Hey folks! Here’s a yearly update of where I am and where we are headed. I sat down with a good mate, Bob Gordon for this in-depth interview………………………
“For Matty T Wall, like many musicians the world over, the last year or so has not been what he had imagined it would be.
COVID-19 laid waste to a variety of plans, but Wall’s trademark persistence has seen him achieve momentous things in quiet times. Even so, the first quarter of 2020 provided an individual disappointment, when plans to perform with US blues guitar great, Walter Trout, at Bluesfest was scuttled upon the event’s 2020 pandemic-related cancellation.
“Probably the hardest thing in 2020 that I had to come to terms with is that I was going to play at Bluesfest in Walter Trout’s band plus tour and open for his band in Sydney and Melbourne,” Wall says.
“That obviously didn’t happen and that definitely hurt a bit,” he pauses to laugh ruefully, “because that was going to be a cool moment, but it didn’t eventuate.”
It was a potential career highlight – or a guaranteed one, frankly – but Wall decided to refocus his efforts on the homefront. The band had also parted ways at the time with long-time bassist, Stephen Walker, but this provided an opportunity to pave new dynamic, sonic sensibilities. Enter the well-travelled, well-honed bass playing abilities of Leigh Miller.
“The change all happened in the middle of Covid,” Wall recalls. “When you’ve got a lot of time to think and reflect on things that’s when change can happen. I was chasing a bass player and rehearsed with a few people, but Leigh just had the chemistry with Ric. And he had a solid foundation… he was deep into the pocket of the songs. Which is exactly what I was looking for; he had the fit and he had the groove.”
Miller had also played hundreds of gigs across Europe and Australia with drummer Ric Whittle as the rhythm section for Vdelli. “They do have a chemistry. Ric has a way of working on bass players and he’s quite renowned for it. He’s spent a few years getting Leigh to understand how to fit in with his drumming style. It comes across really well, Leigh leaves space for Ric and just powers the song. It’s really great.
“The chemistry between myself, Ric and Leigh… there’s just something there. A simplicity and a drive to the songs. It’s just far more appealing to people now.”
After playing a one-off livestreaming event during lockdown, Wall and his band were able to return to the live stage upon restrictions lifting in Perth. The first gig back (and Miller’s debut live gig with the band) was at The Duke of George in Fremantle in mid-July, 2020. It was a memorable gig for many reasons and on that was filmed by The Music Reel Live Sessions, clocking up over 12,000 views since. (Watch it at www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2683468231868216).
“That night was definitely one full of gratitude, both from the band and the audience,” Wall fondly notes. “That continued on, we did show after show, and it was very much like that at every one of them.”
With national touring simply not an option, Wall embraced the local opportunities that were opening up in a manner unlike before.
“It took things in a slightly different direction,” he explains. “If anything, it really gave me a chance to establish properly in Perth. I don’t think we’d really done that prior, we’d skirted around the edges. Now we’re properly headlining shows and doing bigger venues. The whole Covid thing has really made me focus on Perth and that has worked.”
This approach was reflected in Matty T Wall’s subsequent nomination and eventual win in the Blues Category of the WAM Awards held in March of this year.
“That took me by surprise a little bit,” he says, “it was a bit unexpected! It was great to get that sort of appreciation. It really felt nice.”
After receiving plaudits from around the world for his albums (2016’s Blue Skies, 2018’s Sidewinder and 2019’s Transpacific Blues, Vol. 1), as well as various international music award nominations, the hometown/homegrown response and acknowledgement tasted pretty sweet. Typically, it’s inspiring Wall to increase his efforts.
“It’s sort of just told me that I need to do more work,” he posits. “I’m a very persistent person; I’ll just keep going. But it was really nice to receive that award and get that recognition.
“It changed my perception about playing in Perth. I saw some validity to what I’m doing here. Whereas before it was like I was an orphan (laughs) in the Perth industry while lots of things were happening overseas in terms of accolades while it wasn’t happening here. So it was finally nice to get.”
It wasn’t long, however, before Wall’s trademark persistence would again come to the fore. On the Anzac Day Long Weekend whilst transporting and chopping wood for the coming winter, he suffered a serious spinal injury. All upcoming gigs were cancelled, and Wall’s mobility was at best limited.
“I injured two discs. One was your garden variety bulge, but the other was herniated, so it pushed the disc against the nerve root from my left leg. Basically the leg felt numb, painful and like pins and needles the whole time. I couldn’t walk on it; it was like I was 30 per cent paralysed with that leg for a couple of weeks.
’It has slowly recovered; but I’ve had to keep up daily exercises and stretches. And water therapy, just walking in the pool has been incredible. That’s been a huge leap for the rehabilitation. I’ve got an inverted table, so I hang upside down every day… I feel like Batman! Cycling and acupuncture have really been helping as well. I’m doing everything I can, but I’m also taking things slowly. It’ll be a while before I can lift things properly.”
Wall was unable to play guitar or sing to any normal degree for many weeks, but along with his exercises and rehabilitation, he’s worked at those beloved pursuits bit-by-bit and has come to the point where he is ready, willing, and able to gig with the band again.
“I got to the point where I could sit and put a guitar on my lap and play it for maybe a couple of minutes, then I’d have to put it down,” Wall explains. “So I’d do that several times throughout the day, and I’d have a chance to exercise my fingers and get the music flowing. But it wasn’t much, and it was hard. Especially for someone who likes to just pick it up and play whenever I can. That was difficult. And not singing was hard, because singing does something that physiologically just makes you feel great.
“When you stop doing that you sort of lose your confidence. You lose a lot of things… and I did find that. So it’s great to have that ability back again.”
The months of June and July see the welcome return of Matty T Wall to stages around Perth. Also of note is the creative surge he has enjoyed in the various downtimes of the past year, with three album’s worth of lyrics and songs ready to be recorded in his own studio.
That word again. Persistence. Life may fire its slings and arrows, but Matty T Wall continues to prove that there is no time to waste. He’s living the blues.”