’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that Matt Henshaw is a shining example of what can be done if you have enough belief in your cause. In this case, it’s his music. Swiftly followed by his passion for organic gardening and helping his cat reach internet stardom. to be in a band, out playing every night. Maybe I’m not as wild as I once was, but there’s something I can do with songs I’ve written and just played to the bedroom walls. So I thought why not just get out and do it. Leicester seems to have an open mic night every day of the week. I sort of started one week in July, and went to five in three nights. Through that I met everyone, and made loads of good friends. I think Leicester is a very warm place for musicians. No one is snide, and they respect you and encourage you.
In a signed band straight after leaving school, Henshaw got caught in the strings attached to being handed the rock and roll lifestyle at such a young age. Sitting here now, nursing his second cup of tea in a row, he tells me about his own brand of catchy but intelligent acoustic rock that bears a resemblance to Oasis in their more delicate moments. In a short time he has become a not-to-bemissed performer in Leicester, and is not lacking in plans for his future. Jessamyn Witthaus: So, how long have you been writing your own music and performing? Matt Henshaw: Well, I’ve been writing forever really. Ever since I picked up the guitar when I was eleven. It just naturally seemed right to start singing and writing stuff down. I was in a band when I finished sixth form, we got a record deal and did tours and stuff. Then I went away from it but carried on writing bits and bobs, sort of for personal catharsis. Then I decided I felt the need to get out and play stuff by myself.
JW: Do you have an album or EP in the works right now? MH: I’m thinking about, possibly for the new year. I’ve got three producers that I’m thinking of working with. Probably starting in January. I’ve got a backlog of stuff recorded, bits and pieces with other musicians that I’ve just uploaded for free on YouTube. I just want to get the lay of the land and see what people like, what sort of sound I want to go for and what are the best songs to choose. It’s all been well received so that actually makes it quite confusing. I really like working with other people, I like collaborating. If you get a good repartee with a producer, who has ideas to add to mix then it should be good.
JW: So you were living the dream being signed at quite a young age, why did that come to an end? MH: Yeah, it was a good deal. We got signed right out of sixth form, and it all lasted until I was 21. We played with some big bands such as Snow Patrol and We Are Scientists. At the end of it, I was drinking too much, that’s why for five years now I’ve been off the booze, with plenty of tea. In a clichéd fashion, stuff just sort of went away. I thought I would never bother with music again, but here we are.
JW: Tell me about your style of writing, who are your influences and inspirations? MH: I really love soul music and blues. That’s come from starting in the 90s with Blur, Oasis, Paul Weller, Kula Shaker, Supergrass, Ocean Colour Scene. Then working my way back through their influences, it all goes back to The Beatles and Sam Cooke, those are my biggest loves. I also have a real fondness for what was coined as “blue eyed soul” in the sixties. People like the Small Faces and the Spencer Davis Group, white guys who were appropriating black music in Britain. They say that you pick up your major influences in your formative years, and I was talking to someone the other day about how I sing and who I sound like. Before I played the guitar I used to sing along with records, figuring out what I like. This friend of mine said I was somewhere between Paul Weller and Liam Gallagher. My mum always used to listen to Wet Wet Wet so there’s a bit of Marti Pellow thrown into there too. People forget, but they were also a soul band back in the day, the same kind of “blue eyed soul”. So, fair play to my mum.
JW: Did the experience being part of a band teach you lessons that you value now? MH: Oh yeah, it’s like the second time around with a sober head and a more mature character. It’s easier to fish out who is for real now. I wish I had known then what I know now, it might have gone differently. I have no regrets though, I’ve learnt a lot. Now I’m just going to press on with the right people. You just need to meet the right people, that’s massive. No one man is an island. JW: Tell me about how you got involved in the Leicester music scene, you seem to have become quite established in a short space of time. MH: I came to Leicester to work at the university. When it came to the end of my contract I didn’t want to renew it. I didn’t want to pursue a career as a research assistant any further. I thought, I used THEM ONOG RAP H .C O. U K