Mat McHugh is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and performer who has always worn his heart on his sleeve. From the fateful evening on which he decided that playing an open mic night was the way to win the girl of his dreams, his path as a musician has been adventurous, winding and often unexpected. Mat is best known for his pivotal role in Sydney’s The Beautiful Girls, the outfit who provided the means for his initial musical musings. His role in the band, as the front man and creative force, led to glowing reviews, tours, international travel, meetings with heroes, dalliances with villains and an exploration of what was important as a human being, an artist and a man.
The Beautiful Girls kicked it all off in 2002 with the debut EP, Morning Sun. The track Periscopes became a certified Triple J radio hit that summer and the Goodtimes EP, followed that same year. In 2003, The Beautiful Girls released their debut album, Learn Yourself followed by another EP, The Weight Of The World in 2004. Three more albums succeed, We’re Already Gone (2005), Water (2006) and Ziggurats (2007). Ziggurats’ main single, I Thought About You, was nominated for Blues & Roots Work of the Year at the 2008 APRA Awards. The album Spooks released in 2010, peaked at number 18 on the ARIA charts, debuted at number 1 in the Australian Independent Chart and number 7 in the US Billboard Reggae Albums Chart. Spooks, which Mat recorded with longtime co-producer Ian Pritchett, was described as ‘a majestic production where stylistic threads run deep’ which showcased Mat’s ever-solid song writing and his skill as a player of many instruments and producer. In the eight years to 2010, McHugh and the collective that comprised the live version of The Beautiful Girls, chalked up a dozen world tours, travelling to Japan, Europe, Canada, the United States and South America. Fans of Mat’s music span the globe.
In 2008, whilst on a break from a relentless tour schedule, Mat entered the studio with a bunch of ideas he had ‘lying around’. He stripped the songs down, took some time sitting still, and recorded his first solo album, Seperatista, a soulful unwinding, and a reflective look back to his early days with the band. It was a transitional period, a chance to linger in the rear-view mirror for a while, before looking up to see what lies ahead; not the beginning or ending of anything. With the focus of his solo work on being transparent, simple, honest and intimate, he released his second solo album, Love Come Save Me in January 2012. In 2013, Mat toured the USA and his beloved South America for a series of live performances which showed the diverse sounds of Mat McHugh as he combined elements of his solo-acoustic live set with hard hitting electronic & dub beat arrangements. He still holds his past work close to him stating that, “All those Beautiful Girls tracks plus new and solo songs are on the short list for the live set. It’s all part of the work I do”.
Now we see Mat kicking off 2014 with the dancehall and dub influenced More Money, “part of the continuum” from his self-penned and home-recorded Spooks album. Along with the ragga grooves there is a message for our times that sits with McHugh’s long held independent, self-reliant ethos and “hippie idealism”. Mat explains, “More Money and some of the other new songs are kind of a continuation of Spooks – heavily influenced by the early, naïve styles of hip hop, rocksteady, dancehall and dub which I grew up loving. That’s one of the directions I’ve continued in”. Simultaneously, Mat enjoys the meditative significance strumming and gentle acoustic offers. He prefers to engage in a range of styles of music, acting like a bowerbird by taking elements of each style and translating them into his own music.
“To me, music is far too precious to exist in a box, I think a song is born and dies in a moment and in that, becomes a new definition. Playing live, I never know what’s going to happen and that’s exactly the way I like it. As long as there is love there though, everything will be okay”.