Artist Interview - Matilda
Though the weeks and months have seemed to blur together, and time seems to escape us all this year, Speed Demon Records was finally able to get a word in with Matilda Phan about what they’re doing in the music world. We asked them a few questions and received answers full of insight and inspiration.
SDR: Can you give us a little more information on your last single, “End Up Okay”?
Matilda: This started as a classic break-up song. I pulled a lot of inspiration from Jim Croce in terms and sound and also Maggie Rogers in terms of songwriting. The intent was to go through the grieving process as the song progressed, but it’s very obvious that even if you know what the end looks like, you can’t speed it up yourself. It’s about being at the beginning of something scary and life-changing and heartbreaking and the only thing that really brings you solace is that one day it won’t feel that way anymore and you know it.
SDR: Is there anything you’re working on now?
Matilda: Too much, honestly. I’ve taken on a couple projects since the start of the quarantine, and a lot of them have been slow burning while others kind of just sparked. Currently, I’m tracking a record that’s probably due around next year with Taylor Neal. He’s an amazing producer, and he’s helped me really develop my sound. This one’s been cooking for about a year, and we really want to take our time perfecting it. I also have just been purely writing and gathering inspiration for the past couple of months and sitting with what I create. Besides solo stuff, I’ve also been collaborating with other artists for fun like Mitch Fountain and Devon Vonbalson, who are magicians when they play. It’s been extremely rewarding to allow the music to flow freely, and the end product ends up sounding genuine and actually really good.
SDR: Who have you been listening to? Matilda: I do this thing where I make monthly playlists and just cycle through those songs and artists. Recently, it’s been a lot of Bee Gees, Faye Webster, Angel Olsen, Beyoncé, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Kelela. Also, some local buddies like Quarter Roy, Shane Malone, Max Helgemo, and LAANDS released music that’s been on repeat.
SDR: What’s your favorite instrument to play?
Matilda: Of course it’s the guitar. I switch between acoustic and electric depending on the mood, but it’s like trying to choose who your favorite child is. Right now, electric is easier on the hands, and I’m feeling dreamy, so that’s my go-to currently.
SDR: What’s your dream instrument to play?
Matilda: I would love to be able to play piano or the sax. In the simplest terms, they’re just sexy instruments and nothing short of powerful.
SDR: How do you like collaborating? As you mentioned earlier, you’ve worked with Taylor Neal and Mitch Fountain.
Matilda: I love it. It adds such a different dimension to making music and expands your world and creative process. Of course, I value writing alone, but opening up your work to other people is enlightening and vulnerable and just sweet. People are able to fill in the blanks for you where you feel like you can’t.
SDR: What’s music’s biggest purpose for you? Matilda: Personally, for me I feel like it’s just about having something to say. It’s more than just talent, it’s also about the story you’re putting out. Not that everything has to be that deep because I’m all for vapid pop that just makes you wanna dance, but it just has to make you feel something. Plus, it’s about people wanting to hear what you have to say, which has to do more with the type of person you are rather than just ability.
SDR: You talk about tenderness quite often, would you be able to elaborate on that?
Matilda: My fixation with the word tender started in high school. My best friend and I started this little t-shirt brand called “tender” to celebrate our senior graduation. It was based on a quote by Jenny Holzer that says, “To be tender is to be alive,” which is what I live and die by. Ever since then, it kind of acts as my center of gravity. I just return to it whenever things are out of whack. There’s also a few poets that I love like Mary Oliver and Rumi that use it a lot in their work.
SDR: Your thoughts on non-binary representation in music?
Matilda: When it comes to representation I never really saw myself as a poster-child, but I definitely understand my importance as an artist. I think I tend to push for normalization rather than using my identity as a means to get me forward. I won’t really have my identifying labels at the forefront of my personality, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less proud of who I am and how they’ve shaped me. I hope that message is conveyed with how I carry myself, and I hope that other people will be able to understand that, beyond just “tolerance” or “acceptance.”
SDR: Who are some of your inspirations?
Matilda: I get a lot of inspiration from women in music. Not really musically, even though I do, but more so with how they move in the world. I think of Clairo, Caroline Polachek, Charli XCX, Meg Thee Stallion, Kim Petras, Lorde, Stevie Nicks, Rico Nasty, and so many other artists. They’re constantly evolving, genre-bending, creating quality content, and growing their style and brand while still keeping their integrity. Women in music make the world go round and it always keeps me motivated.
You can find Matilda on all streaming platforms. To keep up with what they're doing, check out their socials @rnatilda.
Photo by Nick Sprague.