For the soon-to-come follow-up to his major label debut on 604 Records, The Fifth, Mathew V says he’s much more likely to show up to the studio with “a few chords and melodies” to develop with others, rather than his own full songs.
“Typically, I have a really heavy hand in writing my own music,” the Vancouver-based pop/soul artist explains. “When I was younger, I thought I was untouchable and knew everything. I had my artistic vision and trusted myself, only, to execute that.”
More recently, he’s come to embrace the energy and possibilities collaboration brings to his work as a singer and songwriter. “There’s so much power in ideas that don’t stem from my instincts, because my instincts only go so far,” says V. “There’s been many times recently in the studio where someone will hum a melody with phrasing I’d have never come up with, but that compliments my voice quite nicely. So 2020 is going to be a year of collaborations with other artists, producers, and writers.”
Not that he wasn’t doing well on his own. The Fifth’s lead single, “Tell Me Smooth,” spent 18 weeks on Canadian Top 40 Hot AC/AC charts. He’s opened for the likes of Ria Mae, Hanson, and MAGIC!, and earned critical acclaim from press outlets such as Nylon and Billboard. His catalogue is approaching 10 million online streams. With strong roots in the LGBTQ+ community, V took the cover of Spotify’s Global Pride playlist during Pride 2018.
But now, by way of collaboration, and what he terms “cognitive listening,” V’s looking to expand his musical toolkit. “I’m pushing myself to throw on playlists with music I don’t know and, if I like it, to understand what aspects resonate with me. Or, if I don’t like it, what’s putting a bad taste in my mouth. That process, when I’m writing, allows me to go into my taste bank, so to speak, and call on some of those patterns I’m noticing.”
“I’m pushing myself to throw on playlists with music I don’t know.”
Over time, V’s allowed himself increasingly more creative freedom, beginning early by singing along to “emotive, powerful” artists like Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Mariah Carey – a definite departure from the rigorous classical, operatic vocal training he undertook for 10 years. It continued when he packed up at age 17 and moved to London, England, to study at the European Institute of Contemporary Music. “I learned so much in that time, as a human being and artist,” he says. “And I had the freedom, for the first time in my life, to sing what I wanted, to start writing, and to realize what my own sound was like.”
In his current writing and recording sessions, V’s determined to allow himself even more latitude. “I’m trying to see pop music as a wider umbrella, where my vocal delivery, my style of writing, and the branding of the product ties it all together,” he says. “But with the songs, pushing myself, showcasing more diversity, doing things I haven’t tried before.”
To some extent, V’s cover of Britney Spears’ “Lucky” (just released on Jan. 10, 2020) will present his audience with an opportunity for some “cognitive listening” of their own. Produced by one of V’s regular collaborators, Luca Fogale, it’s a dramatic and beautiful re-interpretation, informed heavily by V’s soulful pop style, and a welcome challenge: “To take a beloved and, I think, unbelievably well-written song, and present it in an entirely different way,” says V. “To take the artistic journey of production and arrangement, flex my creative muscles, and make [it] into a Mathew V song.”
Just what a Mathew V song is, however, is evolving swiftly. V would prefer not to “piggyback” on his earlier success with, as he puts it, “Tell Me Smooth 2.0.”
“The fun part of music, for me, is being able to change, adapt, and re-invent myself, so I’m trying to push the boundaries of how broad the pop music umbrella is for me,” he says. “In the past I was strict about an album having a certain sound, but I have way more freedom to change it up. And I’d rather try that, and say that I did, than sit back and wonder, what if I strayed a bit more?”