Hailing from the Midlands, Matthew Barton is an eclectic indie-pop singer-songwriter. We spoke to the quirky songster (is that a word?) about his upcoming release Queen of England, ‘Judy Garland’, greatest accomplishments and first memories.
OSR: What is the backstory to ‘Judy Garland’?
Barton: ‘Judy Garland’ was written last summer. I think a lot of the songs on Queen of England seem to deal with a sense of yearning, of something missing in your life. ‘Judy Garland’ touches on that dreaming of a better place, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Maybe while washing the dishes, imagining that the kitchen wall is your Carnegie Hall, confusing your Judies.
OSR: Who inspired ‘Judy Garland’?
Barton: Musically, I was inspired by 60s girl groups and surf-pop and some of the 50s kind of stuff Lindsey Buckingham was doing with Fleetwood May in the early 80s. I love the simplicity of those sounds and how the melodies are both uplifting but a bit melancholy. Around that time, I was also listening to Judy at Carnegie Hall, so I’m sure that filtered through in the lyric.
OSR: What was the writing and recording process like?
Barton: All of Queen of England was recorded on a four-track recorder, so you’ve got limited options as far as layering and the sound quality, but the limitations can mean that you really focus in on the core elements. The song was written on an acoustic guitar, but I transposed it to electric and used a simple drum pattern and organ. The last thing to overdub was a little bit of dulcimer in the chorus. It was just done at home and finished off in quarantine.
OSR: Which do you find more challenging – melody or lyrics?
Barton: I think the main challenge is getting the right lyrics for the right melody. Usually, a melody will come first and maybe there will be a repeated phrase attached to it that I can then expand on. Once it feels like it fits, the rest can follow quite quickly, but every song is different and it’s good to be open to that.
OSR: How would you describe your sound?
Barton: The sound of Queen of England is lo-fi and quite raw. Because I was working on four-track, I was looking to some of my favourite records for inspiration, like PJ Harvey’s 4-Track Demos, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and the Marine Girls records. I like melody, simplicity, and I like the music to sound alive.
OSR: What is your favourite season and why?
Barton: I love all of the seasons, but autumn is special. I love the colours and the weather, going for walks, but also the feeling of being inside watching films and having about 27 cups of tea.
OSR: What is your first memory?
Barton: Probably falling in a swimming pool on holiday in Spain and my dad having to fish me out.
OSR: What is your greatest accomplishment?
Barton: I’m happy that I was able to make Queen of England on my own in lockdown. I enjoyed it and it was liberating, but it could also be difficult to keep organised and stop faffing about on details. I write quite quickly, but it took longer to record and finish than it could have. So to finish was a good feeling.
OSR: Do you think COVID-19 has affected the music industry and will there be long-term consequences?
Barton: It has definitely affected the music industry hugely, especially the live industry. Streaming doesn’t pay amazingly well and record sales are not what they were, so most artists make their money through touring revenue or merchandise sales on tour; because no-one can tour, it’s affecting people greatly, especially independent artists. A lot can ride on it. I hope that it is going to make people more mindful of how important the arts are and how important it is to support artists. That means buying art or merchandise or anything that can benefit an artist directly.
OSR: What are your future plans?
Barton: I’m working on some music for a new film by Arron Blake and Darius Shu, and writing and recording for the next thing whatever that might be.
OSR: Do you have a message for our readers?
Barton: Thank you for listening to ‘Judy Garland’. I hope you enjoy Queen of England. Remember to support artists if you can, and stay safe.