The latter part of 2015 was a tumultuous time for Mat McHugh. Having written, recorded and released his FREE album – WAVES (www.matmchugh.bandcamp.com/album/waves) – Mat had to cancel his Australian tour last September after only a few shows due to extensive neck and back injuries. Rather than go through potentially voice-damaging or mobility threatening surgery, Mat sought out specialists who have been stretching, manipulating and poking him with acupuncture needles five days a week for the past 5 months to get him back to the point where he could again pick up and play his guitar.
Says Mat: “I’m still on the road to recovery but I’m feeling a lot better than I was a year ago. I’ve been working hard every single day and changed my lifestyle a lot so the whole experience has turned into a positive”.
Mat completed the sold-out Summer Sound System tour in January 2016 with The Beautiful Girls around Australia, performing, for the first time, solely as the band’s singer due to the health risks posed by playing an instrument. Buoyed by the enjoyment and success of those shows, Mat
announced a run of special intimate performances across Australia throughout May/June 2016 as part of the MAT McHUGH SOLO 2016 Tour. For this tour, Mat performed in stripped back mode, giving fans an ‘up-close and personal’ show and featured songs from his solo albums Waves, Love Come Save Me and Seperatista!.
This will be the format of the show that Mat brings to Ballina in November this year. The live performance showcases Mat’s career as a singer, songwriter, producer and performer with huge variety of influences as well as plenty of twists and turns in his musical journey.
The Beautiful Girls kicked it all off in 2002 with the debut EP, Morning Sun. The track Periscopes became a certified Triple J radio hit that summer and the Goodtimes EP, followed that same year. In 2003, The Beautiful Girls released their debut album, Learn Yourself followed by another EP, The Weight Of The World in 2004.
Three more albums succeed, We’re Already Gone (2005), Water (2006) and Ziggurats (2007). Ziggurats’ main single, I Thought About You, was nominated for Blues & Roots Work of the Year at the 2008 APRA Awards. The album Spooks released in 2010, peaked at number 18 on the ARIA charts, debuted at number 1 in the Australian Independent Chart and number 7 in the US Billboard Reggae Albums Chart. Spooks, which Mat recorded with longtime co-producer Ian Pritchett, was described as ‘a majestic production where stylistic threads run deep’ which showcased Mat’s ever-solid song writing and his skill as a player of many instruments and producer.
In the eight years to 2010, McHugh and the collective that comprised the live version of The Beautiful Girls, chalked up a dozen world tours, travelling to Japan, Europe, Canada, the United States and South America. As McHugh says about live performance “To me, music is far too precious to exist in a box, I think a song is born and dies in a moment and in that, becomes a new definition. Playing live, I never know what’s going to happen and that’s exactly the way I like it. As long as there is love there though, everything will be okay”.
The second American tour of 2010 proved the watershed event of that year for McHugh. Invited to open for John Butler, he took to the stage alone with just an acoustic guitar and “fell in love with it.” “A combination of pulsing rhythm, emotive vocals and philosophical lyrics, they really couldn’t go wrong. Along with their magnetic performance, these guys killed the crowd with dancing” – One of many reviews of Mat McHugh and The Beautiful Girls during their sold out Tour.
In 2010, McHugh ‘rested’ The Beautiful Girls while he encountered the joys of fatherhood for the first time, not sure whether that moniker would be used again. He released a solo album, Love Come Save Me in January 2012 then toured the USA and his beloved South America in 2013 for a series of solo live performances, all the while holding his past work close to him stating that, “All those Beautiful Girls tracks plus new and solo songs are on the short list for the live set. It’s all part of the work I do”.
McHugh’s second solo effort, Love Come Save Me, was incredibly popular and opted to release it free as a download, the physical version, available from his website and at gigs, with three additional tracks, a percentage from sales of which was donated to the Surfrider Foundation’s SurfAid program.
Mat continued this philosophy of giving his music away for free with the 2015 release Waves which currently has over 100,000 downloads from Mat’s bandcamp page. A deeply personal and stripped back album; “WAVES is inspired by my father, who passed away when I was ten. One of my fondest memories of him is his love for his guitar, an old acoustic that he used to play around the house on a regular basis. When I was cleaning out some things last year, I stumbled upon that exact guitar and decided to see if I could fix it up. I wanted to see if it still had any songs in it. With a bit of tweaking and restringing I was able to bring it back to life, recreating that sound I remember so clearly from my childhood. That guitar is responsible for WAVES – every song was written on it and it made its way onto every track on the album”, Mat says.
As one reviewer stated; “McHugh’s voice is pretty near faultless, as it generally has been over the past ten-plus years, and there are some pretty special moments between him and the crowd during long-time cherished tunes like Let’s Take The Long Way Home, Periscopes and Blackbird”. – themusic.com.au