I'm Matt, currently 30 years old, from Surrey in the UK, but I reside in Sydney NSW (Australia) these days. I have done since 2011, when a planned-to-be eighteen month trip turned into an almost 6 year residence.
I'm a musician. I picked up my first guitar aged 5, and managed to get lessons from 7 years old. I loved it. I've struggled to make time for it over the years, and sometimes not taken it as seriously as I should have. I've probably under sold myself as well in certain situations, but 2017 is the year I become self sufficient in this realm we call 'the music business'.
I only ever wanted to be a session guitarist. All through my preteen and teenage years that would be the answer to the age old 'what do you want to be when you're older?' question. Usually one would expect to have some witty anecdote about a typical response to my somewhat specialised career choice as a 9 year old, but I think people were quite impressed, or maybe taken aback, by my claims. In my mind it was clear; I play guitar, I love to play guitar, I'm good at playing guitar, I'll end up getting paid to play guitar. Simple.
As I went through my schooling I realised
that I was actually quite good as an all-round musician. I started to play the piano aged 11, but, crucially, realised I was pretty terrible at sight reading sheet music and that my learning powers came from listening and watching others play. I also realised that to become a session guitarist I would no doubt need to be good at sight reading.
I began to enjoy composition as well as performing, and grew an appreciation for many styles of music, including most of the sub genres in which we call 'classical music' (the renaissance, classical and romantic eras) as well as rhythm n blues, jazz, contemporary pop and rock etc. I joined a band and we wrote funky rock music in the style of RHCP and Rage Against The Machine (well, at least one of our songs 'Freakin' Out' was of that ilk) and we named ourselves 'Oracle', later to be reformed and renamed 'Spontaneous Suggestion'. We were the coolest band in the school. Okay, at that time we were the only band in the school, for a while, but we were loved.
At 6th form college I discovered the world of music technology. Somewhere you can immerse yourself in your own creations with just a computer and a MIDI keyboard, or record a live band, or sequence music to film. I really enjoyed it and got myself a home setup so I could work outside college hours on both class and personal projects. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing rather well in my A level exam, and my final mark was one of the top 10 scores nationwide. That (obviously, because I'm writing about it here) is something I'm still very proud of 12 years on.
I studied Music at Bath Spa University. My pathway was somewhat disrupted by what could be classed as poor choices; I enrolled in the first year on the more classically focussed music course. In my mind it was because there were jazz units and to understand jazz would make me a better all round contemporary musician. In reality the first year of study was very much recapping on things I'd covered in A level music and was not very focussed on jazz. I also had an instrumental teacher for the guitar who was one of the least inspiring teachers I have ever had the luxury of working with. Every lesson there was a new depressing life story, a break up, a family death, cancer, a fire in the family home. No joke. I learned one thing from him only...never burden your students with your personal life. Thankfully that didn't last all that long, and I requested a transfer in teacher for year 2. I ended up working with Stuart Ryan, who was and still is very well known in the guitar circles of the UK as a solo acoustic player, well revered by the likes of Martin Taylor MBE, and columnist for Guitar Techniques Magazine. Stuart still writes for Guitar Techniques and was appointed Head of Guitar at BIMM Bristol when it opened. Well, after a term of year 2 I had joined a band on another course. The band was named Adhara and the course was the Commercial Music foundation degree. I swapped courses, which was a bit of a pain, but it meant I got to learn more about writing pop music, recording it and going on tour! It was great. I completed the year and passed the foundation degree (no surprise there, it was pass or fail, with a pretty low pass mark from memory). The difference here was this...my original degree choice was a Bachelor degree. The scoring for you final degree in the UK works as follows; year one doesn't count, you just have to pass is to move onto year two. Then your mark after years two and three is a combination of your best scores from years two and three on a 70% year three and 30% year two split. Sounds complicated, it isn't that complicated. Just make sure you do well in most subjects, particularly in the third year. However, with my course change I swapped from a BaMus to a FDMus (foundation degree), a 2 year course with an optional third year to top up the degree to a Bachelor Degree. The difference being in the scoring. For this style of degree your resulting mark at the end of the degree was based purely on the 6 modules you take in that year. 100% from year three, no split from year 2, no back up. Do well and you get a good degree. Or do not so well and...you get the picture. For the first time in my schooling I did less than average. I'm still ashamed of that. I should have done much better, but it wasn't to be.
After leaving university jobs were scarce. I'm talking about in any industry. It was right at the crux of the 2008 financial disaster and I couldn't even get a job as a barman or waiter, something I had been doing since I was 18.
Slowly opportunities came about. 'Guitar Hero: World Tour' was the biggest game on the PlayStation and I saw an advert to work for them as a midi tracker. It was a great opportunity based in Lemington Spa, the Midlands. I went through the whole selection process but got pipped at the post by another candidate. I think I probably priced myself out of the market, I said I would have expected about £21k as a salary. You Aussies reading this will be laughing, that's about $35,000 a year, pretty much unliveable if you aim to be in Sydney and the inner suburbs. The UK is cheaper, but I think they were looking to pay more around the £18k mark, which was less than what I was earning as a waiter whilst living at home with my parents!
So I decided I would save and go to Australia on a working holiday visa. I booked my flights for February 2011 and expected to be gone for up to 18 months. I landed in Melbourne and stayed with my cousins and Aunty (divorcee of my Dad's brother some 25-30 years previously, I think we'd met once before she moved to Australia in the 90s with her late second husband, I would have been about 7 or 8 years old). I did the usual backpacker thing, minus the fruit picking, and settled in Sydney. Typically, because I knew it, I found work in the restaurant business and realised I could earn a good living, have fun and meet like-minded people. I worked my way through the ranks of runner at The Cut Bar and Grill (where I met my partner Keelie) to assistant manager at Saké Restaurant and Bar in The Rocks and when it was time to move on I took a Restaurant Manager role at a new venue in the City by the name of ABODE Bistro and Bar. When I realised that wasn't for me I joined Quay, Australia's most awarded and recognisable fine dining restaurant. All the while I was really yearning to make music a more prominent factor in my life. I missed it, I had no recording setup, I had one rusty cheap Epiphone acoustic I bought in Melbourne and over a few trips back to the UK had brought a few guitars with me, and purchased one more here. Quite a collection for someone not really doing anything with them apart from the odd jam by myself once or twice a week.
On the 27th May 2014 I took my first guitar lesson in over 6 years. I contacted Australia's own shred-master Chris Brooks and took a few months worth of lessons with him, focussing on resetting my technique and looking at improvisation ideas, modal concepts and 'exotic' scales like the melodic minor. I loved it, that man is a font of knowledge and a fabulous teacher and provided me with the inspiration to crack on. 6 months down the line I had got my ABN and was teaching mainly beginners at Five Dock Music School. I started off there as a substitute teacher, but by the time the school closed in June 2016 I was teaching 15 of my own students ranging in styles and abilities. I never once thought I would end up teaching. I never thought I'd have the patience for it, and trust me it has been tested. But I really enjoy it! It's very rewarding seeing young players develop and progress.
So that brings me to now. Now I run my own practice made up of some of the students I was teaching at Five Dock Music School, as well as still pulling the hours at Quay over the weekends, but I'm ready to make this business grow. 'And how?' I hear you ask. Well, I've always been a good jack of all trades, so I tend to carry that on into the future. I'll be posting free video lessons each week on my YouTube channel along with this blog which will provide back up content to that. I'll be trying to grow my local teaching practice but by the end of the year I wish to have released my first online lesson content which will be downloadable and purchased through my website www.matthurtmusic.com. I intend to carry on writing music and songs through collaboration and to create a portfolio of work of compositional material either for screen, radio, jingles etc. I am available as a guitarist too, of course. I just left a role in a covers band because we weren't getting any work, so to find a professional working band is another priority. All in all I think that by the end of this year I can prove to myself that living the life of a professional musician is a realistic goal. It may not be easy, or particularly financially rewarding at first, but hard work will always prevail.
To Be Continued...