MATTHEW Mole is easing Durbanites into the festive season and celebrating break-up day when he performs at The Barnyard Theatre at the Gateway on Wednesday, December 9.
Since launching his debut album in 2013, Mole has enjoyed huge success with his songs Autumn; Take Yours, I’ll Take Mine; You And Your Crown; and Same Parts, Same Heart.
He has been touring South Africa extensively, travelling internationally, got married in August this year, and is also currently working on his second album.
The Capetonian singer-songwriter seems surprisingly unfazed by the success of his debut album. The Home We Built entered the top of the iTunes chart on its release, making Mole the country’s first artist ever to achieve the feat and leap-frogging the likes of Jay-Z, Imagine Dragons, Robin Thicke, Michael Buble and The Rolling Stones in the process. That he took up songwriting for fun just five years before makes his achievement all the more remarkable.
The Home We Built was recorded over four months in 2013, while the dozen songs date back little over two years.
Mole couldn’t be further from the typical musician who grew up dreaming of topping the charts. He didn’t hear pop music until he reached high school and even then, he didn’t care much for it.
Playing the guitar was a different matter. Since the age of 11, when he was given his first guitar and his dad offered to teach him chords, he has scarcely put the instrument down. Singing he started aged 17, although only because his dad told him singing along might help him play better.
Mole’s parents definitely didn’t raise him as a potential pop star. The songs to which he learnt to play guitar were churchy, gospel stuff of which he can’t recall a single title.
Not that his parents were religious. They were fans of classical music, who had somehow stumbled across cassettes for the car – “They definitely didn’t pay for them,” laughs Mole. Still, as a teen yet to fall for pop, he found the structures intriguing.
It was only when Mole took a college course in music production did he first envisage a future in the spotlight. He had just discovered he could sing, thanks to his class mates persuading him to perform in an end-of-school concert.
Looking back, he suspects the song he chose was a sign – it was Swing Life Away by Rise Against, an acoustic song by an American punk band; the first acoustic song he’d ever liked, by a band doing something unexpected.
At college, Mole formed an electro-pop duo with his best friend, just for fun and to experiment with electronics. When the course ended, he decided to keep making music in his bedroom. In 2010, he started playing shows, alone, with an acoustic guitar, drum, synths and electronic equipment.
The Home We Built sometimes has shades of Mumford & Sons and Mole admits he probably took the idea of playing live with a kick drum from them. But his main influences were more obscure.
Mole then bought a banjo on which he wrote Take Yours, I’ll Take Mine, a song about finding your place in life. He liked it so much he began adding banjo parts to other songs. Meanwhile, a previous song he had written, You And Your Crown, had just been named winner of a Converse Get Out Of The Garage contest in Cape Town, the prize for which was to travel to London to play a gig at the 100 Club and a recording session at Converse’s studio in Brooklyn.
Mole’s trips to London and New York took place in November 2012, by which time he had written 11 of the 12 songs that appear on the album and was on the verge of inking a deal with Johannesburg-based label Just Music.
In Brooklyn, his first time in a proper studio, Mole overhauled one of his old songs, Whale. On his return to Cape Town in December, he wrote the album’s final track, The Wedding Song, inspired by attending his friends’ wedding and watching how their lives had become intertwined. Recording began in February 2013, with producer Matthew Fink.
Mole played every instrument on the album besides the strings, including ukulele, banjo, organ, piano, guitars, drums and umpteen percussive instruments. The live string parts were added at the end. The Home We Built was finally completed in June.
Tickets are R130 per person. For bookings and enquiries, phone The Barnyard Theatre on 031 – 566 3045 or visit http://www.barnyard.durban.