FEATURE: Is this Salford graduate the next big music producer?
He’s a self-made Salford graduate who’s gone from making beats in his bedroom to signing a deal with one of the biggest producers and songwriters in the industry right now.
Matthieu (Matt) Woodburn, known professionally as MATTU, is potentially one of the next big musical talents to come out of Greater Manchester. Born and raised in Blackburn, Lancashire, the 26-year-old has made a name for himself in the hyper-competitive music business and has ambitious plans for his future after signing a deal with a publishing company co-owned by multi-platinum producer Digital Farm Animals.
Arriving at Salford in 2014 to study BA Music: Popular Music and Recording, Matt immersed himself in the world of online music production, messaging singers from all over the world on SoundCloud to sing over his beats.
After graduating in Summer 2017, he went on to be one of 12 young artists to do the acclaimed Levi’s Music Project in Manchester where he undertook his first in-person collaborations with fellow musicians from around the city region, before returning to Salford the following year to do his master’s in Music.
Matt built himself a home studio in various flats in Manchester after his master’s and started finding likeminded artists to collaborate with and experiment with multiple genres.
In 2021, he took his recording equipment out of his flat into a purpose-built space in Chapel Street, started dividing his time between studios in Manchester and London and last year, put pen to paper on a publishing deal with an organisation that has worked with the likes of Diplo, Zara Larsson, Clean Bandit, KSI, Jonas Brothers and Anne-Marie.
And he’s also found time to be the touring drummer for up and coming pop trio New Hope Club, spending months on the road across North America, Asia and the UK.
So after all that, what’s his plan for the future and how has his time at Salford helped him become one of the most exciting talents in the industry right now.
Image below shows Matt working on a track
“There wasn’t anyone around trying to make the music I wanted to make”
Originally a fan of rock, Matt's time at Salford steered him towards new genres, such as hyperpop and rap, which inspired him to put his energy into self-production and experimenting within the genres.
His talent for self-production was spotted early by his tutor, Phil Brissinden, a Senior Lecturer in Music Technology. He said: “To this day I still use Matt’s tracks as a way to inspire new students. He was so talented at all the different techniques involved with self-production, from drumming to using his voice to effect in the track. It was clear that there was something about him.”
A penchant for networking was formed early for Matt who approached a range of artists, both prominent or finding their own voice to feature on his music.
“I would reach out to them to ask if they would feature on the track, sometimes I would pay them, sometimes they would do it for free,” Matt said. “Back then, there were a lot of people that wouldn’t message back but I was just trying to make as much music as I could. It felt like there wasn’t anyone around trying to make the music that I wanted to make.”
He credits these early years at Salford, that were full of self-experimentation and networking, as key to shaping him as the producer he is today.
“I think it was super important because it helped me to develop my skills as a songwriter so now when I’m in the studio with an artist, I can write top lines, perform, make new beats and mix on the fly. I have a lot of confidence in my writing as I did my own thing for so many years.
“It also means I don’t have this internalised pressure and thinking there’s someone watching me over my shoulder. Self-producing teaches you how to record your own vocals as well and that will then help your understanding of how to use a microphone and your voice, especially when you start using auto tune and other effects. It’s good to know how to do all this by yourself.”
Phil added that Matt’s dedication to self-production served him in good stead when musicians around the world had to resort to collaborating online when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
He said: “Matt was behaving like a lockdown musician well before the pandemic hit. He was so well prepared and embraced this kind of working to help develop himself.”
Image below shows Matt's studio set-up in a small flat in Manchester during lockdown.
“I tend to find a lot of my voice through other artists”
Prior to lockdown and over the following years, Matt began to harness a sound that became distinctively his own and his infectious energy led to collaborations with artists that would bolster his reputation on the scene.
A track with hyperpop artist Ayesha Erotica called ‘Rockstar’ ended up getting 1.5 million streams on Spotify and catapulted his name online into similar artist circles. He followed that up with the bilingual ‘Sola’ by Manchester R’n’B artist Nina Cobham (which is approaching 20 million streams) who he’d met in person and its release led to ‘a lot of people taking me seriously.’
Listen: Video below is of Mattu's track 'Rockstar' with Ayesha Erotica
Matt then started blending guitar tracks with rap, leading to collaborations with East London’s Deijuvhs and Bradford rapper Blazer Boccle as he continued to pursue a defined sound for himself as a producer.
He said: “These were the first kind of instances of diving back into my rock roots. I would have the artist saying the first things that came into their head and I would build the song structure around it.
“We weren’t trying to make rock rap but something that sounded a bit different. A whole new sound really that at first no one really got. It is not the kind of music he is supposed to make but he took a gamble and ended up getting signed to a record label.
“This was a big lesson for me as it showed that if you keep doubling down, are unapologetic about the way you make and release music and keep working hard, people will eventually get it.
“It takes time for an artist to find a voice and I tend to find a lot of my own through other artists.”
Listen: Video below is Nina Cobham's Sola, produced by Mattu.
Matt's work with Blazer Boccle led to the artist’s manager taking him as a client and in 2021, he progressed from recording with artists in his flat to renting his own professional recording space in Salford's Chapel Street.
It was at this point that his name was being banded about in music circles outside of Manchester and he was approached by Nick Gale (known by his DJ/Producer moniker Digital Farm Animals) to sign a publishing deal with his company Bigger Picture Entertainment, which was then signed in Spring 2022.
Listen: Video below is Deijuvhs' Pipe Dreams, produced by Mattu.
“In music, you choose to focus as much as your mind and body allows you to.”
Phil remembers a crucial moment in Mathieu’s career when he was just about to leave Salford and he came to him, asking for tips on how to get started as a music teacher.
“I was very unhappy as I knew what he was capable off,” Phil said. “I just went, ‘No, I’m not going to advise you in this way’. I told him that he had a lot of talent in him and that he could go and get a record deal. I said, get a job, something that will support you for a few days in the week and spend the rest of the time solidly making music.
“He clearly listened as when he came back to Salford all those years later he thanked me for that conversation as he said that my advice had worked!”
Whilst he took Phil’s advice on board, Mathieu found it hard not to overwork himself in order to reach the high standards that he was setting for himself when he started out in the industry.
He said: “In music, so much of your own personal discipline is a factor. You choose to focus as much as your mind and body allows you to and you have got to remind yourself to take break, rest and ensure you are getting some perspective on the work you are doing.
“It’s very difficult to not compare yourself to others around you as everyone’s working in real time and all doing the same thing. When I clocked that I was one of youngest producers in Manchester and starting to make a name for myself, I found it hard to not compare myself to other producers.
“But I soon realised that I’m not going to get exactly the same success in the same exact way as anybody else. I think competition is good and there’s a part of it that really fuels me, but I know that it’s also one of the things that if you let it, it will cripple you.”
Listen: Video below is Blazer Boccle's Boppin, produced by Mattu.
“Matt is where the industry is heading”
As for his future, Mathieu is not hiding his ambitions to make an indelible mark in the music industry.
“I feel like my purpose is to make something culture shifting. I want to create a bit of a scene or a sound that people end up adopting. A new wave of artists that would influence the next generation of songwriters.”
He lists producer/songwriter titans Pharrell Williams and Timberland as his idols in the industry and cites their well-known traits of producing others and discovering up and coming talents as a model to follow.
For Phil, he is very excited about what the future holds for Mathieu.
He added: “It feels amazing when a student really succeeds and they fulfil their potential. For some, it doesn’t work but others go on to have amazing careers and Matt has done exactly what he wanted to do. It fills me with pride.
“I think what he’s shown is that self-producers are where the industry is heading and he’s already walking that path to success.”
As for Matt's advice for the music producers and students of the future?
"My voice for anyone would be to just try. Give it a go. Try as hard as you can as you don't know how much you can achieve."
Image below is of Mattu with the pop trio New Hope Club as their touring drummer and performing on stage.
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