WINKING AT POP MUSIC
Matt Corby has come a long way from his solo folk beginnings. Here he takes us into the creative process behind his colourful new second album, Rainbow Valley.
by Chris Familton
The album title suggests some kind of idealised nature-based community where everything exists in harmony and for Corby and his family, that’s why they’ve settled in the area of the same name, in the lush surrounds of Northern NSW. “The house is situated in an amazing tropical paradise where you only really hear birds. With that kind of silence comes a certain amount of focus. I wouldn’t have made an album that sounds like this if it was somewhere that wasn’t picturesque,” Corby believes. “It was fitting to call it Rainbow Valley because it marks the place that was needed to facilitate the record coming into existence. It’s quite a sunny feel through most of it but it does have some dark moments too. It’s quite happy in an introspective way,” he adds.
The physical process of finding inspiration and capturing those ideas has become music easier in Corby’s home, with the studio he’s set up there. “I have a space I can come to where everything is set up and ready to go with mic channels, a drum kit, synths, guitars and amps. That’s made the workflow heaps easier. I can go in there on a good week and do a couple of good songs.”
Over a string of early EPs, Corby made his name with a strong folk sound that gained comparisons to Jeff Buckley and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but he increasingly added soul and psychedelic influences. ARIA Awards and high charting singles followed, culminating in his debut album Telluric hitting #1 on the Australian charts. Now he’s taken the rich and modern psych-soul sound of that album and added some fascinating new angles and colours.
“I think it’s a continuation in my weird way. I never really want to make one thing again. This one is slightly more pop. It’s not necessarily pop music but it’s winking at it quite heavily. I could have gone really weird, which I naturally want to do, or have a crack and make something that is really palatable for lots of people without compromising too much,” says Corby.
The genesis of Rainbow Valley came from a few songs that didn’t make the final cut for Telluric. Corby then spent a year jamming and experimenting in his home studio with longtime friend and musical foil Alex Henriksson before he was ready to head to Byron Bay to again work with producer Dann Hume and put together the album. “Alex and I like the experimental phase and not necessarily the hard work of refining songs and trimming them and getting lyrics and melodies concise. We’d just put beats down and do fun sounding stuff. It got me to the point where when I was seriously writing songs for the album, 18 months ago, I had had all that experimentation behind me so it was easy in the moment to know what to do and reference those jams and pull bits out and use them,” Corby explains.
Corby’s creativity has evolved and matured to a point where he plays all the instruments on Rainbow Valley and he’s found the confidence and musical ability to find the sweet spot where a variety of genres blend seamlessly, where traditional and ultra modern sounds coexist and with a balance between experimentation and commercial viability.
“More and more I’m conscious of others in my creative process. I used to be against what others thought ‘fuck you, this is my art!’ Now that I’ve digested a lot of other music I understand things like what genres and time period things fit into and what referencing those does for a modern audience. It probably comes from doing music for a long time and it definitely comes into play when I make music,” Corby reflects. “When I hit something that feels good, I usually feel good because I think that other people will probably like it, which is kind of cool. Hopefully I’ve got that right on this record.”