Today’s Track of the Day comes from Brownbear with the fantastic ‘Stop the World’.
Music doesn’t always have to be overthought or complicated to have an effect on the listener; sometimes all you need is a catchy melody and the ability to tell a story. Brownbear, led by frontman Matt Hickman, are one outfit who remind us of the beauty that lies in the art of the singer-songwriter.
Known to perform with a band and as a solo act, Hickman is able to hold audiences in the palm of his hand with his captivating live performances. Whether it’s foot-stomping rockers like ‘Dead or Alive’ or charming, acoustic pop melodies like ‘Olive Tree’ Hickman knows how to work a crowd. His folk-rock sound is layered with celtic, pop and even soul influences, with his evocative lyrics delivered so wonderfully by warm, sublime vocals.
With a debut album on the horizon, Brownbear have recently revealed new single ‘Stop the World’. Carrying on from the success of previous releases, the track is exactly what we’d expect from the outfit but with a raw energy and intensity created by heavy percussion, a strong bassline and funky guitar licks.
GIGsoup caught up with Matt Hickman about the new song, his influences and what’s in store for Brownbear…
‘Stop the World’ is a shift away from the acoustic stuff you’ve done previously with a more rocky vibe. Was this a conscious decision? Have you found your sound is evolving with each release?
Matt-I don’t think it was a conscious thing, I love writing and take influence from lots of different genres. I grew up listening to rock but as I got older I got really into soul and Motown Records. I have always been big fan of blues and country music as well. So with the album I wanted to have my own sound but also tip my hat to all of the sounds which have helped shape me as a writer and a musician.
You sometimes perform solo and at other times with a band. What influences that decision?
A number of factors, sometimes it is more appropriate for the venue or a support slot, sometimes it is just the most cost effective way to do it. This recent run of solo shows was more of a personal choice though, I wanted to prove to myself I could go out and put on a show and that the songs could stand the test of still being strong even just on an acoustic guitar. If you can get a crowd behind a song with just voice and guitar, you are on to a winner right?
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Has working with a band changed your creative/songwriting process?
I think most songwriters start by themselves then get a band, I somehow started straight out of the blocks with a band playing the songs live and now I am trying it out on my own. The first album was pretty much just me but I would be keen to see how it would work doing an album with the band fully involved in the creative process.
What influences your songwriting?
I suppose “life” is the best answer I can give. Songs should have a meaning and real feelings behind them. Whether that feeling is joy, sadness, anger or anything else it doesn’t matter as long as it is real. To me, the best feeling in the world is when you hear a lyric and you think “I get that“, when it totally feels related to you or your life. And hopefully it’s done with a catchy tune on top!!
Who are your big influences?
I love all sorts of music so this is quite difficult. I think growing up I loved Michael Jackson, always wanted to be able to moonwalk. That is what made me want to perform I suppose.
In my teenage years I was daft about Nirvana, Metallica and Queen.
Talking Heads ‘Stop Making Sense’ I think is a master class in live performance.
Ray Charles is one of my favourite voices. Stevie Wonder as well saw him the last time he played Hyde Park and I was absolutely blown away. It was a total dream come true moment!!
Love Paul Simon, ‘Graceland’ is in my top 5 albums of all time for sure.
You’ve had a number of big support slots with The Libertines and The View etc, how were those experiences?
They were amazing. The View have always been so welcoming and supportive of me, they have some of the loyal and committed fans going and it makes for an extremely special show. The Libertines support was crazy, the reunion show at The Barrowlands, Does it get any better than that?! Then we obviously got to do London, Amsterdam and the German shows. It was amazing, totally daunting as we had never played to audiences that size before but it was a learning curve and opened a lot of doors for Brownbear. I will be forever grateful to the bands as well as the people behind the scenes who made it happen for us!
What are your plans for the future?
The big focus is getting a release date set for the debut album. I think there will be another single/video after summer. As for shows, we are playing at Bingley Live Music Festival on 3-4th September and I am doing a solo set at the bar after show at King Tuts on Saturday 23rd July for this year’s Summer Nights event. Hopefully we will have a bunch of really exciting shows to accompany the album being announced soon along with a release date…
This Brownbear article was written by Suzanne Oswald, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.