Tell us about your solo project, The Whispering Pines’ how did you come by the name? What was the decision making process that made you decide to make a solo record as against a band effort? 

I am always writing songs, it’s a constant exercise for me so I regularly release solo work under various different guises. I have released albums as ‘Blue Vinyl Island’ before but I’m currently the Whispering Pines. I don’t make a conscious effort to produce a record without my band, The Lucky Strikes, as we are always working and playing, so my solo records just happen alongside the band. My solo work certainly explores a different side to my song writing and allows me the freedom to try soundscapes that don’t necessarily fit with the ethos of the Lucky Strikes and also allows me to work with other musicians who I admire and who I can call friends.


As for the name, well, the album is very much focussed on quietude and calm and where I live you can hear the trees rustling in the evening breeze, so I wanted to reflect the mindset I have when experiencing that. It’s also a fantastic song by The Band, who I greatly admire.


If somebody had not heard your solo music, how would you best describe what they are likely to hear?


I hear a lot of noises in my head so my solo material is quite eclectic. You would be safe if you labelled it lo-fi alt. country but there’s lots of hammered dulcimer, multi-layered recorders and pedal steel in there. I wanted to convey mysticism through this record, like a dreamscape so I hope it could be described as ambient, mysterious, a record with lots of nooks and crannies.


How did you get the chance to join the Simone Felice group?


I am very lucky to have Simone as a friend. I met him about two years ago in Cardiff when I was playing lap steel for a country band that was supporting him. He took one look at my case and asked me what was in there; I said a lap steel and the next thing I knew I was on stage that night playing around on songs I had only just heard. The fact I knew Neil Young songs helped.




As part of the Simone Felice Group you play a lap steel guitar, an acoustic guitar and a mandolin. Where / how did you learn to play and what was the major influence on you to play the guitar?


Good question. I make a lot of music and growing up I always wanted these weird and wonderful instruments on my songs but I never knew anyone who could play them so I ended up buying cheap instruments and figuring out how to play them myself. I’ve never had formal training on mandolin, banjo, lap or pedal steel guitar and I play them very much the way I play them – I have no outside influences.


In terms of major influences on me picking up the guitar, well, there are lots. The first major influences were Rory Gallagher and Mark Knopfler, I was about 14/15 years old and absolutely agog at the sounds they could get. I could quote you fifty guitarists that inspire me but I might get carried away.


If money was no object, what new guitar would you most like to own and why?


Ha ha! A Gretsch Duo Jet (Green), A Gretsch White Falcon, A Jagmaster, a black 1962 Telecaster with white binding, A 1948 National Steel Guitar, A 1967 Gibson Hummingbird and I’d need a few pedal steels as well… said money was no object.


 Is there any influence of your hometown ( Southend-on-Sea ) in any of the music you make?


Enormously so. The environment in which I write is incredibly influential on my mood and my writing style. Southend is a very interesting place, it is packed in the summer time with day trippers and that can feed your energy when writing and I write quite hectic stuff in the summer months but in the winter it is quite desolate with its salt marshes and sea mist which leads to a more meditative style. In terms of the music scene you have a great palette to dip into as well. You have a great rock and roll heritage there with Dr. Feelgood and Eddie and the Hotrods but it’s also incredibly folky, maritime folk, heavy metal. It’s a melting pot. The Lucky Strikes are in fact working on our fourth record which is cataloguing some of the folk tales and stories, modern and old, of our hometown.


Where did you play your first public gig and when?


I was fifteen and played a youth club in Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea. I was the guitarist in a band called Thunderstruck and we played to about twenty people. We were terrible but I felt ten foot tall afterwards.


You have just finished the Simone Felice UK tour and now you are straight back to your solo project, the Whispering Pines and your band The Lucky Strikes. Is there any downtime as a musician and if so, how do you like to spend it?


There is not a lot of down time but I love keeping busy with my music and writing my songs. Reading is a great passion of mine and the Strikes and Felice tour buses are always filled with chat about latest books and favourites. I belong to a writers club where I can just write with like minded people, I am obsessed with coffee and the social opportunities it brings and I’m an avid record collector….I collect things in general, I like to think of myself as an archivist and historian.


What music publication did you really enjoy in school/college days and can you recommend any print media of today?


I didn’t read many magazines at college but I do read Mojo and Uncut and Americana UK. I used to read a lot of the free fanzines and magazines at venues and bars and often think these make for interesting reading. I am a big fan of R2 (formerly Rock N Reel) as I think they cover a wider spectrum of music within their pages while maintaining a consistent quality.


Back to Schooldays, what were the most popular albums / CDs being exchange/copied in the playground when you were there?


Albums that all my peers seemed to own were Skunk Anansie, Green Day, and Guns n Roses. I was unhip and preferred Thin Lizzy, Neil Young, Rory Gallagher and the Bee Gees.


On your recent travels have you discovered any cool music or record stores?


I played a showcase at Canada Music Week in March at a record shop called Sonic Boom in Toronto. It’s absolutely huge for a start and they have anything you could possibly dream of, good vinyl selection too and knowledgeable staff. Jumbo Records in Leeds is also a recent find and well worth a visit if you want to find some interesting new albums. My new musical discoveries have been Mariee Sioux, Blind River Scare and Bob Dylan’s ‘Street Legal’. I know the latter is not particularly new but it was for me!


You were recently pictured with Simone at BBC Radio 2 with Bob Harris. What was the occasion and was there anything that particularly surprised you about Whispering Bob?


There is a great but harrowing story behind that picture! Simone and myself were booked to pre-record a live session for Bob Harris’s show on the morning we returned from New York. I had managed to catch some sort of fever while over in the States and had not eaten or slept for about thirty hours when we touched down at Heathrow. I could barely move my eyes around without shooting pains racing through my brain. We stayed at a friend’s flat in Islington for about two hours where I had a pretty low moment wondering whether I would ever be able to sleep or eat again but we made it to the show frail, exhausted but happy to be there. You can see from the picture that me and Simone look like we’ve just come off the trail.


Bob was a true gentleman and host. I used to stay up late and listen to him when I was still at school so the chance to meet him was a great opportunity.


How important do you think it is to embrace Social media (facebook, twitter, Tumblr.myspace etc) when promoting music today. CMU have just released their own course in the subject . Also do you think myspace has any musical relevance left?


I like paper and posters and tangible things but social media is vital, I think, to any band. It is a positive thing because you can reach so many different people across the world and without Facebook I would not be conversing with people in America, Canada or Sweden about my music. It is exciting you can create communities of like minded people through websites and things like Twitter and in terms of organising and promoting concerts and releases it is great. Saying that, however, music is art and social media must not replace the craft of performing and conveying your music. For me, the artwork on a CD and accompanying booklet is as important as the music itself and social media does have a clinical context that does not always sit well with my artistic aesthetic.


In terms of myspace, I think it has been overtaken by Twitter and Facebook. In centuries to come it will make for a great historical resource, all those bands and people and views and thoughts and messages floating like a time capsule waiting to be tapped. I wonder what it will say about our music culture.





Album Details


Artist: The Whispering Pines

Album: The Whispering Pines

Label: Stovepony Records

Release Date: 14th May 2012

Availability: At all good record shops and online.


Tour Dates


11th May - The Wheelbarrow, Camden, London

18th May - The Railway, Southend

25th May - The Ship, Leigh-on-Sea (Matt solo)

16th & 17th June - Big Sessions Festival, Derbyshire (Whispering Pines)

19th June - Leigh Folk Club

22nd June - Rugfest, Wallingford

24th June - Leigh Folk Festival  (Whispering Pines)

The Lucky Strikes on facebook