As far as appropriate album titles go, It’s A Feeling describes rather well the experience of listening to Matthew Young; It’s A Vibe would also have been apt. 

His long-awaited debut album was released earlier this month, and it’s a fascinating collection of slinky and sophisticated alternative pop. Each song contains blink-and-you-miss-it moments of deft production, matched by a sultry crooning voice that recalls contemporaries like Troye Sivan.

Dig deeper under the surface, however, and there’s a lot to unpack in It’s A Feeling. Written and recorded in isolated Airbnbs around New Zealand, Young vulnerably explores his experience of living with bipolar disorder.

“This album is basically the story of my life over the last 5 years or so, told in a kind of fragmented, semi non-chronological way,” Young explains. “Reconciling a bipolar diagnosis, the trials of finding the right drugs, repairing broken relationships, realising what really matters in life etc. The yin-yang of delusions of grandeur vs. crippling self doubt, psychosis vs. reality, and healthy vs. unhealthy.”

It’s un unsparing listen, but Young crucially knows when to deploy wit in his lyrics and when to perform sincerely. It’s a tricky balancing act that the best current pop stars make look easy.

“Mental illness has been such a hot topic over the last few years (and for good reason), but the discourse and expression through media is – in my own opinion – often communicated in a way that feels like a movie trope; snap shots of all the most difficult moments, ignoring the less extreme, almost mundane ‘daily life’ bits. I wanted the music to be able to live in these middle moments, as much as the ups and downs,” he adds.

To mark the release of his debut album, we caught up with Young as part of our Get To Know series to find out more about his life and music.

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Matthew Young’s It’s A Feeling is out now.

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How did your artist name come about?

It’s my legal first name and my mother’s original last name. Pretty simple stuff.

How would you describe your music to your grandma?

For one Grandma, I would ask her not to listen to it because there are too many cuss words that she probably wouldn’t like. The other Grandma probably wouldn’t give a shit though, so to her I would probably say it sounds like pop music that has been filtered through my own selfish desires to make whatever I want to make at any given point in time, and accidentally became either R&B or rock.

Tell us about a few of your tracks; their titles and what they’re about?

‘Headcase’ – this one is about how I went crazy and stayed crazy a lot longer than anyone wanted.

‘Like Falling’ – is about the benders and parties, and subsequent regret that came as a result of going crazy.

‘Fool Around’ – this one is an apology and a plea for someone to take me back, after everything that happened in the previous two answers, and wrecking the relationship.

‘Missing’ – this one is about someone in my life who never answered their phone and it was infuriating. The only real detour from the album being an exposé on the ‘crazy era’ of my life. You get the picture.

What do you love about your hometown?

Right now, after COVID, it’s hard not to feel a bit over it, in all honesty. I think it’ll be easier to identify what I love about it once I’m gone for a while and able to find out what I miss. My family is probably the answer to that right now then. My home country though? Definitely the scenery.

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Career highlight so far?

Career highlights include the Fruit EP release tour and writing my new album while traveling the entirety of my home country. I feel like the biggest highlights are just over horizon though.

Fave non-music hobby?

Collecting Shih Tzus (I have one so far). I’m still trying to perfect cheeseburgers. I started a horror movie enthusiasts club, which has become like a little family, so that’s kind of like a hobby. I also started writing screenplays over the summer, which I haven’t had much time for and I probably suck, but I’m going to pick that up again soon.

What’s on your dream rider?

Shih Tzu parade, bunk beds for me and the touring team, balinese massage, hot tub, and a perfect lox bialy.

Dream music collaboration?

Right now it’s probably Holly Humberstone, because I’m still binging her music daily. Also Julia Michaels, because she’s the current world champion of songwriting. If I could work with anyone at any moment in time though, it would be Joni Mitchell in 1991 during her Night Ride Home era. She’s the best songwriter of all time in my opinion. Young Thug also, because he’s a genius.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In permanent sunshine, living wherever winter isn’t, producing and writing as many songs as I can, with whoever I want, making horror movies on the side, and rolling deep with a whole squad of Shih Tzus.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Lionel Richie & Diana Ross’ ‘Endless Love’, or the Rage Against the Machine version of ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man’.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Amateurs wait for inspiration, pros just get it done.” I’m still trying to live by this, and slowly getting there.

What’s one obsession you have that no one would guess after listening to your music?

I’m extremely obsessive, so I don’t know which thing to choose. Probably just the ongoing Shih Tzu obsession.

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