Roots & All


With Kim Cheshire

Matt Fell

Generally speaking I suspect that the majority of music fans neither know nor care who produces an album and probably very few ever bother to read the credits. But with most genres there has always been a small army of devoted fans who really do want to know absolutely everything about the recordings of their heroes. I would assert that there are few in either camp that really understand the role of the producer and what it might involve, and the task of producing a record can vary with each act and to some degree with each genre. Occasionally you’ll find a multi-skilled producer who likes to jump from one genre to another, but it’s rare.

Our subject today, producer Matt Fell, happens to be one of those ambitious, endlessly curious and open minded practitioners of the art, never wanting to stay in the same place too long. I caught up with him on a short break in his busy schedule whilst the drums get set up for the first day of recording for a new Sara Storer CD, his third for Storer…and he’s as excited as a kid in a toy store.

Here’s a man who loves his job and talks about it with the unfettered enthusiasm of a newcomer – and he’s far from that.

Matt’s resume for 2015 so far:  JohnWilliamson-Honest People. Shane Nicholson-Hell Breaks Loose. Fanny Lumsden-Small Town Big Shot. Amber Lawrence-Superhero, Brothers 3- Brothers Never Part. Greta Ziller-Hells Half Acre. Dana Hasall (TBC) Justin Standley (TBC) Plus singles and EP’s for Matt Cornell, JonnyTaylor, Jonathan Holmes, Karen Craigie and Michelle Driver…

So it’s been a big year?

Yeah it has been a big year! So many different projects, different styles, different personalities. It’s been varied and excitingly, most enjoyable.”

It’s one of the great things about watching your career develop, it’s not been one dimensional, its covered the spectrum!

Absolutely, I’d go crazy if I just did the one style of music, I didn’t grow up listening to one style of music and I really enjoy going from style to style, it keeps you inspired, it keeps it fresh and most importantly it keeps you from settling into habits and repeating yourself, and that’s the hardest thing to do.”

I love Shane Nicholson’s album, I think it’s the best thing he’s done. It’s great that he was brave enough to step away from producing himself and hand control over.

“As far as recording experiences go working with Shane is about as good as it gets. He was able to let go, he trusted me with his music and that’s a big thing for any artist, but especially for an artist that is also a producer too and who is used to being master of  his own work. Because he is so gifted and talented and has such a great knowledge of making records, if he’s working with someone coming from the same place it is so much easier to trust that person and it works both ways, if he’s got an Idea, I know that it’s coming from the right place. Most of the bad stuff that happens in a studio usually comes from inexperience or insecurity, so with an artist like Shane that just doesn’t exist, he’s done the work and knows what he’s talking about…John Williamson is a great example of that too.

Really, that’s interesting!

“He’s produced every single record he’s done.”

I wasn’t aware of that…

“When you’ve been doing albums a certain way as long as he has, and been as successful as he has been you have no reason to change, but he decided he wanted to this time around and it was amazing, one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had making a record, he was just wonderful!

So what was his reasoning for changing that?

“I’m not really sure. He loved what I’d done with Sara and Greg Storer and he came and sang on Sara’s last album and I think he just really enjoyed it. And although John and I are very different people I think we share a similar approach to music – and he’s a bit of a renegade John, he follows his own path and his own rules and I love that about him.”

Tell me about your own project, Mighty Big Noise?

“Well my wife Amber Rae Slade, she and I have been gigging around a lot the last year or so. It’s just the two of us but I’ve been very determined right from the start to not be an acoustic duo…we try and make as much noise between the two of us as possible. We are both playing drums, I’m playing a baritone guitar…somewhere between a bass and a guitar combined and she plays guitar and banjo, we’ve come up with what I think is a sound that’s different and exclusively ours…kinda White Stripes meets Shovels and Rope I guess! “

So what’s the plan?

“We just need to finish the record we’ve started… we have a label that is really keen to sign us. They love it and are just waiting for the record to be finished…hopefully we’ll get it out next year and do as many gigs as possible.”

So will it remain just the two of you….even live?

“We plan to resist the temptation to add other musicians or backing tracks and just try and make as much music as two people can with four hands and four feet. There’s a power in that simplicity and we’re going to stick with that approach.”

Robert Ellis live at The Farm Byron Bay

Byron Bays’ hippest new venue The Farm encompasses a restaurant “Three Ducks”, a farm homing  poultry, pigs and cattle, flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables plus outlets for fresh baked bread, flowers, general produce and environmental and self sustainability education, featuring a range of workshops covering mushroom cultivation, fermentation, beekeeping, permaculture design, organic growing, natural building and more and finally the reason I was here: for their most recent venture…entertainment.

For a mere $20.00 we were treated to an intimate evening with Texan singer songwriter Robert Ellis. A predominantly (yet I suspect quietly lascivious) female contingent dominated the crowd that turned out for a pensive evening of classy musical manoeuvres and insightful lyrical observations. Ellis a charming, handsome 25 year old musician/songwriter handles himself like an old pro, with a quiet elegance and a self deprecating sense of humour. He regaled us with stories and songs covering roller skating, sex dreams, his distaste for organised religion and of course a song he wrote for George Jones….every songwriter in Nashville has got one and like most of these purpose built compositions, Jones probably never got to hear it.

The Farm, usually a haven for bushy beards, man buns etc was tonight taken over by an attentive crowd of local 40-60 year old Roots music aficionados and local musicians along with the aforementioned ladies in waiting who were more than ready to storm the stage when Ellis offered his hand in marriage to anyone willing to give him the opportunity to come and live in Byron Bay. Within a couple of songs he was effortlessly in the zone where he remained for the rest of the evening while delivering his intimate yet conversational style creations. Covering songs from all three of his albums plus a few new compositions, highlights were ‘TV Song’ “I am on vacation in a life someone else wrote,” ‘Steady as the Rising Sun’ a song he wrote with Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith and the aforementioned ‘Sing Along’ about his loss of faith and finishing up with a stellar version of Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’. I wandered off into the night past the merchandise counter where numerous women were no doubt offering to help with that visa application.