Songwriting gives me a place to take a breath

Tell us about the event you’re doing for MHF Live

I am playing a gig to promote the release of my first EP ‘Gone’ on 25th January 2019 at an incredible venue in London called Babel Art House. It’s an amazingly creative cafe with a really strong and diverse music ethos and great sense of community. I want to support MHF Live because I think it is a really good way to raise awareness and funding for a very important subject.

What’s your earliest musical memory?

The truth is probably group recorder lessons at school but I’d rather share the first musical memory that blew me away! That one is easy. Seeing the promo video for Billie Jean by Michael Jackson on Top of The Pops at my Gran’s. I just remember sitting on the floor cross-legged in front of her old TV in complete and total awe of what was happening in front of me. The song, the voice, the production, the dancing, the video. Also, there is so much space in that track and I always try and remember the importance of that in music!

What does music do for your mental health?

As a writer it’s a place I can go that I could not imagine my life without and I’ve felt like that for as long as I can remember. Songwriting has always been a place to take a breath, understand and process, kind of like journalling I guess in that way. As a listener I see a lot of the records that I know well and love as old friends that I call up to ground myself when life gets hectic. Music is also a great reminder that the beautiful moments we experience are the ones that we share and that the art of listening is so important. It might not always seem easy to just sit and listen but it’s a small thing that can make a big difference to someone.

Who is the musician who has most inspired you?

That is a really difficult question, there are just so many but I think I find it hard to look beyond Michael Jackson as a writer, singer and performer - just out of this world. Joni Mitchel is definitely up there too, her lyrics, the imagery in her songs - totally unique. I also want to mention my brothers who are both great musicians and have inspired me in different ways.

What makes you happy?

I love producing music. Building the layers of a new song in the studio, that process of hearing it grow with great musicians which I am really lucky that I get to do. Outside of music I love spending time with family and friends, travelling, photography, football and running helps me clear my thoughts.

What’s the best sound in the world? And the worst?

The best sound in the world has to be the birds! Even here in North London there’s a whole choir of them outside my window and they definitely raise the volume if I play my guitar and open the window, I love that. The worst sound has to be the urban fox! Cool animals, sure, but the noise!

What song is in your head just now?

Wichita Lineman written by Jimmy Webb and sung by Glen Campbell, it has been in my head all week for some reason and is a masterpiece.

Please tell us about (and share) a piece of music that has had an impact on your mental health.

It’s normally the lyrics that I gravitate to first in a song so the songs I visit to find strength are the ones with a lyric that provides guidance somehow. ‘The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion’ by The Black Crowes is a record that has got me through some difficult experiences for sure. ‘Thorn In My Pride’ is a song on that album that has always helped me zoom out and find acceptance - just such great words and what a band. 

Matthew James Day launches his EP at Babel Arts Cafe London on Friday 25th January, with all proceeds to Mental Health Foundation

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MHF Live is the Mental Health Foundation's new music fundraising initiative that aims to raise awareness, raise money and raise the roof for mental health.

Find out more about MHF Live