"On this album I’m neck deep in contemporary pop music..." - hmv.com talks to Matt Goss
For most people – certainly in the UK – Matt Goss is probably best known as the frontman with 80s pop phenomenon Bros, along with twin brother Luke, who enjoyed enormous chart success with songs like ‘When Will I Be Famous’ and attracted hordes of delirious fans – known as ‘Brosettes’ - to their live shows and public appearances, inspiring the kind of hysteria not witnessed since the days of Beatlemania.
A forerunner to the era of the ‘boy band’ that produced groups like Take That and New Kids on the Block, Bros may have won the hearts and minds of the record-buying public, but the critics were always far less impressed with their output and Bros became something of a figure of fun for the snarkier corners of the tabloid press. To complicate matters further, the band’s internal relationships were often strained, with bassist Craig Logan leaving shortly after their debut and Luke Goss left frustrated by what he saw as efforts to minimise his musical input, ultimately leading to a somewhat acrimonious split after their third and final album, Changing Faces, released just three years after their debut LP.
That fractious relationship between the Goss brothers was very publicly documented in After the Screaming Stops, a warts-and-all documentary that arrived in 2018 and covered the band’s reunification for a one-off live show at London’s O2 Arena, producing a public reaction that ranged from sympathy to mirth and generated plenty of viral memes in the process.
What the documentary also showed, though, was how Matt and Luke Goss had carved out out post-Bros careers in the years since their heyday – Luke as an actor appearing in films such as Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy, and Matt as a seasoned live performer with a string of Las Vegas residencies to his name.
Matt has also released several solo albums in the intervening years, with his most recent solo LP Life You Imagine arriving in 2013.
This week though he’s back with his first new solo album in nine years, The Beautiful Unknown, which sees him reconnecting with his pop roots. Ahead its release this Friday (March 25) we caught up with Matt for a chat about why he fell out of love with making music, how his fans inspired him to carry on, and why he’s looking forward to meeting fans at an upcoming series of in-store appearances at hmv…
So you’re back in the UK at the moment, are you still living stateside?
“I am, I was up at 3:00am this morning, I’ve just finished my new video I’m so excited. I still live in America but I’m here for a couple of months.”
When did the idea of doing a new solo album start coming around?
“During COVID I completely fell out of love with music, with making music I mean. I didn’t want to touch my piano, I didn’t want to touch my guitar, I think because I’d spent so much time making sure that an audience was OK. I was doing somewhere between 100 and 120 shows a year, for 11 years, and I just steamed through, even through the loss of my mother, everything, I just steamed through everything in my life to make sure that I prevailed as an entertainer. People were dressing up to go out and I was their destination point, it’s a big thing as an entertainer when you are a destination point for so long. And when COVID first hit I really became interested in the psyche of people, my fans and people who would call in to my Instagram live, and we would have these incredible in-depth conversations.
“But during that time I felt so connected to them, it made me realise that they wanted new music, they didn’t want me to to the Vegas stuff, they wanted me to go back to my roots. So I sat down on my piano one night, it was about 2:00am, and I wrote this song called ‘Shipwreck’. The next day I finished it, it was pretty late, I called Babyface. Such a lovely human. He just said ‘I love it, come the studio, we’ll record it.’ That was really the catalyst for wanting to write the best pop record of my life, and I really honestly believe I’ve done that. I knew that if I wanted to get out of my own head, get out of my house and actually see the world again - Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, The UK – if I wanted that to happen, the only way I could do that was to make a contemporary record that would allow me to go to those territories.”
We know you’ve done a lot of live performing in that time, Las Vegas residencies and stuff like that, have you kept writing the whole time?
“Of course, I mean there were seven other solo record. I write continuously. To be honest with you I’m already thinking about the next album. This record has energised me, my love of pop and my love of contemporary melody, but also realising that the 80s is very prominent in production these days and that’s obviously a production sensibility I’m very familiar with. I really listened to a lot of different music, without judgement, I just let it wash over me and penetrate me in the right way.”
How does the writing process usually work for you?
“There’s two or three ways I write, either on a guitar, a piano, or I’ll go into my studio and create a beat or a groove that inspires me. I probably enjoy most going to the studio and being a mad scientist, writing that way. But I’ve also written for other artists, Keri Hilson and Akon, there’s the movies I did like Stuart Little, I did the soundtrack on that. So You Think Can Dance, the number one dance show on TV in America, I wrote that theme song. I’ve written many, many songs for different projects, all the way back to Michel Berger and Celine Dion. It’s and endless journey, writing songs.”
In terms of the direction of the record, your solo stuff has often had a bit more of a soul / R&B vibe to it, but we’re back in pop land here. Were there and reference points that informed what you wanted to do with this record?
“There’s a song on the album called ‘Feeling High’, I was definitely channelling Duran Duran when I wrote that chorus. Certainly some R&B stuff, I guess some of the mellow hip-hop out there on ‘Making It Rain’, Depeche Mode, Prince, I also dug into my old band. And also a lot of George Michael probably because he’s just one of my all-time favourites.
“It’s been super well-received, that’s the nice thing, when people listen to it as a body of work. I was very conscious that I wanted to cut away all the fat on this, I didn’t want anything to be a filler, I didn’t really want anything to go above 3:40. I wanted to write a pop record that I could live with, instead of just thinking of radio. You can’t help but thinking of radio when you write music these days."
Did you end up writing a lot of material to choose from? How far back to these songs go?
“Not very far. I wish I could say that I wrote 100 songs for this album, but I probably wrote 15 and used 12 of them. But it was a very prolific experience, it was just song after song and all my guys were saying ‘you’re channelling something here, keep it going.’ It felt really good. And also during COVID working with Jason Bunton, it was really great, we just put our heads together, and it was a beautiful feeling just to reconnect with pop music.
“I think in some ways you have to find a way to stay in the game, to stay in the industry. Vegas taught me so many things, more than anything it taught me composure and confidence with an audience, it also let me know that I have more time than I think I do. You can converse with an audience, it doesn’t have to be ‘hit, hit, hit’ one after another. It’s a relationship. Unfortunately, some things can be a bit ageist. I’m a contemporary human, a contemporary man and artist. I wouldn’t even be having a chat with you right now if I didn’t think that I’d created something that was valid, I wouldn’t waste anybody’s time. The reality is that you do things and as ling as you don’t compromise your standards, you do things to keep you in the game. On this album I’m neck deep in contemporary pop music. It’s a nice feeling.”
You mentioned working with Babyface, who else is helping produce the record?
“It’s co-produced by myself, with Jacob Bunton, Babyface, Day by Day. My next single is just an unashamedly structured pop record that I hope is going to make everyone feel good. I’m buzzing because I literally just finished the video two hours ago. Definitely the best video I’ve ever directed. And it was beautiful to write something from a place of solitude and then it comes to life. I’m blown away. I think it’s a hate-proof song and a hate-proof video.”
Hate-proof? Are you worried people are going to hate it?
“No. I think if you love pop music it can’t help but make you move. No, I’m not really worried about stuff. I really truly believe that if you’re listening to music from a place of trying to be too-cool-for-school then you’re missing out on so much. Let the music do the work. You shouldn’t set yourself up for failure when you’re listening to a piece of music because you might love something. The only problem is that you might have to admit to your mates that you like the new song. Music is designed to become part of your life, if you let it be an immersive experience.”
You’ve got the in-stores coming up with us, what are the rest of your touring plans looking like?
“I’m really looking forward to those by the way. The show that I’m putting on will be the same show I’d put on for arena. We’re not coming in on an acoustic set. We’re coming in hard.
"There’s so much going on. We just did a show in Africa four days ago. After that we want to go on a proper UYK and European tour, then hopefully Japan, Australia. But first things first, I really want to get this right, I have a long history with hmv. We still hold the record, I think, 11,000 people at Oxford Street."
We still have the photos to prove it…
“Yeah, still one of the most incredible memories of my life. So to me it’s not just a record signing. I remember the last one I did the staff stayed until 9:30 in the evening, even though you shut at 7:00pm, because they knew that I wanted to sign every record and the staff were so gracious, they understood the point. It was people’s dream. So I’m genuinely excited to come back and see if we can generate some madness again. Madness is what it’s supposed to be, right?”
The Beautiful Unknown is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.