The band is back together and just off the plane from their European and UK tour, The Beautiful Girls are taking a short break to recuperate before embarking on their 15th anniversary Australian tour, starting later this month. Mat McHugh has released multiple projects since his solo career began in 2008 and toured Europe three times in the last year, mixing up his shows with Afro Dave from The Beautiful Girls to playing just with his acoustic guitar.
Mat had a chat to us about his journey as an artist over the last 15 years and how important it is to remain humbled.
How are you going?
Good. I got back from Europe a couple of weeks ago and just been bumming around, its been good, a bit of bumming around its never too hard to get stuck into.
What was it like being back over there? Was everyone stoked to have you guys back?
Well that was my 4th tour in 10 months so I've spent 3 months there out of the last 10. But it was the first one as The Beautiful Girls so yeah it was cool, it was like super arduous, there was a show every single day and heaps of driving, id forgot about how arduous doing full band shows could be, but it was really good, the shows were really fun.
When you tour just as yourself you do more solo performances?
In Europe I've had a couple of different things, there was a couple of times where I was doing loops and then there was a guy just doing beats, so it was like a two piece thing. I did two of those, one with a German guy and one with Afro Dave who works with Beautiful Girls, and then I did my first ever solo tour where I just had a guitar and thats it, but I did one with Bobby Alu, and we got on stage with no tricks just an acoustic guitar and that was super cool actually. It makes you nervous but it can be pretty magic if its the right night with the right people.
It makes it a little more intimate when its just you up there.
Yeah and it relies on different stuff, like the crowd getting involved and singing and sometimes it sounds like a choir, it can be really amazing. Its different to a band show, but touring overseas with a band is super expensive as an independent artist, so my intention is building my name overseas and when I can afford to have a band then ill definitely have a band.
Is there a specific place in Europe that really loves having you guys when you're there?
Amsterdam was really great thats usually one of the highlights, we haven't been to London in a while and the London show was crazy. Overall it was really fun, we played a couple places we've never been to, north of the Netherlands and some smaller German towns and they were pretty interesting, really south and in the depths of Bavaria.
Do you get lots of people travelling out there to see you?
Yeah they're not as big as the big cities but we played in a town in the north of the Netherlands called Groningen which is a university town and we played a festival down there and that was a pretty big festival for that town so it was massive. Some of these other towns are college towns and people are pretty switched on, even if they haven't heard of a band they will come and check it out. The venues are smaller, but because theres not bands every day people will come, so its a good way of introducing music to people who might not have heard it before.
Especially an Australian band too people would love that.
Yeah its always the way on the road, you can play your big cities on Thursday, Friday, Saturday Sunday and theres always a few nights in-between and have a day off or go somewhere you haven't been and play a show to people who haven't heard of you. Our mission if were overseas is lets just go and play, these are smaller places you've never been to are the most interesting.
Do you have a dream venue? Or have you already played there?
Theres not really many venues that I really love that I haven't got a chance to play at, there is one good one I haven't had a chance to in the States, Red Rock in Colorado would be pretty amazing, I've seen footage of John Butler and Xavier playing there and a bunch of mates bands in America and it looks pretty epic. Ive seen a show there but I've never got a chance to play there so fingers crossed, thats probably the one.
Most of the venues I like are about 1-2 thousand, nice big beautiful old theatres and buildings and I've got to play most of the ones I think are amazing so I've been pretty lucky.
You toured with John Butler for a bit didn't you?
Yeah I did, my first ever solo tour I toured all over the states supporting John. He was massive, I couldn't comprehend how big the guy was over there, it was scary. I agreed to do it and I was like yeah this will be fun and then the first venue was like some 4 thousand venue theatre or something and I was like oh my god what have I signed onto here and he just crushed it, was really great. Theres not many people in the music business, if any, that I have more respect for than John, and his whole crew. He's just legit, he treats people well, what he comes across as is what he actually is which isn't always the case in the music business. He's set a really good bench mark for independent artists.
Most people that are really good at something and I'm not talking about famous but people that are really talented at something are generally pretty mellow from my experience, you're humbled by what you do. He's a beast on the guitar but I think he picks up a guitar and he's so humbled by it. If you're humbled by what you do then that transfers into who you are as a human.
Did you ever get to points in your career where you realised you were becoming a little but famous?
Not really, I always had the same thing how John Butler feels with his guitar with songwriting, I always feel like my best song is the one I haven't written yet. I’ll be playing shows and people will be feeling it and relating to it in their own way but for me I'm in my head thinking if i’d just done that or I'm always thinking ways to pay respect to the art of what I'm doing. Im definitely humbled by that and feel like I don't know what I'm doing every time. I cant understand how I would have the cockiness to act like I'm some big shot, because id just be pretending. Im humbled by anyone who thinks its decent enough to want to come and listen to it. Because I'm humbled by that I feel the responsibility to actually get better and make an even better song for the people that thought that song was good.
Thats so inspiring because I think there are a few artists that have forgotten that along the way.
Yeah I don't know if I would call them artists though, thats the difference between artists and maybe performers or entertainers or famous people. Theres a lot of people that make music where there motivations are to be famous and to have a sense of power, I think the important things are the things you will be humbled by, fame and money and all those things are just false idles. You fall for them and they distract you from the truth for a minute.
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