Interview with Matthew Gordon Price,
Matthew Gordon Price - the thinking man's thinking man
It only dawned on me when I left the venue for this interview that serendipity had played a part in setting up this evening’s discussion. After an hour with Plymouth based troubadour Matthew Gordon Price, it seemed lip-smackingly fitting that we should meet in a bar called Beggars Banquet. You see, over my time with MGP (that’s what I call him now, we’re tight) I discovered that this is not a man who is chasing the trappings of fame or fortune, instead eschewing them for more rewarding treasures such as artistic integrity and creative endeavour. But there should be no spoilers here, let’s start at the beginning, it’s a very good place to start.
Matthew Gordon Price is originally from Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset but, following a degree in Business, he found himself knocking around the bars, open mics and clubs of the Plymouth music scene. It was a paternal influence that got him that far, however, as MGP confirms, “My dad, well didn’t force me but he got me in to the guitar and I dabbled. I had a few lessons but then at 15 I started writing my own songs with inspiration from the likes of Bob Dylan, Ray Davies and Marc Bolan that my dad had made me listen to. I’m 25 now and 10 years ago not a lot of my friends were listening to those kinds of musicians but that folk influence has always been there for me. Some of those early lyrics were a bit cringey but it’s all part of the process of growing as a musician. I was asked in an interview recently what my advice would be for new musicians and I just say write. Write, write, write. Some of it will be shitty but then you might find something great that you can work with.”
MGP has his fingers in many musical pies from managing artists to being a part of the Busketeers collectives and performing in the bands of others. Warming to his topic, we discuss songwriting within these confines and one his contributions to recent Busketeers album, ‘Arrows’. “I actually don’t like that song”, he says, apologetically scratching his fulsome beard, “It’s a throwaway song and everyone says it’s their favourite which is great but it’s not what I want to do. It doesn’t speak to me anymore”.
Now, listening to your parents records and writing worthy songs is a right of passage for any young musician (Christ knows what the Spotify generation will do but that’s yet to be seen) but there comes a point when you have to make a choice to play music for fun or try to make it your life’s work. Sometimes it’s a gig you go to and sometimes it’s a gig you play but everyone has that moment. “I only got that recently which sounds weird. I only did three gigs from learning to finishing Uni and then when I started doing Open Mics I was just too nervous to focus on how I felt. It was Josh at Bac Bar that got me in to it, he’s a great guy, but I’d come from Burnham-on-Sea which is God’s waiting room so being in Plymouth felt like a big step for me. The gig that gave me the inspiration was recently at the Junction in Plymouth and it was our first full band show so when we came off stage it just felt good. It felt right. Then again, more recently I was part of [LWM favourite] Jamie Yost’s band when we supported Beth Rowley after she’d just supported Jools Holland and that was a wake-up call. It showed us the next level that we need to get to.”
|MGP - Credit Richie Bolgiani|
“One week I did about 7 or 8 Open Mics and I thought ‘what’s the point?’, you know? I was playing the same songs, seeing the same faces and it got to me so I stopped doing Open Mics and decided to stop playing for free. It’s this as well, you’ve got to look after the old instrument – points at throat”, MGP gives some useful audio direction there, ever the pro. “As soon as I stopped doing them, people split in to two groups with one lot saying ‘why isn’t he coming out? Judas’ but I’m over that now”.
Normally, I’m not one to mix business with pleasure but the intriguing combination of a man so focused on his art having found his way to Britain’s Ocean City by way of a Business degree is too tantalising to resist. “Originally I was going to do Music with Business but they cancelled it and I’m glad they did. I’m no good with music in terms of notation and all that, I just get bored. The other day we were recording the EP and there’s a little overture on there and I’m just playing the keys going ‘I want this, it sounds good’. Everyone else is looking at me going ‘it’s G11’ or something and I don’t know what it means!”. This business acumen over musical purism has seen MGP not only apply professionalism to his own package (oo-er missus) but also guide acoustic combo Kenoby through their early career as well as helping other musicians to find their direction.
Talking of directions, conversation turns to where MGP wants to get to with his music. Are we talking stadiums, critical acclaim and a cabin in the woods or the level of cross-generational adoration that Steps have achieved? “I’ll be honest, I have been a bit down about this over the last year. It’s the downtime between gigs where you start to question what you’re doing but one person saying they loved your music is enough. We were busking the other day and this guy came up to us crying and I thought ‘that’s what it’s all about’. No making people cry, that sounds awful, but we’d touched him on a level that made him react emotionally. I don’t think I want to play Wembley, I don’t think I could handle that. Churches, theatres, that would be great. I saw Keaton Henson at Cardiff New Theatre and that was amazing, truly inspirational. That’s what I like. Quirky venues, libraries or prisons. Perfect. I’m 25 and am the point where I’m getting by playing music with different bands and enjoying life with my mates. I want to concentrate on the original music and play more churches. More churches!”
Now, the reason we’re sitting in this bar having a drink and chatting is that MGP has a new EP on the horizon, scheduled for a March 2018 release and I think it’s going to make some ripples. I was honoured to get a sneak preview of the rough cuts and it’s a collection of truly ambitious and heart-swelling tunes so it only seemed fitting that we give some attention to it. There are elements Noah Gundersen, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire and Avert Francis in there but what’s the inspiration - let’s start at the beginning with opening track ‘Sweet As Stone’. “It’s a relationship song. I won’t go in to the details but the phrase ‘I didn’t miss you’ was something an ex said to me and it just cut me. I wrote the words and the song flowed from there. It’s pretty cathartic. I’m not happy with the vocals yet but I’m going to rerecord them with Doc at PMC [Plymouth Musician’s Cooperative] – he’s great, I won’t work with anyone else now.”
Next up on the EP is ‘Vixen Queen’ which has a real live aspect to it but no relation to foxes, I’m
|MGP - Festival Giant|
The final track of the EP is entitled ‘Numb’ and LWM aficionados will know that this was the name of my own formative band that taught me a lot the music world so this tune instantly grabbed my attention. “I was getting angry when I wrote this. It’s about a woman again and it’s a complicated story but by the time I got in the studio I just ended up repeating that word at the end over and over again, ‘numb’, until it hurt. I think that’s my favourite track on the EP. I’m never going to be a big showy frontman like Freddie Mercury but I do like to think about how a show hangs together and is structured. We start with something more low-key and ambient and then we lift it up in to a more rock sound. Then, at the end of the set we have ‘Vixen Queen’ going in to ‘Numb’ bridged by a load of reverb which gets people’s attention and holds it”.
So those are the songs and very fine they are too but how are they going to reach the ears of the public when they become available in March 2018? How, I ask you? “I’m going to do everything. I was listening to a TED Talk from a musician recently, I can’t remember her name, and she said that she stopped caring about what people paid her. What she found was that people paid her £20 or £30 where she would have only asked for £5. Sure, some people paid her nothing but it didn’t matter. Let’s say in Totnes if I did a gig and sold my EP for donations I reckon I’d get a fiver a time and I’d sell a few. If I asked for £6 then I wouldn’t sell any I don’t reckon. So the EP will be on iTunes for 79p and all that but it will be everywhere else as well. Phat Bollard have got the right idea, they busk where they play and that’s where you sell your CDs as well to passers by and members of the public”.
We go on to discuss Plymouth venues as possibles for the launch show from the Red House and the theatre space at the University which gets us on to other musicians and what excites the man. “Going old school, I love Marc Bolan, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, Ray Davies and David Bowie. It’s the lyrics are poetic and that’s what makes the vibe so lasting but there’s no 60s vibe around at the moment. Sometimes you get it with Alt-J or Black Keys, I’ve sent stuff up to my dad and he’s lost his shit over it! It doesn’t fit my music, but I try to bring that through in my lyrics. More recently, Noah Gundersen is great, Keaton Henson is one of my favourites and locally it’s got to be Jamie Yost. First time I met him he did a Matt Corby version of a Black Keys track and I just lost it. I was, like, ‘who’s this guy? What’s going on?’, it was crazy. Every song he comes out with is incredible, he’s going to go somewhere. When I play lead on his songs I feel just as good as when I play my own. The other ones locally are [Plymouth band] Double Denim who have definitely got a vision. Double Denim, Jamie [Yost] and me are working together trying to put on shows with promoters and we need promoters to working together too. The Velvet Echoes get involved too and it’s starting to change, things are starting to happen”.
MGP closes the conversation on a point of philosophy, “I worry a lot about getting in to the pocket of someone else. I don’t want to be the puppet of a manager or a record label, I want to do things for me and to do them my way so that’s always going to be the focus of everything I do. Every detail”. And that kind of sums Matthew Gordon Price up in a way. He’s not in it for the bright lights or an ego-trip but rather a journey of discovery, of pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a guitar, some business acumen and a willingness to do things slightly differently but always with integrity. He’ll be squirming if he reads this but also smiling – the perfect balance of talent and humility.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/MatthewGordonPrice/
3rd March Eden Project, Cornwall w/Dodgy + 3 Daft Monkeys + Hedluv & Passman
7th March – The Underground, Plymouth w/Animal Bar
1st April – Hawkins Arms, Truro
29th June – The Inn on the Shore, Downderry w/Jamie Yost
6th July – Glas-denbury, Newton Abbot w/the Real Thing + Echo Town + Jamie Yost
18th August – The Vault, Leicester w/Jamie Yost
14th October – Rod & Line Inn, Tideford