The very first time I
heard a Matthew Jay song I literally stopped in my tracks. It was
the summer of 2001.
I had been ironing clothes in my sitting room, with the British
digital TV channel Play UK running videos in the background. I was
heading for the door, when a sweet unusually echoing guitar intro
caught my attention and I turned back. A video was just starting.
It was shot in black and white, and featured a vulnerable-looking
young man dressed in wonderfully out-of-date clothes, wandering
through a wild wood on a wet English afternoon. It had a dreamlike
quality, with everything shot in slow motion and wreathed in low-lying
mist. Dappled sunlight filtered through the trees out of a sky which
had only minutes before been full of rain clouds, and a happy crowd
of similarly out-of-time people tumbled past the youth into a clearing.
They looked like the kind of people I'd like to hang out with, and
reminded me of friends from long ago. Then the young man with the
sad eyes started singing, and his voice was as sweet as the nostalgia
that was filling my heart. His lyrics spoke of death, and futility,
and wasted opportunities, yet the gentle melody and his clear voice
provided a curious contradiction. This strange blend of melancholy
and hope touched a deep chord in me, and somehow managed at the
same time to uplift my spirits. I felt myself pulled into the scene,
wanting to be there with the innocents in this enchanting antidote
to 21st century stress, agression, complexity and greed.
The youth stumbled around the edges of the clearing whilst the other
players ran past him and began setting up an old-fashioned fun fair,
laughing as they did so. As they pulled the covers off a Victorian
helter skelter, colour began seeping into the faces and clothing
of the revellers, and suddenly the sad looking boy was in their
midst, being welcomed by all as if he'd always been with them. It
was as though he had been on the outside in a monochrome world,
looking in on a heaven filled with child-like souls who were playing
innocently with toys from a simpler bygone age, and he wanted to
be part of it.
Now he was enfolded by all that happiness and you could see the
look of joy on his face as he lay back in the swing boats, slid
down the helter skelter and helped his new friends balance on stilts.
The lyrics meanwhile reflected the story playing on the screen,
telling a tale of someone who has lived harmlessly but selfishly,
and now waits to find out if he is to be allowed to enter the gates
I hadn't seen or heard anything which had moved me so much in years,
and the lyrics in particular struck very close to home, echoing
so much of what I felt about my own life and the thoughts I had
about my worth as a human being. Spiritually speaking, the theme
that you reap what you sow was exactly what I believed, so it spoke
to me on that level too. The song was a wonderful contrast to every
other track which had played before and after: a beautiful gem,
sandwiched in the middle of all the comparative mediocrity. It shone
like a diamond and I was entranced.
video drew to a close, with the air of mysticism and retro idealism
maintained to the very last note, with the echoing exotic warbling
of the superb guitar work, the name 'Matthew Jay' came up on the
screen, and I saw that the track was called 'Please Don't Send Me
Away.' I'd heard of neither, but I was hooked from that moment.
When I bought 'Draw'
it was like falling in love. From the very first time I listened
to it I was addicted. You know what it's like when you first fall
for someone: there's an infatuation: you can't get enough of them.
So it was with this album. I'd listen to it on the bus on my way
to work, resenting the eight hours spent at my desk which robbed
me of the chance to hear the songs again. I wanted to listen to
them until I knew them inside out. After a few weeks things settled
down to the point that 'Draw' became like a collection of past lovers,
now best friends, whose arms I was relieved to sink into at the
end of a long day: familiar, comforting, perfect company.
It was strange that, like 'Please Dont...' other songs on the album
had lyrics whose stories were uncannily familiar to me. When I first
heard 'You're Always Going Too Soon' it made me catch my breath.
It was like a mirror image of a incident from my own past when someone
I loved very much died suddenly, very young. My parents live a few
doors away from his, so I can still sit on the pavement near his
house and watch the sun come down.
reminds me of a family I knew very well who struggled to put the
pieces of their lives back together following the loss of the father.
Just like in the song, the mother tried her best to hold things
together, attempting to console her two young sons and daughter
and find a way to make sense of it all. I remember how I watched
them all struggling and felt useless because I was only 14 and didn't
know what to do to make it better for them. I think that might have
been the point in my life at which I started giving serious thought
to how fragile our lives are and how important it is that we make
what we do count. I also became interested from then on in the afterlife
and this ultimately led me to Buddhism, so the themes of mortality
and morality, mixed with optimism and a love of life which are evident
in Matthew's work just make me see him as a kindred spirit. I guess
the bottom line is that he is writing the kind of songs that, if
I had that kind of talent, I'd be writing myself. He writes words
which are both insightful and witty, and strongly voicing a belief
in redemption, then pairs them with melodies which evoke strong
emotions reinforcing the feeling the lyrics pull from deep within
'Become Yourself' is
probably the song which speaks most clearly to me. It was my experience
of school to the letter. From the first time I heard it memories
came flooding back which I'd thought were long buried. What was
strangest was that when I did a bit of research to find out just
who Matthew Jay was, I was astonished to find that he came from
my home town. Suddenly, all the songs which already meant so much
to me became even more poignant. When I listened to the lyrics to
'Become Yourself' for the first time after finding out that Matthew
and I shared the same roots, the lyrics seemed even more powerful.
I had let 'people who don't have the voice' force me into conformity
and had never had the courage to follow my dreams. There are many
things I've always wanted to do, but have been afraid to try them
because they're not conventional. Then I look at Matthew. He's from
the same town as me, with a similar creative background and has
presumably had the same self-doubt, yet he's refused to hear those
who would knock him down, and chosen a path that's 'different from
the rest.' He had the courage of his convictions and chased his
dream, which is now our treasure. If he can do it, so can I. That's
why I set up this web site. It's my tribute to him and my way of
passing on Matthew's philosophy of 'anything is possible.' All of
his music illustrates the pleasure and rewards of a voyage of self-discovery,
exploration of new paths, all the time drawing strength from an
open mind and keen wit. He's a good role model. Following his example,
I took singing and guitar lessons in 2002, and have recently started
writing songs again, finally allowing myself to answer a nagging
voice which I've ignored for too long.
Some years ago another singer whom I greatly admire, Mark
Hollis, wrote a song called 'Life's
What You Make it,' whose lyrics woke me out of a wasting slumber.
In 2001 Matthew's songs were the last piece of the puzzle I needed
to complete the therapy and kick me out of bed. And for that I will
always be grateful.
Favourite Matthew moments:
The part of 'Let Your Shoulder Fall' towards the end (2.55 mins
in, if you want to be precise) following the last chorus when Matthew's
voice comes in over that fantastically hypnotic instrumental. It's
like that moment of perfect pleasure when, at the end of a long
hot summer's day, you take that first sip of an ice cold beer and
it gives you this wonderful hit of pure sensuality, which you feel
instantly spread through you like a forest fire. Gets me every time.
That place where the bass line slides (4.16) is great too, and that
bit where the guitar strings sound like they've had something dragged
along them and an echo added (4.08), and I especially love the stylus
dropping onto a record in time to the beat (4.41).
I love the end segment of 'Body and Eyes' with Olli's fantastically
retro Mellotron riff throughout the end segment (and of course the
innovative use of Kazoos)! <g>
The middle eight in
'Louie,' is hauntingly beautiful, particularly the very end of the
line 'Faith in love is just enough to hold on' where Matthew's voice
rises almost imperceptibly in an achingly plaintive way on the last
There are many more moments, but I'll leave it there.
Rachael - Webmaster, Crooked Smile