Matt Simons is ready to unpack. The American songwriter has worked continuously for a decade now, achieving huge success – particularly in continental Europe – with music that comes straight from the soul. A West Coast talent who found success outside his homeland, his music has reached huge audiences, with both studio albums to date – ‘Pieces’ and ‘Catch & Release’ – moving across the continent, starting with the Netherlands until the whole of Europe knew his name.
Last year’s ‘After The Landslide’ was a particular landmark, and 2019 ended with a huge 40 date tour. “It was a really beautiful two months,” he smiles. “That was the longest tour that I’ve ever done.”
But then the pandemic intervened. Relocating to California, close to where he grew up, just as COVID began its international spread, Matt Simons found himself with the space – and the time – to reflect, and to look inwards. It’s sparked a shift in his music, too – singles such as ‘Cold’ and ‘Better Tomorrow’ have connected due to their introspection, and the brave frankness of his message.
‘Better Tomorrow’ for instance, is a deeply honest account of his struggles with anxiety, and his experiences with panic attacks. “I remember being younger and not understanding what was going on,” he reflects. “I wanted to write a song that spoke to anyone who was in the place that I was in… it was just terrifying.”
Art is one way in which Matt Simons deals with these issues. It’s more than just a craft or a passion – it’s a key outlet, a means for him to channel those emotions into something palpable. “I think it would be really difficult if I didn’t have an outlet,” he says. “If I didn’t feel like I had some sort of higher purpose that I’m working towards then my anxiety would be a lot worse. As someone who tends to bottle up their emotions, if they didn’t have anywhere to go… well, that sounds like a dark place.”
In a way, this emotional frankness has been a hallmark of his career. After all, Matt Simons can certainly connect. Across three studio albums his work has found a global audience of millions, his sweet, plaintive, piano-rooted melodies allying themselves to lyrics that speak plainly, sometimes starkly, about important events in his life.
“I like to start out with what a song is about before anything else,” he says. “I feel like that’s a really important thing to find early on in the songwriting process. You’ve got to have that discipline. You need to find a direction – that’s the most important thing.”
Passionate and driven, songs are pouring out of Matt right now – working with alacrity, 2021 will bring something big, something important. He’s changing, and the music is changing, too, adopting new influences but returning to those same truths. “Right now, I’m thinking about the future,” he says. “It feels like the standard album release trajectory is kind of out-dated at this point. I mean, it’s also not the way that I consume music any more, either – I’m always making new playlists, with new music!”
Breaking down his approach and building anew, he’s perpetually pulled back to one phrase. ‘Identity Crisis’ is one of his new songs, and it’s also an overarching theme. Just look at those song titles - ‘Too Much’ looks at party culture in the face, and wonders where the line is. “I feel it’s a relatable thing for anyone who likes to party,” he comments. “How do you know you’re fulfilled…? And unfortunately, you only know you’ve made it if you’ve gone too far.”
He adds: “As a songwriter it’s important that you’re not bound to writing about only autobiographical things happening in your life right now. You’ve got to be able to draw on the past, and other people’s experiences.”
Matching his own experiences to the world drifting around him, this Californian songwriter is ready to go further, to feel more, than ever before. “The core of the song needs to be good enough to stand on its own,” he explains. “I needed all those years of songwriting experience to really do this justice”.
Fully unpacking long-held emotions, pulling down the gates and letting others into his life. It’s a bold move, but it’s one he doesn’t regret. Pausing, he finishes: “I think it’s very cathartic.”