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Jazz Musician Mathew V On Bringing Queer Lens To Genre, Talks New Album Of Classics ‘Anything Goes’
In Mathew V’s upcoming album, Anything Goes (out April 14th), the vocal jazz artist puts his own queer spin on classics including the first single off the album, “Big Spender” from the benchmark Broadway musical Sweet Charity.
Mathew V has been releasing singles and topping Canadian Radio and Billboard Charts since his debut album The Fifth. Now, he feels he has found his true calling as a vocalist. “I grew up training in opera, musical theatre and jazz,” Mathew V told GLAAD in a recent interview. “I entered into my career as a pop artist but I’ve been waiting for the right moment when I could return to this style of singing. I think this is where my voice instinctually sits. It’s been nice not having to fight those instincts and really lean into how my voice wants to sing.”
With his new album, he is not only leaning into his vocal jazz talent but is creating queer space in a musical genre that is not known for being queer. In his own rendition of George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love”, he sings about exactly that: the man he loves.
GLAAD spoke to Mathew V about subverting the genre and how it is important – more now than ever – for queer artists and allies to use platforms to amplify voices of the LGBTQ community.
You get to fully stretch your wings in Anything Goes, mixing Broadway, blues, and jazz with your own stamp. What was the inspiration behind this?
My manager Joseph had actually suggested in passing, “would you ever do a tribute to the Great American Songbook?” I remember the feeling when he said that. It was like a fire was lit inside me. This project has reminded me why I entered the music industry in the first place and that’s because of my love for singing. The theatrics, camp and sass that comes from this genre of music really lines up with who I am as a person. It’s been so fulfilling.
When it comes to taking these classics and putting your own style to it, how do you make your own voice shine through while still honoring the original?
This has been the balancing act of this record. I’d like to think that we were respectful to the beauty and the integrity of the original songs, while still singing them in my own way and allowing my flavour to come through. We also chose a handful of traditional “female standards” because lyrically they lined up with my experience as a gay man. It was an interesting juxtaposition delivering these songs exactly as they were traditionally written, while still making such a bold statement now delivered from a same sex perspective.
You recently released your rendition of “Big Spender” from the iconic musical Sweet Charity. What made you want to release this as a single for your album ‘Anything Goes’?
“Big Spender” lives at the intersection of jazz, camp, musical theatre, cabaret and burlesque. My dream neighbourhood! This song encompasses all of my favourite aspects of this era in music. It really allowed me to have fun and allow my personality to come through.
You also did a rendition of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” through a queer lens. How do you think your version subverts conventional jazz?
I didn’t anticipate this song causing the stir it did. I received a lot of backlash from all corners of the internet and it really showcased that the homophobic underbelly is alive and well. That’s the exact reason I think it’s important we chose that song as the first single. When people are unfamiliar with something, they often react negatively. Through exposure we build tolerance.
How do you navigate the jazz space which isn’t necessarily known for many openly queer artists?
I’ve had a really hard time seeing queer representation in the vocal jazz space. With that being said, I have no interest in straight washing my music to be more palatable. I remind myself that jazz is protest music at its core. It’s a genre built off of going against the grain. Jazz music was historically vilified as morally corrupt. I think jazz music and the queer experience have a lot of intersections. I’m reminding myself that and sinking my teeth into that with this album.
What misconceptions do you think younger audiences may have about the jazz genre?
I think that a common misconception is that jazz exclusively sounds like elevator music. I think a lot of people like jazz without even knowing it. For example, a lot of Disney music and Christmas music is jazz. I think people are more familiar and fond of jazz music than they may think.
We are in a time when LGBTQ rights and livelihood are being attacked — specifically those in the trans community. Why do you think it is important for artists like yourself to create queer art during these times?
With progress and change comes pushback. We watch Drag Race become one of the most popular shows on television while at the very same time, a majority of states in the US try to outlaw drag performances. We see trans people finally entering into positions of power while trans lives are still being taken away at alarming rates. We can’t be blinded by the wins to the point that we forget that we are still in the battle. Being visible, being vocal, standing in our humanity, standing with those in our community that need us the most… now is the time.