A lot has been said over the past three years about the X Factor winner, with the four octave vocal range and undeniable likeability who didn’t quite ‘fit the mould’. Be it his personal relationships, the affairs, his battle with cancer at a young age or the supposed feuds with Simon Cowell and his hit-making factory Sony Music.
The truth is, his philosophy regarding all the above is incredibly nonchalant and refreshing. Having started his journey in the public eye at the age of 27, with some life experience behind him, he is not a man naive to the ways of the world, and quickly grasped an understanding of how fickle and cut-throat the industry he has entered can be. It’s an attitude that enables him to keep following his own path and singing to his own tune.
In getting to know Matt Cardle, what’s exposed is an incredibly down to earth, jovial, easy-going, Alan Partridge quote-reciting character who is incredibly comfortable in his own skin. At his very core though there is an undeniable desire, bordering on obsession, to create music. He lives and breathes, music.
A prolific writer, his iTunes library consists of over 500 completed self-penned songs. He has had a state of the art studio installed in his home and it is here, where he has spent the last few years ‘creating’.
As he approaches the release of his third album, ‘Porcelain’, Cardle reflects on his journey so far;
“It’s no secret that I struggled as a musician for years. I started my first band when I was 12 years old and spent at least 15 years recording albums, sending demo’s to record companies and publishers but without any real breakthrough. It was tough. The X Factor gave me the biggest opportunity of my life. Without that, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now and I’ll be eternally grateful.”
When Cardle reflects further on recent history, it is hard for him to believe that almost three years have passed since he was crowned the winner of the 7th series of the X Factor in front of an audience surpassing a staggering 19 million viewers. It is still the shows most successful series to date and he famously won the public vote every week, with the exception of the first.
His debut single ‘When We Collide’ sold over 1 million copies and spent 3 weeks at no. 1. The subsequent album ‘Letters’ (2011) debuted at no. 2 on the UK album charts and was certified Platinum within weeks. However, despite this success, Cardle began to feel uneasy with the direction the label wanted to take him. He therefore made the bold move to leave Sony Music and launch his own label, granting him the creative control he desired over his music and career.
A year later, Cardle re-emerged with the follow up to his debut album and released the self produced LP ‘The Fire’ in October 2012. Upon release, ‘The Fire’ rocketed into the UK Top 10 and debuted at No. 8 in the charts. It was certified ‘Silver’ the week of release.
The gamble had paid off.
Now, fast forward to the present day, with 2 Top 10 albums and four sell out UK & Ireland tours under his belt, Cardle releases his third album ‘Porcelain’.
The 10 track collection features the multi-instrumentalist taking the helm on writing and production duties once again, but also includes collaborations with seasoned veterans such as multi-platinum selling writer/producer Toby Smith (ex-Jamiroquai) and 16 time Grammy Award nominee, U.S. superstar Brian McKnight, amongst others.
Cardle believes that the album, written and recorded in Los Angeles, New York and London, is his most diverse piece of work to date.
“On this album, I’ve fused so many of my favourite genres to create a real variety of sounds and textures. There’s a lot more soul on this album, but equally I’ve gone further pushing my rock influences into some of the tracks. There’s some gorgeous love songs and a bit of bluesy attitude on there too. I’m generally in a happier place and that’s reflected lyrically, but everyone has their dark days too. I really feel there’s something for everyone to relate to.”
“I’ve pushed myself even further vocally this time. I’m using more of my range and have spent a lot of time over the past year developing my vocals and taking more risks”
The first release from the album was the infectious hit single ‘Loving You’, a duet with Melanie C.
“I met Melanie at the Isle of Wight Festival last year,” Cardle said. “I’m a big fan particularly of her solo stuff and I’ve always loved her voice. I had already started writing ‘Loving You’ and I thought with a few changes it could work perfectly as a duet. I’m really thrilled with the song and the response from the public.”
The follow up single ‘When You Were My Girl’ started out as an idea in Los Angeles in July this year.
“I had a session with JC Chasez (N’Sync) and his producer Jimmy Harry. We came up with this really awesome bass line, which I revisited a few weeks later when I was back in the UK. I continued writing to it and a few days later, the track was finished. I co-produced the song with Toby Smith and Jamie Scott and it’s got a real Marvin Gaye, Jackson-esque type feel to it. Though lyrically the song talks of betrayal and deception, musically its got quite and uplifting vibe to it. I’m really proud of it”
Naturally, the album touches on heartbreak too. The well-documented breakdown of Cardle’s relationship last year no doubt provided the inspiration for ‘In Chains’. With its trip-hop leanings and tortured lyrics, this is a song reminiscent of Portishead’s early work and certainly finds him exploring new territory. The song climaxes with a range of impressive vocal acrobatics, with Cardle jumping and swooping through octaves like only he knows how.
‘Hit My Heart’, which Cardle describes as the albums ‘pop moment’ begins deceptively with it’s ethereal intro and stop-start rhythmic verses but eventually develops into a chorus that’s pure euphoria and allows him to demonstrate his skills as an arranger and producer, successfully merging rhythms and styles that on paper, wouldn’t work.
‘Not Over You’ finds Cardle at his most tender. Co-written with Brian McKnight, the song features a lavish string arrangement and vulnerability in the vocal performance that he himself admits, caught him slightly off guard.
“I started writing ‘Not Over You’ in April 2012. I always knew it was a gorgeous song, but for personal reasons I kept putting off recording it. It’s one of my most honest songs and is clearly a direct message to someone I still love and miss every day. I decided to finally record it earlier this year, thinking I was ready, but there was a level of emotion in my vocal that I’d never tapped into quite like this before. I did the song in one take and although it’s not perfect, there’s something on tape that I don’t think I could ever get again, so we left it on the final version.
With 2 million record sales under his belt and a growing international fan base, the release of ‘Porcelain’ heralds the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Matt Cardle. It’s his first album to be released internationally and with major label backing across various continents, keeping self-confessed workaholic Cardle busy well into 2014 – just the way he likes it!