By Tashia Antoine
Interview By Anthony Salemi
Matthew Chaim is a talented and fast-rising artist hailing from Montreal. His vibe creates a charismatic sound that crosses over a variety of genres and his newly released EP, titled Homemade, is turning heads with its eclectic style and intimate lyrics.
In this Northern Touch interview, VIBE correspondent Anthony Salemi discusses with Matthew Chaim his musical influences and style, the transparency of his songwriting, the gift of therapy that his music provides and more.
Athony: Since there is not much on your backstory, tell me a little about it, because all the stuff that I have read doesn’t show much about your musical upbringing. How did we get to this point?
Matthew: My father listened to The Beatles and Blood, Sweat and Tears a bit, but we weren’t really a huge musical household. I only kind of got into it when I started playing the drums. Maybe when I was around 14 or 15. I fell so deeply in love with the drums, that I saw my future as this star drummer. I always pictured myself with my shirt off, in the back of a band, sweaty and killing it on big stages. But then my music love went dormant for a bit, before it kind of spiked back up. Some of my friends started writing rap. The cadent stuff that I built in cultivating my practice in drums, came back through my mouth. It was like building these puzzles with the syllables, rather than with the drum sticks. My love for music kind of came back that way. Childish Gambino back in the day was doing comedy and music. And I was like “WOW”, I love this. I love rap and I love comedy, and I love blending the two things together. Through that sort of genesis, I started adding melody to my music and then, adding more sensitive stuff rather than just the comedy aspect of things. That’s sort of the trajectory I feel like I am on today. And that’s the trajectory that’s documented in Homemade, my debut EP.
© Matthew Chaim | YouTube
Anthony: Since we are on the topic, the EP is Homemade, it is your first EP and more or less it seems to be a collection of all your previous tracks that you’ve put into one release. First thing, why did you switch into a full EP because you were releasing singles every other month?
Matthew: This body of work came together with two producers here in Montreal, Noah Barer and Austin Techs (Cavewerks). We started working together and really quickly grew a vibe and grew a sound together. As these songs were being built, I saw it as the first serious project that I was building. It sort of felt like we were building it in our own backyard, like this homemade studio that they were building in their house. It just felt super organic and I wanted to start putting out music, so I started dropping them. As the story and sound started to unfold, I started seeing it as the first project encapsulating everything I just explained to you, and also the more personal stories of my life. I wanted there to be that foundational stamp, like my first portfolio of what I am building. So that is why I ended up packaging this thing together and calling it Homemade. It feels like that first homemade project that I built.
Anthony: Since we are on the production side of it, let’s talk about the song writing. What is the process like for you? If you look at your SoundCloud, it will say released three months ago, released five months ago and you had a lot of stuff there. Now you’ve got the EP.
Matthew: At least for this project and working with Noel and Austin, it really was a pretty organic way of writing. I didn’t go into a session much with anything written in my notebook. I write longhand, just paper and pen, and they (Noel and Austin) tend to build out a sound together. If we like it and we’re all vibing to it, we build that sonic environment in the room and I start writing to that space. We’ll cut songs early if we’re not feeling it. The songs that we finish are the songs that I am putting out. We built very organically and very collaboratively. Sometimes I would take songs home with me and write privately, but overall it was a very collaborative effort.
Anthony: You’ve got a couple of different genres that you’ve blended together when it comes to production. There is R&B and there is Soul. The best example that I’ve seen is Kid Cudi meets Roy Woods. Give us your take, agree or disagree?
Matthew: I do agree. I love Kid Cudi. I’ve grown up also listening to a lot of those genres. So I definitely feel that. Like I was saying earlier, growing up and really starting to write rap songs and listening a lot to Childish Gambino then moving more and more towards this song writing thing, it was forcing me to stretch into different genres. I also find it difficult when people ask me what kind of music are you making, or what genre it is, but I would agree with those sounds. I am honoured to be compared to Kid Cudi for sure.
Anthony: There was an article that I read from a website and it’s talking about your lyrics being relatable, accessible, and it speaks to your content. So you’re not singing about club life or the extracurriculars of the club life. As an artist, what are the difficulties in establishing your voice?
Matthew: That’s a good question. My favorite part of this whole thing is songwriting. More specifically writing from a certain space that feels honest and more so therapeutic. While I delved more and more into songwriting was because it started becoming this space for me to almost conduct my own therapy for myself and allow me to be introspective. So I don’t necessarily use it as a space to talk about maybe more external things that you may hear more. I guess why someone might say its successful or relatable is because I am writing from an introspective space. We all kind of have our own stuff we are dealing with and hopefully through that, your own personal colours, personal flavours, personal esthetic shine through and I hope that’s what’s happening with this project.
© Mathew Chaim | YouTube
Anthony: We talked about Homemade, but let’s get into the title track. We kind of touched on it, but let’s get into the significance of the name?
Matthew: The song Homemade is pretty Meta in that it’s about song writing. I tend to like to do that because like I was saying, the act of song writing is not a means but an end for me. Kind of like how everything else is symptomatic based off the idea that I love writing songs. You know it’s funny, when I first released Homemade, I actually just released it as Untitled because I never really built a title for it. I think it’s the only song on the EP that’s title word isn’t the hook of the song. It isn’t the lyric of the song. I ended up changing the name to Homemade because I felt like it encapsulated what it felt like I was doing. I guess it was very DIY.
Anthony: Homemade, is it sort of a DIY thing? When people say “I’m homemade” or “Made in…”, it’s a DIY thing for me.
Matthew: It’s kind of relating to the intimacy I feel this stuff is made with, and that reflecting as the end product as this DIY thing that I’m coming out, not on this huge stage just yet, but hopefully one day. It’s got that DIY, made from scratch feel, like when you make that meal at home and it’s homemade, it’s the best tasting meal. Hopefully my music can be enjoyed in the same way.
Anthony: There’s a track on the album called Visit You. I want to ask you about that one because I think it’s got a better story. The track is about your father passing when you were twelve years old, and for those who have seen the album art, it’s a 12-year-old picture of you. Tell us what the track meant to you when it came to the recording?
Matthew: Well speaking on the therapeutic nature that song writing has, I think that was fully realized with the song Visit You, when I wrote it. Visit You was the only track on this project that I didn’t start writing in the room with Noah and Austin. They actually started building this beat and I just didn’t have anything for it. I ended up taking it home because it was so powerful. Just epic and I really wanted to build something for it, but nothing was coming. I sat with it a few times. Then one night, I remember it was a Friday night, I came home and at the time I was living at my mom’s house in the basement. No one was home and I just put it on and this song came pouring out of me about my father. I’ve never really written a song about him or my experience of losing him at such a young age, even though he had such a powerful imprint on my life, even though he was only there for the first twelve years, and this song came pouring out of me. It really, really reflected my feelings and how I felt about him and what I would have wanted to say to him. It felt very intimate in that I felt very close to him in writing the song. After writing it, it wasn’t this sad process, I was actually laughing because it was so cathartic. It was such a relief and release to write. The recording process and also the releasing process I think were harder for me than the writing process. But I am super happy to have it out there and feel the feelings that I put into it. That song is almost a crescendo for me in terms of the therapy that writing songs can really be.
© Matthew Chain | YouTube
Anthony: For those that are just checking you out for the first time, give us your social media handles and where the EP is available for purchase or streaming.
Matthew: @MatthewChaim on every platform, and you can stream, buy, do whatever you want with the Homemade EP which is on Spotify, Apple Music and all the like.
As we look forward to more releases from Matthew Chain, we can be sure that he will have us grooving to his unique and catchy tracks. His relatable topics and infused hooks are the recipe that will keep this Montreal-based songwriter and crooner in the spotlight.
Editor’s Note: This Northern Touch episode was aired at an earlier date on VIBE105 FM. Updates to Matthew Chaim’s recent releases have been added as music videos.