21 FRAGMENTS: LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 / an online collaboration involving 29 people, from around the world (musicians, visual artists, writers, filmmakers).
Between June and November 2020 – the project seeks to explore these unusual times in a world of pandemic — through picture, word and music, poetry, song, essay and visual art.
As part of the project, I am reaching out to the contributors and asking them a set of interview questions – exploring their work and their own experience in these pandemic times. I will be sharing these interviews here and on my second blog (acommonplaceblog) – which is home to the project.
Dean interviews M G Boulter
I read you say in an interview “isolation for me is generally good for writing songs” – That was before the days of the pandemic. How has the new ‘isolation’ factored into your life as a musician – when and how did the pandemic start to impact you?
In terms of song writing I have found the pandemic a mixed bag. I was not in a very inspired place at the start of lockdown here in the UK so I was forced to work on details and arrangements of songs I had already written, which is not something I particularly enjoy doing so it was good to be forced into it. To be inspired I need input so being stuck in my flat for 5 weeks or so with only the immediate neighbourhood to walk around in did not create the ideas I needed but it was OK and instead I used it to reflect and ‘let the grass grow’ which is important in song writing as I believe you can’t churn things out constantly, you have to have some freshness.
Of course, another major impact was being unable to tour and practice with fellow musicians which was a major blow.
You describe yourself as a singer songwriter – could you expand a little on how you see yourself as a musician – where did the musical journey begin and where do you see it taking you?
This is an interesting question because I have made a conscious decision to refer to myself as a singer songwriter mainly because the business demands some sort of label but as I have progressed through my music I have seen the reality and message of songcraft and lyrics to be more important than my ability to play musical instruments. I now approach songs and albums as perhaps a novelist/writer would in that I try and think ‘what am I trying to tell people? What is it about the human experience I want to share with them?’ I think I just want to share some common ground. That said I started out very much wanting to play guitar and was focussed solely on that and I have found my love for just playing it again over the last year or so. Where’s it taking me? Who knows, I really am just happy making records and songs and if I can keep people interested I can keep doing it.
How (if at all) has the pandemic affected and influenced your music?
It takes me time to process events both personal and wider before they make it into songs. I always seem to write retrospectively to give my brain time to understand what moves me into action. So you won’t see many pandemic songs from me for another year or two. That said ‘Gallows Humour’ represents my first ‘off the cuff’ songs and it was written during lockdown so it may be the first of many.
What strategies have you developed and employed, in coping with the challenges thrown at you as a professional musician in 2020?
Keeping positive and keeping perspective. Doing what you can and knowing when doing things other than music is still enjoyable.
How did you become involved in the ongoing online project 21 Fragments? What are your impressions of it so far?
It came by chance really in that I was recommended to the project by Ben Fisher, who is a member of the excellent ‘Jenny Wren and Her Borrowed Wings’. He contacted me about the project and I instantly liked the cross disciplinary approach of bringing different artists together. Glad I got involved!
Could you talk a little about the 2 songs you have contributed to the project: ‘A Matserless Man’ and ‘Gallows Humour’?
‘Gallows Humour’ was very much written during and about the lockdown here in the UK. The silence in my neighbourhood was so profound and there was this fear, unconscious or otherwise, that the physical world even at its most mundane was suddenly dangerous. The small act of opening the window and breathing fresh air seemed such a liberty for everyone. In a strange way I felt very present, very alive and very positive because all expectation had been cut away. I could only queue at the supermarket and stay indoors reading and for once that felt OK.
‘The Masterless Man’ has been brewing for a time and came out of the idea that for most of the UK’s known history there have been people who lived beyond government and influence, mainly by living in woods. The original Green Men. The song is an escape fantasy I suppose. I’m wondering what it would be like to roam without any ties.
You can experience Matt’s first contribution (‘A Masterless Man’) to the project in fragment 7 of 21 FRAGMENTS – LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
And listen to it here:
A MASTERLESS MAN