Yesterday evening, I went to a pub in Palmers Green, a great rambling Victorian place with a U-shaped bar. At one end of the U, they’d set up some temporary staging and rigged a PA system. A few people milled round, drinking and chatting, and I grabbed a seat close to the stage. If you’ve ever performed, been in a band or done stand-up, you’ve been in a venue like this one. You walk through the door and you know it’s going to be hard. Nobody’s really there to hear you, the space is the wrong shape, the gear and the staff and the stage are all just below par. Nobody’s going to make magic there, but it’s a necessary step in the long, tiresome journey of paying your dues.
After ten minutes or so, a skinny bloke in frankly absurd leggings got up on stage and grabbed the microphone. “Welcome to our music night!” he bellowed, as if we were at Wembley. “First up, we’ve got Mike!”
“My name’s not Mike,” said the first act, as he stepped up onto the stage with his guitar.
“Oh, sorry,” giggled Bagglyleggings, “I’m no good with names.” Rather a failing when introducing people is your job. Then the bloke who wasn’t Mike began to play.
And he was good. Really good. He sang a set of totally original songs. The lyrics were witty and clever, telling vivid stories of teenage relationships, parties and friendships. He played well, and sang fantastically, in a deep, husky voice that seemed mature for his age. But most of all, he performed with calm, professional grace. He gave it his all even when the soundman got the balance so wrong in his first song we could barely hear him. He didn’t miss a beat when the extraordinarily annoying girl vocalist from the next band stood in front of the small crowd and talked at the top of her ear-shattering voice to someone through one of his quiet songs. He sang like a star, even though he wasn’t getting paid, even though he’d got home from college half an hour before he had to leave to catch a train and two buses to that gig, carrying his guitar, and he hadn’t even got to eat his dinner. How do I know that? Because I’m his mum.
Matt (not Mike) played his first gig at an outdoor carnival in Finchley when he was 14 years old, half of an acoustic duo in which he was the guy who played guitar while someone else sang. Then he spent a year as the lead singer of a successful local band. He played his first solo acoustic gig in a bar near the Barbican when he was 16 years old. I was at that one too, and I remember being overwhelmed with terror and pride, watching him go out there, just him and his guitar and his words and music. Since then, he hasn’t stopped. He promotes his music tirelessly. He writes and records all the time, and he plays gigs anywhere and everywhere.
Watching him again last night, two years later, I was overwhelmed again. Yes, he’s handsome (and I have it on non-mum-biased independent authority that he is). Yes, he’s talented, and he has an effortless, witty stage presence that makes him a pleasure to watch. But most of all, I am so astonishingly proud of his courage. Because let me tell you, he is brave. He’s going after a dream, and he’s taking the non-X-Factor route. This route has no personal stylists, shortened cover versions or Simon Cowell fairy dust. While success will come to him in the future, there are currently no hordes of screaming fans or stadium tours. But he’s stepping up onto that rickety stage and he’s playing his heart out, developing his craft and gaining new fans every day. You’re all going to love him one day. But take a number and get in line, because I was first.
See Matt’s facebook page here and download his songs off iTunes.
One monkey, one typewriter, seldom Hamlet.