STAY­ING STRONG

Af­ter a spinal in­jury in 2015, singer-song­writer Mat McHugh faced painful re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Now, he’s back and set to hit Cur­rumbin Sound­lounge with a new out­look but the same brand of cool his fans know and love

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD | PLAY - SALLY COATES

Your last tour was post­poned. How did you get through that tough pe­riod af­ter in­jury? Last year was the most chal­leng­ing of my life. There was a change from be­ing nor­mal to po­ten­tially los­ing ev­ery sin­gle thing I’ve worked to­wards my whole life. I couldn’t use my arms, I couldn’t stand, I didn’t touch an in­stru­ment. I’ve got a lot of emo­tional scars and emo­tional ter­ri­tory that will work its way into songs. I feel like the jug is get­ting full of ex­pe­ri­ences so when I’m ready I’ll dip into it. So you weren’t play­ing around with songs while you were out of ac­tion? It sounds like a fan­tasy, but how I work is I ac­tu­ally hear a whole song in my head fin­ished. Then I have to fig­ure out how to play it. My writ­ing hap­pens in my heart and head. So writ­ing an al­bum is al­most just tran­scrib­ing – not just wig­gling around on the strings of a gui­tar. In 2017 I’ll sit down and write a batch of songs and this will be part of the con­tent of what’s hap­pened. I’m not go­ing to write an al­bum about poor me. But ev­ery­thing that hap­pens changes your per­spec­tive. I’m doc­u­ment­ing ex­pe­ri­ences along the way, like sonic diary en­tries. If there’s no new mu­sic, how will this tour dif­fer from your pre­vi­ous tours? I was play­ing around with dif­fer­ent ideas of how to ap­proach the tour and got a huge re­sponse for acous­tic. Oddly enough, the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple think of me as acous­tic but I’ve never done acous­tic shows. I threw it out on­line and the re­sponse for an acous­tic show was over­whelm­ing. You’ve al­ways gotta do the scari­est thing, most ex­cit­ing thing. I’ve got a bunch of songs to choose from and dif­fer­ent ways to do it. Well today that’s the idea, to­mor­row might be dif­fer­ent. Let’s just say I’ll be there. I could just play the al­bum and dance along to it. There’d be a lot of re­funds. You were a mem­ber of The Beau­ti­ful Girls but have re­leased a lot of solo mu­sic as well. Do you still re­visit mu­sic from your band days? I’ll def­i­nitely be draw­ing on old mu­sic. The amount of solo stuff I have is catch­ing up with the Beau­ti­ful Girls stuff. With The Beau­ti­ful Girls songs I’ll go through pe­ri­ods of be­ing of­fended when peo­ple ask me to play that. I’ll think please lis­ten to my new stuff, not just songs from 2005. But other times I’m grate­ful that peo­ple wanna hear any­thing I’ve done at all. The Beau­ti­ful Girls is all my stuff, it’s a part of me. It’s a bit pre­cious to get of­fended I think. Now when I have those thoughts I think “Get over your­self”. You get to the con­clu­sion that it’s a bless­ing that peo­ple even wanna hear you. Night to night the shows will change, the au­di­ence picks. Live shows are liv­ing and breath­ing af­ter all. I pre­fer to lis­ten to a guy on the street with one string on his gui­tar be­cause he has to, rather than air­brushed flavour of the month. It all de­pends on what makes you happy. Some peo­ple are busi­ness and re­sults driven, us­ing mu­sic as a ve­hi­cle to tick off boxes. Other peo­ple are driven to ex­press them­selves. If that’s you the cor­po­rate way is go­ing to crush you and rip you away from mak­ing mu­sic at all. At this point in my life I feel like I’ve fought a war. You’re al­ways fight­ing to ex­press and op­er­ate the way you see fit. Mat McHugh, Cur­rumbin Sound­lounge, Jan­uary 6

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