For UK based artist Gray Matta, music has been his lifeblood from an early age and the soundtrack of every action. Spending a childhood in awe of his father’s musical knowledge and love of the 50s, he would sit and listen to him play along to the likes of Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee and The Everly Brothers on guitar, eventually learning the basic chords to start writing his own music. A keen desire to record the music he was writing soon developed at a very young age and he threw himself into a world of self-production that exists to this day. Occupying his time with learning as much as he could about music and playing with various techniques, he turned what was initially a coping mechanism for the tougher times into an arsenal.
“I started writing lyrics when I was around 5 or 6, I actually remember sitting with a friend and just making some lines up, my Dad helping me out on it too. The first song I wrote was called “Perfect Death” believe it or not and I recorded it on a tape player on which I sang acapella, before then cutting in the Slash solo from Guns and Roses version of “Live and Let Die”. I was hooked on creating music from that point.”
Growing up in the 90s, it was inevitable that a path of his own musical discovery would begin and soon he was infatuated with the thriving Hip-Hop scene of the time. With a mixtape including Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliot and Biggie and a copy of Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP under his arm, he began writing his own verses, melding the various genres and integrating himself with local and online communities to exercise his songwriting muscles more.
“I remember hearing “Brenda’s Got A Baby” by Tupac and that really cemented the idea of storytelling through music in a more direct way than folk and pop, which relied heavily on metaphors and suggestion. That always appealed to me.”
But the musical evolution didn’t stop there - as he entered his twenties, there was a world of new experiences and troughs to wade through - so a new found love of more genres from soul to crooner-jazz to the blues came into play and it all started to form his unique identity within music. Surrounded by other musical minds who challenged his writing even further and a mere few decades worth of experiences that most wouldn’t experience in a lifetime, he was soon creating songs that weren’t afraid to cross genres, explore the most honest of themes and be influenced by many, rather than boxing himself in.
Enter: Gray Matta. A musical project that takes its name from a deep affinity with the themes of duality, referencing Oscar Wilde’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray mixed with a play on the term “Grey Matter”, signifying both a change in writing style and state of mind. It wasn’t until later in life he identified the mood swings and character changes he’d experienced in life was depression, but during this time he took a few moments to understand who he really was in his own mind, whilst also discovering the tools to communicate what he was experiencing through talking, writing and sharing with others. Eventually, he reached a point where the emotions he was feeling were able to exist with a level of control.
“An area of reading that I related to during that time was the concept of duality. The idea that we are really two people, the self we show the world and the self we truly are within, seemed to resonate with me. I saw a lot of it in myself and it fascinated me.”
The debut EP Shadow Of Fire is a delve into the to-and-fro of a person’s mental health when submersed in everyday situations - the intricacies of how one deals with their own flaws, aspects of their life and what it means to exist and cope, all at once. Songwriting has always been a cathartic process, it’s been his own form of therapy for years, and it’s now, being in a place of self-awareness and having a desire to help others who are currently wading through the dark times themselves, where he finds the most focused project he’s worked on to date.
“After I wrote both “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Curtain Falls” I knew for sure where I was taking the project conceptually. I decided on it being an exploration of my own mental health and almost a narrative on overcoming the issues I had experienced, as if saying “I’m no medical professional, and I’m by no means the worst affected, but here is what worked for me”. I wanted to see if I can help others in the same boat, but couldn’t reconcile that the the songs alone were enough. That was the reason I decided any money raised by song and ep sales on this project would be donated to the charity Mind.”
Consequently, Gray Matta's self-produced EP, Shadow Of Fire, wrestles with the overwhelming nature of understanding and hones in on years of being influenced by a plethora of genres, melding them into one cohesive sound. Boasting influences that range from Junkie XL, Justin Timberlake and Bobby Bland to Laura Marling, Xzibit and Depeche Mode, the EP is a bold and confident approach to music, one that isn’t afraid to wear its influences and themes on its sleeve and push the boundaries whilst doing so.