Staff Spotlight: Matt Anderson

By Lauren Bickerdike


Ahead of the release of The Matt Anderson Quartet's third album, 'The Town and the City', we caught up with Senior Lecturer Matt Anderson to discuss his career highlights and his experience of Jazz at Leeds Conservatoire from student to tutor.

Hi Matt – Where did your musical journey begin?

Hi there, I started playing music quite young as my mother is a music teacher. I played mostly classical music on piano, recorder and clarinet as a youngster before getting into electric guitar and saxophone as a teenager and really getting the itch for music, listening to loads of different stuff and playing in some local bands. Eventually, I was more useful in my local area as a saxophonist and this ended up taking over, and I also found my way to jazz through discovering players like Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis.

Why did you decide to study music?

At a certain point I couldn’t really imagine myself doing anything else – I was so fixated with music and totally immersed in that world, practising, playing with my friends and discovering all these incredible recordings. I’d grown up in North Yorkshire and some of the older musicians I played with had gone to Leeds Conservatoire, so that seemed like a logical place to go, and I was lucky enough to get offered a place!

Can you tell us about the Matt Anderson Quartet? How did the band meet?

I started this band after moving to London in 2015. It’s an acoustic quartet with a kind of ‘modern mainstream’ contemporary jazz approach, also taking influence from popular music, British/American folk, classical and more – basically an expression of everything I’ve been into musically through my life. We play mostly original music by me, but also pieces by other band members and a cover of singer-songwriter Jamie Doe’s song ‘Albatross’.

I had already played with Jay Davis (drums) when we were both students at the conservatoire, and I’d met Will Harris (bass) while touring with Wild Flower in Bristol.

Your new album ‘The Town and the City’, is out now on all platforms. Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration behind this album?

The title alludes to my growing up in the very rural North Yorkshire Moors, but also spending a great deal of time living in cities like Brussels, Leeds and now London. I think the music suggested by these different spaces is quite different, and I think my rural upbringing gives me a bit of a pastoral, spacious and folk-tinged influence in my music, alongside the ‘urban’ sounds of jazz and other rhythmic traditions from around the world which are also really important to me.

There’s a bit more of a groove-oriented, hard-edged sound to this record compared to my last album, ‘Rambling’, and it’s also more stripped-down, flexible and spontaneous as we stick to the quartet line-up throughout, with no extra horns joining us. It’s the most exposed I’ve been as a soloist on my recordings thus far, and also the first time I’ve recorded on soprano saxophone as well as my usual tenor.

You produced the album through your own label Hidden Threads Records, how did you find this process?

It’s really empowering to be in control of the whole process yourself, and after doing a couple of albums through a label I felt I knew enough to tackle it myself. It’s been a lot of work but I would really recommend it to others – especially these days, you really have to ask yourself what you’re going to gain from being on a label. You might be offered a great deal, in which case, take it! But chances are you’re going to be handing over a lot of the sales income and handing over some rights, and you have to be sure that’s going to be worth your while.

What is your favourite thing about lecturing at Leeds Conservatoire?

It’s a real privilege to be able to teach students who have made this big commitment to study music full-time and who want to work in the music industry, so I think it’s just being able to geek out on music with other like-minded people and help out where I can.

By Lauren Bickerdike

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