Matthew Craig is a musician and co-founder of creative collective “R.E.A.L Music”. He can be seen over New Years at Beyond The Valley Festival in Philip Island, Victoria. You can check out his most recent parody rap battle here and follow Matt on Twitter or Instagram: @whatmsees. For more info head to the R.E.A.L Musics’ Facebook or Soundcloud.
What made you follow this path?
I love music. Just the joy that it can bring to you and the emotions it can draw out. Across all different genres. My Dad worked in radio when I was a kid and so my parents always had music blaring around the house. I could sing every word AC/DC’s Back In Black by about age 5 haha.
I first picked up a guitar when I was eleven. Some dude was offering free lessons at my Primary School and I thought why not. I originally wanted to be a drummer but guitar seemed damn cool.
My parents brought me my first acoustic that Christmas and yeah music has been a massive part of my life since then. I studied music through high school, got mad involved in bands, school productions etc. I was even the lead in The King And I! I entered a singing contest for some recording time when I was 15 and was up against these crazy vocalists with massive ranges, meanwhile I was spitting raps.
Anyway somehow I got to the final and the judges said I had to sing. So I sang a Harry Connick Jr jazz number and ended up winning haha. It was kinda at that point I realised that while I love playing guitar, I needed to be able to express myself on the mic too.
Was this always what you wanted to do or did it emerge?
I was bought up in that culture of go to uni, get a degree because music won’t provide a living. So I did. I’ve got three frikken postgrad qualifications including a law degree! But I decided in the end stuff that.
I spent some time living overseas and got inspired. Got home, turned my back on that whole career thing and started chasing my dreams. Even if I don’t get somewhere I’ll at least say I tried.
I’m already more satisfied than I was chasing paper. I do heaps of youth work telling other young people to follow their heart, would’ve been mad hypocritical had I not done the same.
If you’d told me 5 years ago that I would be doing what I’m doing any playing alongside artists I idolised growing up (R.E.A.L Music supported T-Pain on his recent Australian Tour) I would’ve laughed hysterically. So yeah, you can do it if you want it enough.
Did you ever feel different in any way?
I was a nerd growing up haha. I was always the short kid in class. I couldn’t impress girls with my size so I had to find a different gameplan. Some dudes lifted weights, I lifted guitars instead haha.
It’s worked out well. I was that smart arse in the playground. Guys used to get in fights but I realised pretty early that I was at a disadvantage there so I developed a quick wit to mock the big dudes who had a go.
I got racially abused pretty bad when I was young. I grew up in a very white, anglo-saxon area and even though I’m relatively light-skinned myself, having a long last name and different kinds of food in my lunchbox didn’t go down well haha.
So that’s where the sharp tongue and rebuttals came from. It was a way to protect myself and flip shit on the bully. I made some dude’s look seriously stupid. I guess that’s why I love battle rap.
How did you break free to follow your dream and who helped you in the process?
I’m lucky that I have supportive parents. After I got that degree, that “back-up plan” so to speak, they encouraged me to go for it. And they have ever since.
I also do everything with my brother (Junor, a rapper and co-founder of R.E.A.L Music). We’re in this shit together so we ride every wave and every bump together and can support each other. It’s hard enough now, I couldn’t imagine being all on my own. I had to play a sold out gig without him the other week cos he was touring in NZ and I got anxious as heck just doing that haha.
And I’ve got the whole R.E.A.L fam who have my back. That’s why we formed a creative collective, we support each other 100% and share in each other’s success both as a crew and individually. That’s what family is about. I love those guys.
Did anyone know about your dream?
I used to dream about being Michael Jackson when I was 5 or 6 haha. To be honest I never really shared that with anyone except my brother. We used to watch movies and videos to get inspired and then stay up all night talking about our future.
Space Jam was huge for us. We were always gonna do something great together, it was just a matter of what it was. We tried sport and did pretty well but nothing filled that desire like music and performing does.
Does anyone question your choices and how do you deal with this?
I get a lot of people who ask how law is going and then are pretty shocked or disappointed when I tell them what I’m doing with my life. I do get a lot of supportive people though who encourage me. You gotta do what satisfies you in the end. Don’t play it safe. Life’s too short for that.
How did others around you react to you following your dream?
Guys I grew up with don’t talk with me anymore. Cos I broke the mould. They’re still doing the same old shitty thing at the same place they always were while I took a risk and stepped outside the comfort zone.
Small town mentality sucks. I hate the tall-poppy syndrome. It robs us of so much potential. So I guess I lost a lot of friends. On the flip side, once you start doing well, a lot of people who never showed you love want to be your best friend haha. It kinda sucks and I sound cynical. I swear that’s only a small portion of people.
I’ve met some incredible people and had friends that I didn’t realise early on were so important in my life who are still by my side today. That’s loyalty. That’s how you know who is genuine. And I want to be that guy for others too.
I got friends chasing dreams in sport, modelling, television, business, law, heaps of cool stuff – I want to be as supportive as possible at all times. We’re all in this together.
Do people call you lucky and how do you respond to this?
My brother says all the time that “luck only happens when skill meets opportunity.” I sorta agree with that. I’m not sure how I feel about luck. I’m certainly fortunate to have all the opportunities I do and I’m not sure how much I could’ve done without the support I have around me.
So I just live in gratitude. Always be grateful for what you have and do the very best with it that you can.
How do you deal with not being considered part of the norm?
I love it. Normal is boring. I always say that if you ask a random person in the street what their favourite piece of legislation is, or their favourite stock on the market; they’re gonna think you’re an idiot and keep walking. Unless you’re in the business district I guess haha. But ask them about their favourite song or favourite movie and they can go on for hours.
We have this double standard for creatives. We worship them when they’re successful. We read about them in tabloids and are obsessive over every aspect of their lives. But when they’re amateurs, or just starting out on the grind; we look down on them. It’s some bullshit really when you think about it. It’s way hypocritical. We want people to play it safe until they make it. That’s really ridiculous. It’s something I’d like to try help break.
How do you deal with criticism?
I love criticism. When it’s constructive. People say “haters gonna hate” but I’m down for hate. If it’s justified. I’m always seeking advice on how I can improve. If someone genuinely can articulate why they don’t like something, after having listened/watched/read about it etc I’m cool with that. That’s objectivity. But if you merely hate without being informed. That’s the height of ignorance. Give me a reason why you do or don’t like something. Don’t just be a sheep and do what’s popular. That’s whack.
What does art mean to you?
I love that there is no right or wrong with art. It’s expression. I hated maths in school. But I loved English because I could engage with and put myself in the answer. Art is people.
That’s peoples heart, soul and creativity in whatever piece is being discussed. So if you hate on the art, you hate on the person. I love that people from all walks of life and all different backgrounds can connect with all different types of art.
I’m not gonna pretend that I love all songs, movies, books and paintings because I don’t. Some of them I can’t stand. But someone, somewhere appreciates it and connects with it and that’s pretty cool.
I just want art to be good. No matter what it is. I want it to be thought provoking or relevant to someone’s particular plot in life. I want it to be innovative and clever.
The only art I hate is when it’s not genuine. When it’s dumbed down to be popular to the masses rather than authentic to the creative artistry itself. I find that insulting. I think any true artist of any medium will agree with me on that. Do it properly or don’t do it at all. Do it for the right reasons.
What inspires you?
Just life. There’s inspiration everywhere if you choose to find it. I’m all about utilising all your senses. I get inspiration just mowing the lawns and smelling grass or going to a football game and seeing people passionate.
I’m all about stories. I live for stories. Telling them. Writing them and sharing in them. My mission in life is to grow my story. To become a part of other people’s stories and have them become a part of mine.
So I guess my inspiration comes from just living. I want to utilise every second of my existence to create a better, more exciting, more emotive, more detailed story. I want to leave a legacy. And have someone create a cool as shit biographical movie about me haha.
Where do you go for creative inspiration?
Haha to be honest, I write some of my best shit and get my most creative ideas in the shower. I’d like to think it’s something beautiful and metaphorical about refreshing water and being naked but to be honest I just spend way too much time in the shower and get cool ideas haha.
What are you most excited for in the future?
This might sound selfish but I just wanna tour. I love playing shows, I love meeting people, I love travelling. All this connects with touring. I saw the Rolling Stones play in Melbourne recently and those dudes are enjoying it as much as they were 50 year ago! It was incredible! I wanna be that guy haha.
There’s just a buzz I get playing shows to different audiences that is unmatched. It’s not even the partying that’s associated with it, although that’s cool too. It’s the whole creating a bigger story that just gets me pumped.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
Do what makes you happy.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to create the life of their dreams?
Chase your dreams with a shot of motivation. Don’t let it be a pipe dream. Go get it. Because it’s closer than you think.