Picture: Rose-Marie Caldecott
There’s an air of maturity about Matt Corby that belies the Australian singer-songwriter’s 20 years. Corby left school when he was 13 to tour Australia when a band picked him up after hearing him sing Amazing Grace at his local church. With an ethereal, remarkably pure voice reminiscent of Jeff Buckley (he laughs and rolls his eyes when I point this out – it is a comparison that has been made before), it is easy to see why he was singled out as something special at such an early age. At 16 he was catapulted to fame when he was voted runner up in the hit TV talent contest, Australian Idol. Despite the whiskey and lime he’s drinking this afternoon in the pub garden of the Prince Albert in Notting Hill, despite his chain smoking and stubble, every now and again he gives a flash of his Peter Pan smile and he suddenly looks his age.
“Going in for Australia’s Idol was the biggest mistake of my life,” Corby grimaces. “I wasn’t ready for fame on that scale. It absolutely ruined me, it really did.” Corby tried to bring his own style to the project, but recalls how his choices for song covers barely made it through. “It was quite cleverly controlled by production. I did Death Cab and Damien Rice, which were a bit alternative, but they wouldn’t let me do a song that I wanted to do from a New York band called As Tall As Lions.”
Coming to London and playing at open mic nights has helped Corby to escape the music snobs who only saw him for his Australian Idol reputation in his homeland. The indie label and production company, Communion Music, has provided Corby with links to like-minded musicians. “People really get what I’m trying to do here.” The perfect antidote to his experience of commercial music as a fresh faced 16 year old, it seems.
While he’s released three EPs, and is finally making some headway in the very circles that once turned their noses up at him, he’s not in a hurry to release his first album. “I’m still really young, I have a lot of time and I want to do it right. I don’t want to release something because I’m being pushed. I’ll have something next year, and I’ll be able to say that I worked really hard on it. It’s going to be an interesting year.”