Home Interviews Interview: MATT HENRY

Interview: MATT HENRY

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This year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival will be singer/songwriter Matt Henry’s fifth in a row. And, just to make it clear, he has played at each one. “I’m getting quite used to Tamworth in summer,” he tells me in our interview in the lead up to the festival. He explains that he has learned to pack lots of T-shirts “because you pretty much have to change your T-shirt three or four times a day in the middle of summer!”

The music business is still relatively new to Matt. “I played a little bit of guitar and wrote some songs when I was younger,” he recalls. “And then I got a real job and did that for about twelve or thirteen years. I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do so I started playing music again and went out to the Country Music Academy at Tamworth and got a bit of a kick along there in 2011. From then, I just started singing and playing and then did a few little demos and decided to do an EP and someone suggested to me to go and see Anthony Lycenko at Bangalow in NSW, which is where I live. So I came up and saw him and we recorded an EP (Life by Proxy) in 2013 and that’s basically it. We’re working on an album now and it’s hopefully coming out later this year.”

Matt’s music is often referred to as alt-country but does he agree with that definition? “Not necessarily,” he reveals. “It seems to be called that a bit but I think it’s a bit more country than anything else. Alt-country is a phrase that’s been bandied around a lot and I think it’s really because country is such a broad and diverse genre anyway. You’ve got blues and you’ve got pop and you’ve got bluegrass, and old country and Americana.  I think alt-country is just a convenient label for some artists. There are a lot of different connotations of country. You say ‘country’ to someone and everyone will say something different. Country makes them think of something specific. I think alt-country has roots in more traditional country than today’s country seems to have. Most alt-country has its roots in the Appalachian music; the Carter family, and that type of thing, with a modern spin on it but with more of an inclination to use traditional instrumentation and I think it is, in some ways, more traditional country. I mean, it’s been given a leaning to real pop music at the moment and a lot of the acts are very much leaning that  way and then you get the copy cats or artists all around the world doing the  same thing because there’s a dollar to be made from doing it. My EP is about eighteen months old and obviously things have changed a bit since then and some of the songs I wrote are a year or two before that but my new album is much more traditional than that. It will be very traditional sounding.”

Matt says that he is often asked to define the difference between alt-country and traditional country. “That’s why we put on the late night alt showcases at Tamworth. They were born out of the very conversation we’re having now and we were finding that everyone was interested and that everyone wanted to accommodate us. That’s what’s so good about Tamworth. Everyone is so accommodating. They’re happy to give things a go. They just wanted to know a bit about it. We decided to put one night on last year and it was born out of the fact that Australian country artists are really more alt-country than anything else; people like Kasey Chambers, you know.  So we just figured we would put it on. There was nothing like that out there so we might pull a bit of a crowd and we might get some good people playing. So everyone came and played for free and we filled the room with people. We couldn’t really fit any more people in. You couldn’t get into the room. It went really well so we’ve got three nights of it this year and equally as good a line-up, I think, over each one.”

Matt will also be doing some shows at Tamworth with some other well-known artists including The Bushwhackers and Women in Docs. “I’m so thrilled to be doing a gig with the Bushwhackers,” he says enthusiastically. “They’re an institution in Australian country music.” He is also delighted to be working with Women in Docs, having met Chanel and Ros last year. “We just hit it off straight away so we tried to work out how we could do some gigs together. They’re playing at Late Night Alt on the Thursday night and also playing at The Dag with the Bushwhackers.   I really can’t wait to get out there and play. It’s one of my favourite places.”

Matt has been writing songs for the new album and says that he is ‘halfway there’.  “One song I’ve been writing for about five years and I can’t quite get it right so I just leave it and I come back to it and leave it and come back to it. I’d really like to think that I’m going to have it on the album but I don’t know. I’ve got twelve songs that we’re working on now and I’m doing the pre-production with Anthony. I’m working on the songs and he’s lying on his back listening to them and he’s got an idea of where he wants to take them when we get in the studio. We will start making some demos after Tamworth and then we start putting a band together for the recording.”

Ironically, Matt concedes that country music was not always on his radar. “I went through a phase when I really just listened to soul music and things like that,” he admits. “But I listened to country when I was young. My grandfather loves country music and my mum loves country music so it was really bouncing around when I was a young boy but when I was younger I was really listening to Cat Stevens and singer/songwriters like that and then as I got older and came back to country, it was John Denver and Willie Nelson but I also loved the Seventies country artists like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. I love all kinds of music but country just felt like the best fit; probably more than any other genre. It was really focused on the songs and less on the personalities and the country people are really loyal and they will let you know when they don’t like something and they’ll let you know when they do so they keep you pretty honest and down to earth with it all which is great. So I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s my No. 1 love now. I love listening to other people’s albums and getting inspired by their songs.  And I love going to see them play ‘live’. That’s another thing about country music. It’s all geared around live performance which is wonderful and you can go and experience that and come home and be really inspired, pick up the guitar and start writing something. There are a couple of people that I’ll go and see at Tamworth. I love Shane Nicholson. I’ll definitely go and see his show. I think I’ve seen every one of his shows up at Tamworth for the last four or five years; and a friend of mine, Harry Hookey; he’s a performer, singer/songwriter and he’s really taking off now which he deserves and I’ll go and see his show. I love Harmony James’ songs and I’ve been to two or three of her shows at Tamworth the last few years. I’ll go and catch her show.  The great thing about the Festival is that there’s just too much to do and you can’t fit it all in but you can give it a good try and go home exhausted and you feel like you’ve lived about four weeks in one.

by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © 2015 Sharyn Hamey. All Rights Reserved


If you are heading to Tamworth for this year’s festival, you can catch Matt Henry at the following venues…


Saturday 17th January 2015 | 9am

Tamworth Services Club, TAMWORTH NSW

Writers in the Round


Sunday 18th January 2015 | 3pm


DAG Sheep Station, NUNDLE NSW

w/ The Bushwackers & women in docs



Monday 19th January 2015 | 11.40am

Post Office Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW

(02) 6761 3322


Monday 19th January 2015 | 8pm

The Family Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW

Lou Bradley Album Launch [support]

(02) 6765 7722


Tuesday 20th January 2015 | 11am




Tuesday 20th January 2015 | 3pm

Imperial Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW

Brad Butcher Album Launch [support]



Wednesday 21st January 2015 | 1pm

Locomotive Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW



Thursday 22nd January 2015 | 1.30pm

Southgate Inn, TAMWORTH NSW



Thursday 22nd January 2015 | 10pm


Late Nite Alt, w/ special guests



Friday 23rd January 2015 | 3.30pm



(02) 6765 8361


For more information, please visit www.matthenry.com.au

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