This article was originally featured in ASBO MAGAZINE; Issue 11
Seeing an artist with over 100 million streams on Spotify makes you glamourise them. You may start imagining the luxurious lifestyle they must be living. You visualise them eating caviar on toast for breakfast and taking baths in a gold tub – okay, perhaps that’s an extreme exaggeration, but there probably are people who will assume that big Spotify artists are of extravagant people, who wear brand-new fits every single day, and have personal chauffeurs and stylists that automatically make them stand out from the crowd. This bubble was burst for me once I met Matt Maltese. Spending a day with the viral indie pop artist, who prefers to shop at charity stores and go as unnoticed as possible, has really taught me that some people, even those who are successful musicians, will choose to pursue their passion in return for keeping the simplest lifestyle possible.
He walked into a Deptford-based studio looking modest (to me, he also resembled Paul McCartney’s lost grandson); messy hair, with an outfit that would blend into a packed street of ordinary people. Black straight trousers and a half-zip windbreaker to help fight London’s tit-freezing weather. “Should we get you all glammed up for the interview?” Un-fussed, he shrugged his shoulders and gave a friendly expression, truly telling of his unpretentious and easy character right from the first encounter.
Since dropping ‘As The World Caves In’– an apocalyptic love song about Theresa May and Donald Trump shaking sheets as they prepare to blow the world up – the Reading born and raised singer songwriter, who describes his music as ‘on the soft side’, has become a TikTok sensation. But perhaps what also helped to connect Matt Maltese with the world has been the recognition of mega-huge artists like Doja Cat, who shouted him out on her Instagram story.
Apart from his mellow voice, what makes Matt Maltese a one-ofa-kind musician is his ability to tie humour and sadness together and turn it into something truly special, the type of music that helps empathise with the world and makes people feel just a little less alone. So much so, that Maltese has even been labelled as one of the leaders of ‘schmaltz core’, a “new wave of crooners bringing soft-pop to adoring adolescent fans“.
But his artistic approach is no coincidence, Maltese shares that his sad and simultaneously witty style of music is actually inspired by the way in which he processes things in his everyday life. “I tend to process stuff by using humour, even in serious and sad situations.”, he says. “I think always making light of those things is important to me and it helps me get through this life on the brighter side. So, I guess that just naturally happens in songs
as well.” – There’s a life lesson people, approach sadness with humour so that you’re not sad, boom.
Ten minutes into the interview and Maltese opened up. “What challenges have you faced being in the music industry so far?” I ask. He shares that even though he’s able to do what he loves; the music industry has not made it an easy ride at all, and this is something that should be brought up much more frequently in conversations. “I’ve been dropped before, which wasn’t that nice. Lots of people taking your money, lots of people not having good intentions. It’s savage and brutal and I think there’s a lot to be gained from people talking about that more and people not looking at it with rose tinted glasses, because there’s some evil f*ckers out there.” It is no lie that although being signed to Atlantic Records brought some BS into his life, being dropped didn’t bring instantaneous joy either, as Maltese puts it, “it’s a similar situation to someone who you don’t want to be with, ending things. It still does hurt.”
Speaking on his roots, Maltese, who originates from Canada, says that he feels as British as he feels Canadian, and just like it wouldn’t be a roast dinner without the gravy, it also wouldn’t be Matt Maltese without the influence of both North American and British culture. “I think because I have a Canadian family, I’ve always had an affinity for North American culture. Just even growing up watching sitcoms like Curb Your Enthusiasm and spending Christmases in Canada, and I guess their sense of humour and way of being is different than British culture. But I think equally I just feel British in a lot of ways too. So, I don’t think I have a preference. I love elements of both, and I think that if I spend too long in one, I end up missing the other.”
At the shoot, the hit-breaker pulls off all fits thrown at him so naturally. The Oasis Brit-poppy look suits him tremendously, leading me into the question of how he would describe his fashion sense. To my surprise (or perhaps not , considering that he’s effortlessly humble like a burger bun with no mayo), his answer is “I don’t know, I don’t really have much to say about my fashion sense, I just like being comfortable”.
Words by Gabriela Jimenez
Photography by Sebastian Garraway
Styling by Aimee Armstrong