CAREER KARAOKE OR IDOL FAME – PART 2 – MATT CORBY

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Brother (M Corby) 2011 and Resolution (M Corby) – Matt Corby 2013

Matthew John Corby (1990) was born and raised in Oyster Bay (NSW) and attended the Innaburra High School, where he experienced bullying and failed to complete Year 12.  In his teens Corby was steeped in gospel music and played guitar with a Christian motivational youth band called Iron and Clay, who toured nationally in schools, churches, and festivals, and this was a period that Corby later reflected on with some misgivings, as being immature and preachy. Below- Teenage Matt Corby, Iron and Clay, Post-Idol Corby.

In 2007 at the age 16, he auditioned for the fifth season of Australian Idol, and finished runner-up to Melbourne singer Natalie Gauci, after being strongly favoured to win. Throughout Idol he performed a standard collection of karaoke jukebox favourites including songs by Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Bobby Darin, and the good-looking, guitar-slinging surfer emerged as the heartthrob favourite, and a potential teen idol, should he choose to pursue that career path. Below – Idol finalists 2007 Matt Corby and Natalie Gauci.

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He subsequently described the whole Idol experience as a mistake, which left him confused about his future musical directions, and struggling to deal with depression and anxiety, he knocked back a recording deal with Sony and sidestepped the standard pop star route pre-planned for Idol winners and runners-up. He would more scathingly reflect on his Idol experience in the future, “I realise it didn’t really matter in the end, but there’s always been a popular perception thing with doing a show like that, it stops people from letting themselves like what you do, because it’s tainted by that”. It would be nine years after his Idol experience that Corby would reveal his distaste for the phony celebrity associated with talent shows like Idol, in the eighth track on his debut album Telluric, We Could Be Friends “Emphatic erratic automatic do-gooder cash cow/I can safely say I’m no better or no worse now/I’m too idealistic to ever meet my expectations/I’m a child star contestant on a show too overrated”. In 2008 he spent time in the UK and hooked up with Communion Records (Mumford & Sons), where he began to develop his song writing skills and learn how to effectively express himself via his music.

His second EP My False was released in 2010, followed later that year by his third EP Transition to Colour, for the next year he would travel and perform in the UK and US, returning to Australia in 2011 where he developed new songs for his fourth EP, Into The Flame recorded at One Flight Up studios in St. Peters (Syd) with producer Tim Carr (Julia Stone, Jay Z, Urthboy). It would be this EP that delivered his commercial breakthrough when it peaked at #3 on the ARIA Singles Chart, and by April 2012, had sold in excess of 490,000 copies. His song Brother won the ARIA Music Award for Best Song of the Year and he would become the 26th Australian male singer and the 100th Australian act to reach the number one position on the ARIA albums chart with his debut album Telluric (2016).

Obviously the track that really ignited his fourth EP was the haunting, emotional lament of Brother, a song inspired by an incident in which Corby fell out badly with a close friend after he betrayed his confidence by sleeping  with his mate’s girlfriend, the lyrics are heartfelt and regretful, yet there seems no way this friendship can be salvaged ”Somebody call out to your brother/He’s calling out your name/Oh oh oh/ Hiding under the covers/With no one else to blame/Oh oh oh/You couldn’t help out your own neighbour/ You couldn’t tell it to his face/ You were f….d up by the blame …”     

Huge debut hit for Matt Corby after he had rejected the offer of a Sony recording contract, post -Idol.

Corby brought a unique vocal quality to the recording, the opening keening falsetto takes the listener by surprise, Corby has described the song as “a gimmick that ‘ooh-we-ooh’ – the birdcall at the intro – is the bane of my f—ing existence,” and something his manager encouraged him to record to get on the charts. That said, the lyrics are raw and confessionally honest, and resonated with many of his fans, he used tempo and volume changes to evoke a serene sensitivity on the verses, with subtle keyboards and guitar, but delivered the choruses with a bluesy, emphatic inflexion as the bass of Tristan Thorne and the percussion of Tim Coghill (Powderfinger) rumbled underneath Corby’s impassioned vocals. The use of both musical and lyrical light and shade throughout the song artfully conveyed the undiluted emotional arc of the inspiration for the song, and Corby’s interpretation here has been compared to Jeff Buckley. The accompanying film clip was a live acoustic performance of the song by Corby in March 2012 in the studios of Triple J. Brother fueled the sales of the EP Into The Flame which became one of the best-selling singles of the decade.

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In 2013 Corby released the single Resolution, he wrote the song in a dingy Los Angeles apartment as he wrestled with the creative process that would ultimately result in his long-awaited album Telluric. Corby was struggling with a love/hate relationship with this city, conflicted about the music business that was LA’s epicentre, as well as his quality of life “I got really paranoid and didn’t leave the house for a couple of days, I couldn’t understand why I was so afraid of the world at this time so I wrote Resolution. It’s an ode to humanity and the way I want to be with other people and spread some love in an un-cheesy way.”

Moody, stoner classic, it was his last hit single, the album Rainbow Valley was a hit but did not produce any hit singles, similar artists like Angus Stone and Pete Murray also struggle to connect with the local singles market, but succeed with their albums.

Resolution was another soulful, introspective song which overlayed a vaguely reggae beat with organ, percussion, guitar, and evoked a moody, stoner ambience, that reflected in the lyrics as Corby inched closer to a loving relationship in his life “So, from the cradle to quarter age/Oh I bought the book but didn’t flip the page/…Turn around, put it down and see/That this is really the place to be/I’m not you, nor you me/But we’re both moving steady.” Vocally he has been compared to the falsetto tenor of Jeff Buckley and certainly both imbue their songs with an emotional intensity and purity, but his vocals are also reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, a woman whose earthy contralto edified the many hits of Fleetwood Mac. Resolution garnered Corby his second ARIA Song of the Year Award, and it climbed to #5 locally and #16 in NZ, selling in excess of 210,000 copies.

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Corby has slowly carved out a niche for himself as a talented indie performer who writes interesting, introspective songs, and as a multi-instrumentalist he possesses a broad creative range, so his original songs run the gamut of blues, rock, folk, jazz, soul, hip hop, and psychedelia, as exemplified on his debut album Telluric in 2016. He returned to the charts in 2018 with the album Rainbow Valley, written on the rainforest property he shares with his partner and son Hugh born in 2018, while collaborating closely with Dann Hume (composer/producer), Alex Henriksson, (songwriter/producer), and Matt Neighbour (engineer /producer). Corby played all the instruments on the album and provided all the vocals too, the album climbed to #3 locally and indicated that Matt Corby was still moving forward both musically and spiritually, and organically growing his audience and honing his musicianship. – he is definitely not a standard Idol clone.

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