Coming off the back of years of success, it seems that Matt Corby still isn’t able to determine exactly what his vibe is. Even as they grow and evolve, we usually know what to expect from our favourite artists – even their reinventions become predictable over time (hello, Taylor Swift), but chatting with Corby about his upcoming record, Rainbow Valley, proved him to be one artist who still works in a way to surprise his audience, even if it’s somewhat unknowingly.
Watch: Matt Corby – All Fired Up
Asking about the writing process of ‘No Ordinary Life’, the first track that gave us a glimpse into Rainbow Valley, he says it began simple and became something whimsical, that he referred to as being ‘almost kind of so Disney it works’. My earliest memories of Corby are ‘Brother’ and ‘Resolution’, which featured gruffness and raw sounds that have stuck with me.
Up until I heard ‘No Ordinary Life’, I’d never considered Matt Corby and whimsical as belonging in the same sentence. But the Willy Wonka-inspired track is a very clear product of its influence, and sent me down a Spotify rabbit hole one evening, listening to different versions of ‘Pure Imagination’, made famous by Gene Wilder in the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Corby’s beginning flow of harp seems just like an elaborate version of the one that features in the film, as the kids float into the Chocolate Room under the watchful eye of a crazy inventor in a purple hat. Corby’s voice might have been a better fit for the vibe though; he still pushes to reach an amazing range that gives the song an overall sweet, fruity sound as it floats on the seeming multitude of instruments used to create it.
Watch: Matt Corby – No Ordinary Life
Willy Wonka wasn’t his only influence for Rainbow Valley, though. Corby lists Daptones artists, such as Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band as recent influences, as well as the record Basement Séance by Dirty Art Club, which Corby describes as a Tarantino-esque album ‘that does things to him’. His second and third singles from Rainbow Valley, ‘All Fired Up’ and ‘All That I See’, are a little more reminiscent of these influences, speaking to the soul through lyrical complexity and a sound that’s a bit more pared-back than that of the whimsy of ‘No Ordinary Life’. However, whimsical seems to also
describe Corby’s approach to creation.
Corby describes ‘No Ordinary Life’ as ‘a bit of an exercise in cool songwriting’, but it seems to me to be much more. It’s been two years since he released Telluric, and when asked how his music has evolved in that time, he says it sort of hasn’t. ‘I just think every album is going to be different each time,’ he explained. ‘I‘ve never really got to the point where I’m like ‘oh yeah, this is my vibe’. I don’t really understand my vibe.’ To me, this is what keeps Corby’s releases fresh and exciting. He has no roadmap for success but has achieved it by sticking true to his sense of originality, giving him a versatility that not many artists can master.
We’re all familiar with Corby’s beginnings, but he seems to personally pinpoint the beginning of his own success with his foray into the world of Triple J. ‘I remember six or seven years ago when Dom Alessio played me on Home and Hosed – I almost cried. I was in the car, and I was just like ‘I can’t believe it – someone actually likes this’. He tells this story while discussing how his resilience has grown over the course of his career.
Watch: Matt Corby – Brother
When asked if it’s intimidating to share something so different and new with his fans, he says ‘Oh, it’s so scary. It’s always scary. Anyone that says they’re not scared – kudos to them’. He frames this fear as being spurred on by a world where criticism is so accessible through social media, often full of trolls who will tell everyone what they think in no uncertain terms. ‘You basically have to lose your expectations on all of it, and … basically pretend no one else in the world exists, in a weird way. And not in an ignorant way, but just to be okay with putting it out there and not becoming a nervous wreck because of it,’ he explains, opening my eyes to the sheer anxiety that must come with sharing something so personal, that you might have worked so hard for, which could be dulled by the pointless anger of misunderstanding fans.
Countering this, though, Corby explains he has days ‘when it’s like ‘cool, I’m just happy doing what I want to do, and I’ve worked so hard as a musician over such a long period of time now that I know it well. And I’m nowhere near mastering anything, but I’m at a really happy point with creating freely and not being too judgmental on myself.’ Personally, I think this might be the greatest roadmap of all. While vibes and sounds are subject to change, an attitude of hard work and devotion to his creativity will be what keep Corby creating beautiful music for many years to come.
Rainbow Valley is out now through Universal. Stream it below: