Matt Hoy’s passion for music started when he was a young child living in the United Kingdom with influence by artists Prince, George Michael, and some of the Motown greats. Over the years, Matt has played in bands and discovered his love of songwriting, which lead him to be signed by Sony Records. Growing his craft in his field, he also became an in-demand session singer and got to work with artists Boy George, Wet Wet Wet and Chaka Khan.
Below, Matt shares how he got involved being a vocalist with UB40, talks about his new first solo debut album “Touch” with the award-winning song “Happy” and how creative artists came together to make the music video for the song. He also shares why he’s an ambassador to the “Balls to Cancer” charity. And as a world-touring artist, he has some great gift ideas for traveling musicians.
Wendy Shepherd of Entertainment Vine: Who inspired you to get involved with music as a career?
Matt Hoy: From a very early age, I was always drawn towards music. I think my very earliest memory is of me aged 3, dancing in front of my mother’s portable record player to Tom Jones or Engelbert Humperdinck. The person/artist that inspired me to do it professionally and make it my career would have to be George Michael. I could relate to George like no other artist or singer. The way he wrote and produced his own material, along with the amazing voice, completely overwhelmed me, and from that point on, I felt I had no choice but to follow a career in something and someone that moved and inspired me so much.
Wendy: When did you start songwriting and singing?
Matt: I started singing in my bedroom at the age of 15 but was so painfully shy, not even my mother knew, and she was in the next room. When I eventually told her at around 16, she encouraged me to have singing lessons, which I did for about a year. During that period, I experimented with many covers bands, Motown, soul, rock, etc. Finally, at the age of 19 or 20, I met some musicians that were interested in making their own kind of music, which then allowed me to start writing lyrics and experimenting musically.
Wendy: How did you get to be a vocalist for UB40?
Matt: In December 2009, I received a telephone call from my then-agent telling me that Ali Campbell from UB40 was looking for a new back up singer as he’d left the original line up the previous year. As I understood it at the time, there seemed to be quite a few vocalists from London auditioning, and I’ve been told that when Ali heard that I was from Birmingham UK, the same place he was born, I was offered the job without an audition. That’s what I heard. Haha!
Wendy: How long did it take you to create your new “Touch” album?
Matt: In total, about a year. The whole album was written lyrically on the road while touring with UB40. I think this is why the album, to me, has different influences in sound and subject within each track, that lay dependant on where I was at the time. Two songs that spring to mind are “Sharing Moments With You,” which was written on my hotel balcony on the Island of Maui and “Who The Cap Fit,” a duet with Ali Campbell UB40, which I recorded the vocals for in a studio in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Wendy: What inspired you to write the song “Happy”?
Matt: Above all, positivity and caring. In this world we live in at the moment, we are too concerned with possessions and being better than the next person. We’re more interested in what’s happening in Hollywood than caring for our next-door neighbour. We have a cultural divide that needs to be eradicated globally; we have sexuality differences that need to be embraced, not swept under the carpet. We all just need to start caring about one another.
Wendy: I saw your post about “Happy” winning a songwriting award for the best R&B song in the fall of 2019. What was the process for that to happen?
Matt: I had the good fortune to meet Jon Lindley from Chicago on the last UB40 tour. A few months after returning from the states, he emailed me saying that he’d submitted my song “Happy” for a World Songwriting Award. In December, I received an email from the WSA saying out of thousands of entries I had won for best song!! I was absolutely over the moon, especially for what “Happy” stands for.
Wendy: Tell me about the “Happy” music video, how long did it take to create and who was involved?
Matt: We filmed the whole video in a day. Two of my friends, Scot Peden and Nigel Boyle, who are quite well-known actors in the UK, came on board initially to help me with the storyboard. Within days of that, they were producing it as well. I couldn’t have done it without them. I managed to pull in a few favours from celebrities I knew here in the UK, and they were kind enough to give me their time and talent for the day. The amazing Ricci Harnett directed it. Everyone that was cast in the video had to fit the criteria of the subject matter of the song. We had people from different cultural backgrounds involved, different sexual backgrounds, people with disabilities, mental health issues; it truly was a magical day to be apart of.
Wendy: What’s been the general feedback about it?
Matt: The feedback for the video and especially “Happy” itself has been overwhelming. I’ve had people messaging me saying, it’s the last thing they listen to before going to sleep. It’s the first thing they play in the morning, as it starts their day right. They’ve sadly lost someone, and listening to “Happy” has helped them get through a tough time. I even had a message of someone who was disabled telling me their daily exercises were improving as they had a new inspiring song to work to.
Wendy: Do you have some upcoming shows where people can watch you live?
Matt: Shows for 2020 are being organised as we speak, as soon as they’re confirmed they’ll be advertised on my official website and all social media.
Wendy: What charity causes are you involved with, and why did you choose them?
Matt: I’m currently ambassador to a wonderful charity called “Balls to Cancer,” initially they provided support for men with testicular cancer, but over the last few years, due to the ongoing hard work they do, they now help with all types of cancer. The reason I became an ambassador is purely that this dreadful disease has touched me throughout my life. My father passed away with lung cancer three months before I was born, and my mother passed away when I was 24 with bone cancer that later developed into her lungs.
Wendy: Where do you see yourself heading this year? What projects are on the horizon?
Matt: More original material, lots of shows in the pipeline, and a few more surprises and collaborations. Exciting times ahead.
Wendy: Can you share five gifts for traveling musicians?
1. Definitely a travel kettle.
2. Portable charging bank.
3. Laptop/iPad essential for FaceTime/Skype.
4. Manuka honey and peppermint tea, sleeping tablets (to combat jet lag).
5. Sunglasses (must-have for any touring musician).
Thank you for sharing, Matt!
The “Touch” album, released by Mana Records co-owned by Matt, has ten tracks of modern Reggae music that contain collaborations with artists like 2017 Grammy award nominees Raging Fyah (Best Reggae Album) and a duet with Ali Campbell. You can find the album on Matt Hoy’s official website at https://matthoymusic.com/
Photos by Mark Russell and Michelle Owen Williams.