Matt’s Moving To the Big Time

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A SUNDERLAND-BORN musician is gearing up to release his debut EP this week. Katy Wheeler found out how he went from busking to being noticed by a major record label.

IN a sea of unsigned artists, Matt Belmont has floated to the top of the crowd.

It’s thanks in part to the internet changing the way new music is introduced to the masses, but it’s mostly due to lyrics and a voice which manages to reach out of your headphones to pack a real emotional punch.

Though a talented songwriter, it was a cover of Bon Iver track Skinny Love that initially brought former Monkwearmouth School pupil Matt to the fore.

The video touched a nerve with YouTube’s millions of users, charting at number 56 in the weekly YouTube most-watched music videos chart.

With a video of more than 80,000 views, Matt, from Roker, saw himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Coldplay and Beyonce in the charts. His profile was raised overnight and he soon found a major record company, who he is still in talks with, knocking on his door.

The 23-year-old explains: “It’s been great in that way because YouTube and social network sites makes music so available and accessible, but it also floods the market in a way.

“Things spiked a few years ago when Myspace started. But now you have to nag people to listen to your stuff because there’s so much out there.”

He added: “It’s put music back in the hands of the customers though, they are deciding what they like which empowers the artist to promote themselves. In that sense, the internet has changed roles in music I suppose.

“Before, you would do gigs and wait to be discovered. But now you have to be a marketing wizard to get attention.

“Everything has to be considered from image to web presence.”

Matt, who is now based in Leeds, has run the whole gamut of musical performance from busking on the streets, gaining regular gigs and hosting an open mic night.

As we speak, he’s songwriting in a studio in London and having first picked up a guitar at 15, Matt feels like he’s now found his voice.

“A turning point for me was to stop trying to sound like other people and to be confident in how I sound and the music I’m creating,” he explained.

“When you hear a great song you want to try and be that person, but I’ve learnt it’s important to stick to your own sound and be innovative in how you put that across.

“There was a period when I first started writing songs in which I felt I didn’t sound that good. But I think I kind of got the bad songs out of the way.

“I’m still self-critical and I record every part over and over again, but other people seem to like it. There’s come a point where you just have to let it be.”

After studying music production at Leeds College of Music, Matt can turn his hand to production as well as writing and performing, but says marketing is now a key part of making it in the industry

He said: “Because I’m managing myself, a lot of time can be taken up calling CD printers and distribution companies which can be really stressful, but it’s worth it to be on the stage and playing songs, that’s what it’s all about.”

Matt’s EP, Not Coming Down, released on Saturday, is a culmination of all of his experiences and efforts from the past couple of years.

He said: “I wrote the songs over a two-year period and then spent 10 months perfecting the arrangements, recordings and production of the EP and although I’ve now heard the songs hundreds of times in the mix room, I am still proud of how it all sounds.

“One of the tracks It’s Only Love recently got a play on BBC Introducing and hopefully there will be a lot more of that to come.”

Though he now lives in Leeds, Matt would love to play a hometown gig.

“I would love to get a gig sorted in Sunderland. I think there’s a big population of people in Sunderland who enjoy good music, but it’s not fair to make them have to get that Metro ride into Newcastle to go and see it.”

Until that hometown gig happens, you can listen to Matt’s EP on iTunes and Amazon downloads from Saturday.

l You can find out more about Matt at www.facebook.com/mattbelmontmusic, twitter: @matt_belmont and www.youtube.com/mattbelmontmusic