Matt Goss Imagines Life with Swinging Style
When Matt Goss sings, he can easily transport you to another time and place -- a sophisticated nightclub where he captures your heart with a soulful love ballad. His ability to master a swinging, carefree retro-essence with a thoughtful and wise look at life’s emotions is at the very forefront of his new CD "Life You Imagine."
Goss is a UK native of London and began his career in the spotlight as the lead singer of the Brit boy band Bros. Now, for the past five years, Matt Goss has headlined his very own show at Caesar’s Palace in the aptly titled "The Gossy Room." It is this love of performing, writing songs and creating music that inspired Goss to release "Life You Imagine." The new music is a culmination of both the Vegas-inspired lifestyle of an entertainer and a look at the emotional core of a man, his strengths and shortcomings. The songs speak from the heart and as Goss has said, "I’m an open book when it comes to emotions."
Matt Goss explains his perspective on why he chose this certain combination of musical influences. He shares his love and respect for perfection in the creation of "Life You Imagine" and how his live performances at The Gossy Room at Caesar’s in Las Vegas have played a crucial part in the creation of the new CD. Goss even offers up a bit of the inspiration behind some of his tattoos in the process. There is a genuine glow to his music, whether caught up in the sheer joy of living or courageously exploring the many emotions of love, Matt Goss’s skilled talents are a winning hand.
Swinging & soulful
EDGE: When was it that you realized in writing the songs, that you wanted both a swinging and soulful side for the CD?
Matt Goss: I think for me that growing up with my grandparents influenced me so much. Singers like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and that whole sensibility of civility and that era. That era is an era that I almost feel like I should have been born in. I feel like in some ways that are separate, it goes with my sensibility in regards to fashion and also in the civility side of things... that’s where I get love of that music from.
Singers that actually taught me how to sing were Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Otis Reading. Real soul singers like Marvin Gaye who are really, really nice and I sang along with on a regular basis, when I was a kid.
EDGE: What would you consider the biggest challenge in the process of creating ’Life You Imagine?’
Matt Goss: The challenge was the time. It actually took two and a half years to make the record. On songs like ’I Do,’ there must have been a hundred musicians on it, a full orchestra, 27-piece brass section and a 27-piece horn section and Alex Al, who was Michael Jackson’s bass player... there is just this huge musicianship on this album. That was the biggest challenge in particular that everything you hear on this album is live, it’s a real orchestra. It’s not a sample. It’s not on keyboard. I was in the room with a full orchestra playing my music which is a spiritual event for a musician.
EDGE: Yeah, definitely. Your voice has such excellent qualities of romantic swagger and sensitivity.
Matt Goss: I’m an open book when it comes to emotions. When I sing, if I’m feeling sad or it’s a break-up... I’m an open book on stage. My heart is where I sing from, so emotionally, there is no singing unless my heart is completely engaged.
EDGE: What did you learn and discover about working with the incredible music producer Ron Fair and his way of building these songs into musical skyscrapers, as he said.
Matt Goss: I think he genuinely allowed my music to come alive from my original demos. He raised my music and he built upon it. We just went head-to-head for two years and side by side, we’re really proud of it. He said it’s one of the albums of his life.
EDGE: The song ’Strong’ is very uplifting with the 1970s Elvis-like choir, the horns and the momentous ending with the strings. It’s quite an anthem. What inspired you to write ’Strong?’
Matt Goss: Sometimes people sing about things like ’strength’ or talk about strength... where actually, real strength comes from when you get tested in life. I think most of us have felt really proud of ourselves but we’ve also felt shame as well. You live and you learn. You have to acknowledge the bad about yourself as well as the good. I think when you’ve been through a few battles and a few ups and downs, ’Strong’ pays homage to really how quickly you dust yourself off and how great we are to put our left foot in front of our right foot and keep dancing through life. Feeling that feeling that everything is still possible. That’s why I wrote ’Strong.’ Not just about internal strength but the journey of getting that strength.
EDGE: It really is a monumental song. When I first heard another song you wrote called ’The Day We Met’ I was taken aback with the soulful, slow and beautiful groove of it. It’s quite unexpected in the situation of what you are singing about lyrically. I think it’s one of the best tracks with the minor string chords and the rush of the brass. Almost like 70s R&B meets ’The Green, Green Grass of Home’ in a way.
Matt Goss: Yeah, right. I think the fact that it’s a twisted love song and it’s called ’The Day We Met’ so people immediately think about the day that you meet somebody. It’s actually about having that day when you realize that it’s time to move on from something. Healing is really forgetting and forgetting is really healing. It goes hand-in-hand. Sometimes that day, when it finally arrives where it feels good to forget the day we met.
I’m currently... I’ve just come out of a break-up and on that road to healing and looking for new love. I see grown men just let tears fall out of their eyes when I do that song in my show at Caesar’s Palace. It’s surprising as it really strikes a note with people. It’s kind of a different way of looking at it. Again, it’s giving people hope that it feels good to forget.
Making it sound simple
EDGE: What song was the most complicated or the hardest to get just the way you wanted it to be when you were recording?
Matt Goss: That’s a tough question. I think I would probably say as I wanted it to sound like a song from the 1950s and still have its own carefree presence was ’I Do.’ ’I Do’ sounds like a simple song but to write a song with really authentic string arrangements, horn arrangements and again, it has 120 musicians on it, but it almost sounds somehow simple. People tell me that they can imagine Frank [Sinatra] or Nat King Cole singing that song. I think that song for me, I took special care of because I wanted it to be a song that was a very inclusive love song for everybody. I went back to the drawing board a few times and redid that and I think I’ve creating something that is timeless. Ron [Fair] said, ’I’ve contributed to the American Songbook.’ You can’t get higher praise from Ron.
EDGE: Immediately I thought of the simplicity of the 1950s yet the wonderful arrangers such as Billy May or Nelson Riddle.
Matt Goss: Yeah, Nelson Riddle for sure.
EDGE: There are some excellent arrangements on ’I Do’ and ’Lovely Las Vegas.’ They have that sparkle to them that is hard to capture.
Matt Goss: Yeah, the musicians who did the string arrangements, they go right over the vocal melody like complete counter melodies. Completely over the melody of the vocal and that’s where the challenge comes in and that counter melody over the vocal fits in like a glove. It happens with ’I Do.’ It’s tons of work that goes into it.
Magical recording experience
EDGE: Yeah, it must have been a rush working at Capitol Records. You’re now signed on with Virgin and that’s a division of Capitol. Tell me about the vibe of recording there at Capitol Records.
Matt Goss: I’ve been there a few times. I mean, we played on Nat King Cole’s piano. We used his piano for this record. It’s the same room where Frank and Nat recorded all those beautiful Capitol sessions... it was a magical, magical experience.
EDGE: Do you end up doing late night sessions during the process?
Matt Goss: Yeah, late night and early morning, however we could make it work. When you’re working with that many musicians, especially orchestral musicians you have to make sure you’re considerate of their time... every single minute is quite a costly affair. You have to be conscientious when you’re making a record this big.
EDGE: Sure. Another song I was drawn to the most was ’There’s Nothing Like This.’ I read that you were definitely inspired by Stevie Wonder and this is one slick, stylish song. Your delivery and the musical flourishes are just excellent. This is one song you did not write for the CD and how did you discover this song?
Matt Goss: A singer called Omar in London recorded it first. I’ve always loved it. It’s a real London classic soul record. I just wanted to put my twist on it with the horn section and the counter melodies on the backing vocals which aren’t on the original. In a way, make it a bit fuller because I love the song so, so much. I respected the song so much I just wanted to be able to do it justice. I think this is the ’baby making’ record on the album.
EDGE: No doubt, please. It’s got that vibe definitely (laughter)
Matt Goss: And hopefully undress on the basis of that song.
EDGE: And your voice excels. There are many moments on this CD where your voice is just incredible.
Matt Goss: Thank you. I did all the back-up vocals on the album as well. I always enjoy that and that was fun.
Keeping it real
EDGE: Having performed in your own room, [The Gossy Room at Caesar’s Palace] for five years, how did this influence your perspective when you set out to create ’Life You Imagine?’
Matt Goss: Listen. You know what? I’ve played Wembley Stadium for 70,000 people and I’ve played all over the world in arenas and stadiums and the one thing about playing at Caesar’s Palace is that you really get to see the whites of their eyes. You really connect with the audience and they become your family. Every night, without fail, they would just lose their minds. It’s not as quiet and polite as people may think. People get dressed up and there’s a lot of flirtation. People have cocktails and it’s a very glamorous beautiful night and people just lose themselves.
I just really wanted to in some way at least try and keep some of the drama and the glamour of that experience at Caesar’s in and put it on to the record. To have that full sound I have, I have a 14-piece band and I wanted to make sure I keep that sound. Live is always big and to try and get that sound on a record is very, very challenging. It’s almost impossible honestly too. My live sound is so much bigger.
That was really what I learned, to make sure I tried to create the drama, the glamour and the passion that I have done. I do 110 shows a year at least. I’ve learned a great deal in the last few years in Vegas. I still travel all over the world. I just got back from Bangkok and did a beautiful show out there, a few shows in Monaco and just did Times Square... where I sang ’Strong’ actually.
EDGE: Excellent. You have several tattoos. Will you pick one of them and tell me the significance of it and why you got it?
Matt Goss: The first one is ’Civility costs nothing’ that’s my kind of mantra on my arm that I try and live by every day. But my favorite actual design tattoo is a feathered quilt on my forearm. If you look at the feather, inside the feather, there are two faces. The joy and the pain that go into writing and then it leads into the words ’never waste good agony.’ It’s really how I create.
I believe in trying to create that if there is something negative, don’t be afraid and let it reflect off of you and feel something bright and create something good from it. There’s nothing if you felt only joy or only pain. We only know one because of the other. I always encourage people and say, ’Hey. You know what? This is a tough day, but you either decide to spiral upwards in the morning or downwards.’ It’s a real challenge sometimes, but it’s a very minute decision.
EDGE: Very cool. Thank you Matt and continued success with "Life You Imagine."
Matt Goss: Thank you. Can I just say as well, by far, the most astute questions in regards to the music that I’ve done so far. Brilliant. Thank you for listening to the music. That means a lot.
Matt Goss’s CD "Life You Imagine" is available now. For more on Matt Goss go to mattgoss.biz