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Mathew V on Being Palatable and Celebrity Representation - Tunes Tuesday Transcript

Maud Mostly: Hi, I’m Maud Mostly my pronouns are they/them. And welcome back to Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series where I sit down with Queer/2SLGBTQ+ bands and musicians to talk to them about their music, their experiences, and so much more. Today, I am joined by Vancouver-based pop artist, Mathew V. Thank you so much for joining me here today. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Mathew V: Absolutely, thank you so much for having me. Thank you for doing what you do. My name is Mathew V. My pronouns are he/him, and I am Vancouver-based recording artist, songwriter, performing artist. Haven't been a performing artist in the last 14 months, but I've been a performing artist in my bathroom mirror, so I'm staying in practice and yeah, I'm also an avid music fan and listener.

MM: Thank you so much and I'm so excited to start this conversation with you, and I really wanna do a little bit of a throwback first because you released the music video for ‘The Coast’ in 2018, and it's a lovely music video that features a visibly queer relationship. How did it feel to release that? And when you were beginning your career in music, did it always feel like that was going to be a liberty you would be able to take?

Mathew V: Thank you for that question. That's an interesting and valuable question. ‘The Coast’ was the first music video that I released from my second album, and I was very conscious during my first album, like I signed my record when I was like 18 or 19. I was very young, and I went into that first record wanting to be as palatable as possible for the masses, and to me, from the childhood that I had, from what I had been shown, that was being as non-feminine as possible, making sure that I didn't drop in a he/him pronoun. And I was very conscious of that, and if there was ever a session where I did use a he/him pronoun, I recall getting questioned on, is that something that you really wanna do? And as a naive, impressionable young artist, I was like, oh, it's being asked, I probably shouldn't. Let's just play it safe, let’s not, let's change this up. And with that being said, I've experienced that in the music industry, my team has always been, like my management, my label, has always championed me being as out as I wanted to be, being as vocal as I wanted to be, but I think that first record, especially I was battling all of my internalized homophobia that had been there for my entire childhood, and then so cut to ‘The Coast’ music video, the first single from my second record, and I was wearing makeup and it was also noticably more pop than I had done in the past because I felt like, as a gay man, it would be “too gay” to do like bubble gum pop music, and I was like, oh, I can't do that, and I finally dove in head first, I feel like it was even popular than I feel my authentic self is 'cause I was pushing back against all of this suppressed, being unable to do it, and so I felt really empowered because my team was cheering me on the whole way, my management, and they were the ones who actually brought up, do you want to have a visible relationship in the video, we think it would be wonderful if you were comfortable doing that. So for me, that was such an acknowledgement of them allowing me to be really as far on that spectrum as I really wanted to be publicly, and it was wonderful. It was liberating, and I think that record, I kind of got to really explore and experiment and see really how pop-y I wanted to be rather than just doing it because I felt like I was never able to in the past. So it was definitely liberating. I think that it was wonderful to feel comfortable with that, for myself, absolutely.

MM: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. I know it can be really hard as queer people, as gay people to share our past experiences with internalized homophobia, like that can be, I mean it's such a heavy way to feel and then to be honest about it in a homophobic society, that takes a lot to connect those things. So thank you for sharing that vulnerability and kind of sharing that story of how you came through that.

Mathew V: Thank you for acknowledging that.

MM: Yeah, and kind of playing off of that, you know, we are seeing cultural shifts, and as a queer pop musician yourself who has been doing this work for several years, do you believe the increase in pop celebrity that is now coming out as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, serves the greater pop scene in a way that will help up-and-coming queer pop artist? Maybe in a way that would have helped you when you were first coming to terms in the music scene?

Mathew V: Absolutely. Well, I remember my coming of age into myself as a queer person was listening like at age like 11, 12, 13 to Lady Gaga and seeing this huge star on a stage screaming out loud regardless of who was listening or who was upset about it, that I support you for whoever you are and whoever you want to be. And I remember seeing that and being like, oh my gosh, this person of status in society is championing me, and at that time, I don't even think that it was really acknowledged what Lady Gaga’s sexuality was, but besides that fact, I just saw someone — it was the first time I remember seeing someone of status speaking out for who I was as a person. And cut to now where we have a bunch of people in this queer community that are out and proud and boisterous and speaking up about it, I can only imagine if I was growing up in this time, the wide embrace that I would feel from seeing all these people that may have common experiences to me, or similar experiences to me, publicly. I think that there are still issues that we have with, I mean, it's June we’re in Pride Month right now, and every year in Pride Month, there's these Pride playlists that come up, which is a wonderful growth from where it was before. I think where I'd love to see queer representation breach into is not just the Pride playlists, because I find that there's a bunch of queer people going and listening to the Pride playlist, and we're hearing our stories that we were hearing anyways, because we were experiencing them and we're familiar with other queer artists, and we're a part of this community, that is a community that we all like interacte and engage with each other.

I don't know if I see as much of the cisgendered straight community sprinting to the Pride playlists to hear queer stories. I'd love to see queer artists incorporated because queer music is not a genre — it's an experience, but it's not necessarily a genre — I'd love to see queer artists championed, not only in the Pride playlists, but in the playlists or the groups of songs or whatever it is, of their genre. Because I know that as a queer person, when I was listening to music growing up, whatever pronouns J-Lo is using, whatever pronouns The Backstreet Boys were using, I was able to connect to the universal feeling of love or heartbreak or whatever this is, and I think that straight cisgendered people are more than capable of connecting to our universal emotions regardless of what pronouns we're using. So I think that there's a fine line between just keeping us in a corner and claiming that, like, oh, we as a company are being accepting of you because we've given you this microphone for your own party. Whereas like, oh, we're actually gonna elevate your voice to people that haven't heard it before, which I think is where I'd like to see things go in the future.

I also think that there's a fine line between all the wonderful representation that we have nowadays, and where that kind of feels like tokenising. And I can speak only for myself, but I know that over the past years that there's been jobs that I've gotten or opportunities presented to me, exclusively because either I was the only queer person that was brought up or that they knew of, or because they knew that I was one of the most palatable ones to wide range of people. And it doesn't feel as fulfilling to get an opportunity exclusively because you were the only queer person that anyone brought up at that moment. Besides the fact of having merit for the actual art that I'm creating. So I’m still trying to figure out where that line is, because we also have to acknowledge people having a fair opportunity to create art of a certain standard or a certain quality because some of the resources aren't there provided because people are in marginalized communities. So I'm kind of getting into a PowerPoint presentation now—

MM: No, I love it.

Mathew V: I'm trying to figure out all these things for myself as well, because as you kind of mentioned, it's shifting so fast. When I think about the change that happened from when I was in grade 1 to grade 12, I feel like that shift happens every two years now. So things are moving really, really fast. And I think that we're all trying to play a bit of catch-up as to what is the best path forward, and I think that that's always going to pivot and shift, but that's my two cents on, I guess, where we're sitting right now.

MM: Yeah, thank you for adding so much nuance to that, and I think the points you're making also powerfully connect to that idea of celebrities already have the status in society, so obviously when they come out, when they're already famous, they're going to be getting a different kind of support and a different kind of reaction than, let's say like a DIY musician that's still trying to get signed to a label.

Mathew V: Absolutely, and to no fault of these artists and their own views, everyone's path is different, and everyone's timeline is different, but they garnered this success from the perspective often of a cisgender straight person, so they built their platform from this public privileged position, and then I would imagine it's much easier to come out with 10 million dollars in the bank, and if your career fell apart, you're all good to go. But I think entering into the industry as an openly queer person, I would imagine is much more difficult because you don't have the power in your back pocket to make your own terms as to how these things are happening.

MM: Absolutely, and I would love to sit here and just carry on that discussion for hours, because I think there's so much more that the two of us could say and there's so many more details that we could bring up, I would adore that, but unfortunately, and fortunately, I do really want to get back into your music because that is incredible on its own. So one of your recent releases is your single ‘Badly’, which came out in April of this year, and since its release, you've been hinting at the fact that there is definitely more to come this summer and fall. Can you share anything about these projects and what people have to look forward to?

Mathew V: Absolutely, and first of all, thank you for those kind words. It's very sweet, my ego is fed, I got my morning ego feed so that's wonderful. Thank you very much and so ‘Badly’ was the third single from my new project that is finished, that will be out before 2022, and then, so we have a few more singles from that project and the project itself. And then this year, I've really had the free time from not touring to be able to pivot and kind of open up a new door for myself, and I was thinking about what I wanted that energy to be put towards, and I found myself just collaborating with a bunch of DJs and dance producers, and I was realizing that they really needed vocalists, and I felt like I had something to offer in that capacity, and I figured that I would put some of my time towards just collaborating in a way that I hadn't before, just because I simply didn't have the time to do so. And it kind of snowballed, and then I found myself doing it five days a week, and then I was rushing back to the studio because we needed this edit and that edit, and then now I think we have a lot of those coming out this summer and even into 2022 now, so I think there's going to be a lot more collaborations, kind of working beside my solo stuff.

So I'm excited for that to get out, I think that it's a new endeavor for me and something I've been excited to dip my pinky toe into.

MM: Yeah, that sounds incredible. And I know, obviously, these have been incredibly unfortunate circumstances, but it has been amazing to hear all the ways that artists have continued to come together, and I'm really glad that you found those paths and those networks to be able to continue to collaborate and work with other people as well.

Mathew V: Thank you, thank you so much. Yeah, it's been fun to have to pivot and I think that everyone has had to pivot, but yeah, I'm happy at least that I have that skill under my belt now for better or worse.

MM: Absolutely. Well, if you want to check out Mathew V's music or stay up-to-date on any of those future projects that will be coming out in the near future, make sure to check out all the links below this video. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciated this conversation. And stay tuned for next week's Tunes Tuesday, Matthew V will be playing us out.

*Halo by Mathew V begins playing*

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