He starts with a joke, as often he does. It’s a way of disarming the interviewer, of bringing the engagement down to a more-manageable level.
Scott Matthews, Wolverhampton’s Ivor Novello Award-winning singer/songwriter, is back on the road.
Having seen his recent plans disrupted by Covid, he’s looking forward to a new tour, which visits Shrewsbury’s St Mary’s Church on September 16 and Birmingham's St Paul’s Church on September 17, among many other venues.
They’re not his first post-pandemic dates, of course. He returned last July, when lockdown ended, in glory, supporting his rock’n’roll mate and fellow Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, Robert Plant, as the Led Zeppelin icon hit the road.
Scott’s joyous that he’s back. Having had too much time on his hands during lockdown and having had to question whether he’d be able to continue, it’s been a blessed release to get on with the thing that he does best.
“It’s good to get back into touring.”
He’s been playing songs from his most recent record, New Skin, which marked a creative departure for him.
Having released a succession of stellar, acoustic-based records – think Nick Drake meets Paul Simon meets John Martyn – he decided to add a touch of Brian Eno and Thom Yorke to the mix as he journeyed into the world of electronica.
“Those electronic songs from New Skin have been really powerful. They’ve been quite impactful at shows. They’re really punchy and they’ve made me wonder about this type of music a lot more.”
The pandemic seems like a world away, already, though it made a considerable impact.
“It was a very real problem. As a working musician I couldn’t get on the road and play music to people. We had a large spell of having to improvise and that territory was very alien. Suddenly, that cycle that we’d created over the years wasn’t available to us. We couldn’t go on the road and play.”
He turned to the internet, performing online and interacting with his fans in a different way as he played a series of streamed shows. “Those were fruitful in so many ways. It was an eye-opening experience and still is. That will be ongoing.”
The pandemic was the latest twist in a career that was launched in earnest in 2006, when Scott became one of the nation’s foremost singer/songwriters.
Enjoying a hit with Elusive, earning plenty of radio play from discerning BBC DJs, supporting the Foo Fighters on their Skin and Bones tour and signing with Island Records, he enjoyed a propitious start.
The quality of his output improved over successive years, through to such beautiful records as Home Pt 1, Home Pt 2 and The Great Untold, between 2014 and 2018. New Skin followed in December 2020 and Scott had high hopes – many of which were dashed by Covid.
“We had to bring things back in. We had to stay home. It was like hibernating. We had no control over it. We had to take stock and understand it all over again.”
“I had to contemplate what my future would be. You know, we managed to survive. It was a learning curve. It made me really want to cherish it.”
He returned with his Black Country mate, Robert Plant, in July 2021. “My last show had been supporting Lucy Rose in 2019. That was near 2,000 people. I thought that had set us up for a great 2020. Fast forward 18 months or more and there was a call from Robert asking me to play some shows, at the end of Covid. So we went to do some shows.
“It was a very hot night the first night back and suddenly we went to playing for an audience of 1,000, from nothing. It was very surreal.
"We were all super cagey about navigating that world of packed theatres while we were still in the pandemic. Once the music started, it just exploded. It reminded me how infectious the whole thing is.
"The mistake I made was wearing a polo neck shirt, thinking I was James Bond. I was the warmest person in the venue.”
He's played with Robert Plant frequently, down the years, a result of mutual respect and their conjoined love of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“With Robert, instantly we’re talking about Wolves and an injury to one of the players. That’s the most important thing. Occasionally, he’ll hear me playing backstage. It’s nice. He’ll pop his head round the door. I’ve done two or three runs with that band. They are so warming.”
Scott became a dad in recent years, which makes touring a very different proposition to the one it once was.
“Touring is more difficult as a parent. I love going home more and more and more. But I still love being away, in England and Europe. We did two weeks in Europe which was incredible, though the car broke down and we had to hire a car for ten days.”
Post-Covid, Scott has changed the way he plays. Frequently, he’ll end a set by leaving the stage, walking into the audience and playing with an un-amped acoustic guitar.
“It’s mind-blowing. I unplug towards the end of the set and go into the audience and sing. Those have proved to be real moments on tour.
"People think I’m going to leave because I’m unplugging the guitar.
"Then I go into the audience and it’s another level of intensity. For the audience, it’s something really special. I saw people crying in front of me, for whatever reason.
"This one couple were in tears because they’d missed out on so much. Music is a great healer. It was cathartic. I don’t worry about anything anymore. I just embrace the experience.
"There is a carefree side to me that’s developed. That’s from being a dad and from Covid. I’m more relaxed about the way I am.”
He’s planning an acoustic recording of New Skin, with a further album following soon after. “I’m just as excited for the future as I was when I had that big record in 2006. I feel so fortunate that I can breathe life into it.”
Tour dates are available at scottmatthews.uk