebody I expect and love to hear songs I know so lots of the old hits and a few new ones. There’s full band songs and a few acoustic ones. It’s just an ‘Evening with…’ I suppose.

Which song for you is the most enjoyable to sing and why?
Oh, all of them for very different reasons. Some lyrically I really enjoy, and I feel like I’m speaking from my heart. A few are just vocally really fun to sing. A few are introspective and a few are just pure pop ‘cleaning the house in your underwear’ kind of thing (laughs). So yeah, across the board really so some for different reasons and it depends on the day and my mood.

I’ve been listening to your songs since the 80s and I notice you sing songs with conviction, and you really tell a story when you sing. You’re a very good interpreter of a song. When you sing a song are you coming from a place of experience or is it easy for you to connect with the song?
I wouldn’t know how to sort of physically interpret as such. I feel the words and I guess the emotion is more or less felt rather than overtly heard if you know what I mean. So, lyrics obviously are very important to me and I sing what I want to say which is a very exciting thing to do for your soul. When I click into that there is the interpretation I suppose. The minute you start feeling it there’s your interpretation.

Has music always been a special part of your life from young?
It has! Always, always! My mother taught disabled children through piano and music. My father thought he was a good singer, when he wasn’t (laughs). Both my brothers played guitar with all their friends through school. Music was always around the house, and it was a very normal thing for me growing up. I used to lock myself in the living room between the dining and living room (laughs) and put on my favourite records. My brothers would be beating the door down telling me to ‘SHUT UP!’ It’s something that’s always moved me a lot.

Do you remember the moment that you knew singing was going to be what you wanted to do for a living?
Not really. It was a very gradual thing. I started singing in clubs when I was about fifteen. I used to sneak in the back door, I wasn’t supposed to be there, but my friends were playing. It was a gradual thing I suppose, and this is all I’ve ever done as a means to make a living and so much more. It’s my form of expression so it was very gradual as you don’t wake up one day and say “right!” Or I didn’t anyway. It wasn’t like a conscious wake up one day and think “right I’m going to concentrate on this for the rest of my life.’ It was just that in a sense.

I suppose the other thing was you probably didn’t think “I’m going to go to Australia and live there!”
Oh no, no! That was youth! I moved countries very spontaneously just out of chance and I felt like there was plenty of time ahead. I could do what I wanted and go back when I wanted so I found myself in the USA after busking across Canada and that was a real ‘start over again.’ But that’s youth! I was hitchhiking and sixteen just travelling with school friends who were all musicians who went busking. Then I ended up Los Angeles for seven years. During that period, I met a guy called Glen Shorrock (Little River Band) who brought me to Australia, and I started all over again here in a sense. It was just really wherever the music took me, and I felt like there was lots of time and lots of chances to be taken.

Thankfully for Australia you came here.
Thankfully for me! (laughs)

For us especially because you’ve had such a great career with your solo stuff and with various bands. Do you think back “I never imagined for this to happen on the other side of the world.”
Absolutely! Absolutely! My mother still asks when I’m coming home from a couple of weeks of busking (laughs). I’m extremely grateful for the way things turned out. Never in a million years even as far as radio play or putting out records, never in a million years did I imagine or expect that. It may have been a desire but certainly it wasn’t a conscious impetus at the time. It was just going where the music was and what I was doing with different people playing music and where it took me.

And do you think, obviously as Canada and Australia are very similar countries, it was an easy transition for you?
I spent seven years in Los Angeles which is a totally different planet to Australia and Canada, in between those two places. So, I think once I got to Australia it was very familiar to growing up in my Canada days and that’s what I felt most comfortable in not the American days. Although that was exciting too and I did some amazing stuff. Yes, you’re right, very similar places. We have the same self-deprecating sense of humour that’s very familiar and I just felt in a sense like I was coming home when I arrived here.

So, looking back at your career here in Australia is there a memorable moment that stands out for you or something poignant that you look back on and think “yeah that was amazing!”
Yeah quite a few but I’m really grateful for the travel that I got to do through my work. Really grateful. Also working with different bands was an exceptional time in my life. When I was younger just touring with The Models through Europe and all over the world for six years singing backing vocals for different bands and recordings. It was a really exciting and wonderful time but again that was youth. That’s what we all did, we just moved with what was going on (laughs).

Awards and things used to terrify me more than excite me. I’ve never really understood the concept of taking people’s form of expression and saying, “ok this one’s better than those!” And I was almost embarrassed and very self-conscious during that time I was winning awards and accolades. I just wanted to just creep up there, do a bit of a fist bump, then creep off (laughs) and hope that no one remembered (laughs). You know, that was then, and this is now! I think generally I’m really most appreciative for the encouragement that I’ve got and the acceptance of my music and the travel that I’ve got to do.

Any funny stories from those days?
Oh! Far too many to even remember one! Its interesting or remembering back to the Los Angeles days because they were very surreal to hang out with Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty up in their places in the Valley and do all kinds of wild, weird, and wonderful things. When I think back to that time it really was just the city I was in and the people that lived there and who we socialised with and I got to meet and hang out with. When I think back to that stuff, that was just crazy and wonderful.

A lot different to Australia!

You probably have some crazy stories about here in Australia too….
Oh, God yeah!

But probably not to that level. I guess we are such different characteristics compared to America it would’ve been a different kind of fun in Australia.
Totally different kind of fun! Absolutely. I guess it was so surreal because of all the faces of the people we were with on a social level it was such a different planet. Your brain couldn’t quite connect the two. This is the face I’ve seen all my life and here he is roller skating with me here (laughs). You know what I mean!
But Australia kind of set me free as far as meeting fellow inner children and just having a rollicking good time.

So do you see yourself as Australian now?
Oh, I’ve been travelling on my Australian passport for over thirty years. When I get back to Canada they say (says in a Canadian accent) “Oh you sound so Aussie!” and I feel like a tourist. I haven’t lived there since I was seventeen. I’ve been living in Australia twice as long than I lived in my apparent home country, so you know this is where my life is, my friends, work, home etc so, yes, this is definitely home more than anywhere else!

You’ve kept the Canadian accent pretty well after all these years though!
No! You guys have the accent! (laughs) Umm, yes, you’re quite right! I mean I don’t know what happened but it just goes to show wherever and whatever you come from in your first initial days it never really quite leaves you. But yes. Somehow my voice has managed to stay the way it is, I don’t get it. Although as I say I go back to Canada to visit my family and people say (says in a whiny Canadian voice) “You sound so Australian” and I think “Good Lord! Did I ever sound like you!” (laughs) So I don’t know. I’ve got a very confused accent!

I guess subconsciously you want to keep something Canadian about yourself!
Yeah, I guess! (laughs)

Interview by Anastasia Lambis

Tickets to Wendy Matthews – Live from Markus Hammence Presents

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