“The lyrics ‘And at once I knew, I was not magnificent’ from Bon Iver’s Holocene really resonate with me.Matt Ortiz
I think throughout life we constantly encounter situations that humble us, and help us to remember how connected we all are as living beings. I think humanity is no more important than the rest of the natural world, yet we do tend to think ourselves above it in many ways. You can also apply this kind of thinking to relationships with friends, family and strangers. No person is better than any other, and I think a lot of people forget that.”
Hailing from Albury, Australia on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, 24-year-old singer songwriter Matt Ortiz wrote his first song titled ‘Hangman’s Noose‘ when he was only 17. After two sad events of youth suicide in his home town, Matt expressed his emotions at the time through writing songs. His poignant lyrics call for empathy for the family and friends of young victims of these tragic events. “It can happen anywhere, to anyone and from all walks of life and socio economic circumstances,” Matt said. “I just want people to be more aware, to reach out to someone if they think they are falling. We can make a difference if we care deeply enough.”
Hangman’s Noose was chosen to be a part of an exhibition titled ‘Sonic Splendour’ that was commissioned by the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) to coincide with its opening in 2016. Three local musicians were selected to have their original material recorded by the CAD Factory in Narrandera and to have a music video made by talented local film maker Andrew Pearce.
The song launched the young artist’s music endeavours and he also took to busking on the streets of Albury to gain experience in performing and to get his original songs out in a public space.
From there Matt went on to perform at gigs around the area and for private events before moving to Melbourne to study Information Technology. During Uni he participated in a study abroad program at Warwick University and had the opportunity to travel around the UK and Europe before returning to Australia. He busked a little and says he met some great characters during his travels.
On one such occasion, Matt met a man in a hostel in Canterbury, a former professional jazz musician who had worked all over the world including big stages in New York and London’s West End. “He’d been a really successful set musician in his 20s and early 30s but some things from his childhood had come up that really troubled him and he’d had a complete mental breakdown and struggled with his mental health for quite a few years as a result. When I met him, it was just at the end of that rebuilding phase and it struck me that a guy could be so physically fit and able bodied, but if your mind is not as fit as your body, you’re just as much disabled by that. He was an interesting guy, we went for a beer and he told me about his life which inspired me to write a song, it’s called Black Dog.”
Tell us a little about your background, what drew you to music and song writing?
I started playing guitar when I was 12, and later started singing in my bedroom for fun. I think what really drew me to music was how I could use it to express myself in ways I wouldn’t usually. I was a pretty shy kid, and playing guitar / singing was a great outlet for me when I was young, and I owe a lot of my confidence to it, even now. Albury also had a lot of great support for young musicians, particularly through their Retro Youth Cafe, where I started gigging.
I was a pretty imaginative kid who loved to read, write and play games, so song writing seemed like a pretty natural progression for me. I’ve always focused pretty heavily on lyrics and storytelling. Music really allows me to add emotion and depth to the stories I’m telling, and bring them to life in ways I otherwise couldn’t have.
Where was your very first experience of busking?
The first time I went busking was out the front of a Commonwealth Bank in Albury around Christmas time. I remember being pretty intimidated, as it can be such a raw experience, and you never know how people might react. Most people were really supportive though, and in good spirits, so I didn’t have too much trouble.
What’s a memorable experience you’ve had when busking?
I’d say the strangest experience I’ve had as a busker was an encounter with an older guy who was looking to sell some of his guitars, or at the very least show me them. I think he gave me his details and I wasn’t really looking at the time, so let it go.
About a year later, the same guy approached me in the street, he had a really good memory as he remembered my name and noticed I had a new phone, which I thought was interesting. So he asked me again if I wanted to come have a look at these guitars. I figured I couldn’t really turn him down a second time, so I gave him a call after work and went around to his place to check them out.
The guy had quite a few beautiful acoustic guitars, although at the time I think I’d just bought myself a Maton so wasn’t really in need. His house was absolutely packed to the roof with stuff though, I guess you could say he was a bit of a hoarder.
He had thousands of dollars worth of things, a lot of which he’d never used. I recall him being a bit disappointed that he’d never done a lot of the things he thought he would, saying ‘Matt I’ve got $5000 worth of fishing gear here and I’ve never been fishing’.
He really made me reflect and think that we should do the things we set out to do, rather than sit on them. He told me I reminded him of himself when he was younger. I ended up writing a song about it, as it stuck with me. It’s called ‘Seen you before‘. It’s on my EP titled ‘South‘ .
If you could choose a lyric from any song that sums up life for you, what would that lyric be?
It’s pretty hard to say, but I think the lyrics ‘And at once I knew, I was not magnificent‘ from Bon Iver’s Holocene really resonate with me.
I think throughout life we constantly encounter situations that humble us, and help us to remember how connected we all are as living beings. I think humanity is no more important than the rest of the natural world, yet we do tend to think ourselves above it in many ways. You can also apply this kind of thinking to relationships with friends, family and strangers. No person is better than any other, and I think a lot of people forget that.
What’s some great advice you’ve received in your life so far?
I went to see the Brighton Orchestra in the UK, and at the end of the show they had these dual pianists who played together on the same piano. They were really charismatic and entertaining to watch, and right at the end of the act they finished with: ‘Be half as good as they think you are’. I thought this was a cool piece of advice, especially when it comes to being a performer.
A big part of performance is how you come across to your audience. If you make a mistake and show it in your mannerisms, or if you aren’t in a great mood and aren’t enthusiastic I think people really pick up on it. If you give off the right energy, it doesn’t necessarily matter how well you played technically, so long as the audience is engaged and involved in what you’re trying to share with them.
Coronavirus has been a game changer for buskers (and the arts in general). What do you think we can learn from these days of empty streets and lockdowns?
I think Covid has slowed life down for a lot of people, which can be a good thing. We live in such a fast-paced world with social media, work pressure and constant connection. Slowing things down seems to have had a positive effect on a lot of people’s lives, and has helped to highlight the things that really matter to them. Although I know the isolation of lockdown can be tough, and it’s been pretty devastating for buskers and the arts, but I guess it highlights how we might take things for granted in times of normality.
What’s next for Matt Ortiz?
I’d like to record some more singles in 2021, all going well. I’ve written a few new songs in recent times and there’s a couple I’d like to release like Black Dog and also another new one titled Have You Ever Been In Love?
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MattOrtizMusic