Matt Gardiner: The Rookie with Rhythm

singing man in daylight

I decided to take a sabbatical from writing about Idols this year and opted to instead dive head-first into SA’s mammoth talent pool. I actually sat down and made a list of all the people I would like to talk to and came to the realization that if I had to do that,  I wouldn’t have much time for anything else (including eating or even going to the toilet). There is just so much talent begging to be discovered that it leaves one feeling rather disheartened knowing that you can’t just hand out recording contracts to everyone.

So how do you choose? Who do you put at the top of your list? In the end, there was really no contest as to who I would feature in this, our launch issue. I decided to follow my heart and my heart led me to someone whose passion for singing is so apparent that it literally leaves me with a stupid grin on my face every time I hear him sing.

Say hello to Matt Gardiner, a 20-year old musician from Maritzburg and one of the most talented guys I have ever come across. If he looks rather familiar to you it’s probably because he did actually try out for Idols South Africa season 12. He made it as far as the Top 37 at which point he got booted. I for one was not impressed at the time but in hindsight, it seems to have been a blessing in disguise of sorts as Matt is slowly forcing the world to stop and take note of his music, one gig at a time.

If you are able to divert your attention away from his bulging biceps and listen to him sing, even if just for a minute, you will realize just what an amazing talent he has been blessed with. I had the good fortune to be able to talk to Matt recently about his talent, his plans for his future and a flash-friendly fan.

Let’s get the Idols thing out of the way right away. You got pretty far in the competition and only just missed out on advancing to the voting stages, which was a bit of a shocker to me. Did you gain anything from your time on the show and would you consider entering any other local talent shows?

I’d say I gained the valuable experience of actually being on TV and learning how to be in front of cameras. The vocal coach I had in theatre week was named Tim, and he was absolutely amazing and he really helped me out.

I would absolutely love to try out for The Voice. It looks like an absolutely amazing platform for any musician to grow as an artist.

You have a very unique voice, crystal clear yet brooding with a very pleasant little gruffness to it that is, in my opinion, perfect for the type of heart-wrenching ballad you hear at the end of a Twilight movie. What are your own personal favorite songs to perform and is there a genre you will steer clear of at all costs?

Ahh thank you! There are so many songs that I love, and so many that I love to perform as well.  I really like singing my own songs for people, even though they don’t know them yet. If I had to pick covers to perform, I really like “Galway Girl” by Ed Sheeran(Who is my hero), “Take Yours, I’ll Take Mine” by Matthew Mole and “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus. That’s only 3, but there’s so many other songs I love playing by artists like Jeremy Loops, Mumford and Sons, Justin Bieber-You name it. The 2 genres that I really don’t feel I could do justice to, is Reggae and Jazz. I feel like they are so far out of my depth. To be honest though, I’m willing to try and explore anything musical, even if I know I’ll probably really suck at it.

At only 20 years old you have performed at some of South Africa’s most prestigious music festivals and have shared the stage with legends like Matthew Mole, Gangs of Ballet, Prime Circle, The Gus Brown Band and most recently, Shortstraw. Is there anyone else on the local front that you would love to perform with?

I’m incredibly blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve been given so far with my music. I know it’s off topic, but I think I should mention it. One of the most insane experiences I’ve had so far was at the South Coast Bike Fest earlier this year. Majozi saw me in the crowd during his set(I had played my set earlier in the day), and called me up onto the stage to play a song with him. That was flippen awesome!

There are a couple artists I have yet to play a show with, that I would love the opportunity to play with. The Parlotones were the first concert I ever went to, so I would love to share a stage with them. Funnily enough, at that concert, Jeremy Loops was one of the support acts and that was the first time I saw him back in 2011 and he is another man who I would love to share the stage with. Him and Ed Sheeran are the reason I decided to start performing with a loop station.

Maritzburg College seems to pump at talent at an incredible rate. Have you ever considered leaving the Sleepy Hollow in pursuit of fame?

I’ve lived here for most of my life, barring one year in Pretoria for Varsity. I must say though, I’m torn between 3 places in South Africa to live. Joburg and Cape Town look amazing, but I also love the idea of Durban because KZN is home. But I would love to take my music to the world one day.

You are a pretty boy with a killer voice that must have the girls running after you by the hundreds. Have you had any marriage proposals yet?  Underwear thrown at you on stage? Come on, dish the dirt!

Haha no I’m just a normal guy. But I’ve had one encounter of things like that. It was at the South Coast Bike Fest after I had been in stage with Majozi, and I came back around to the front of the stage and this one lady wanted to flash me. I had no idea what to do, and then her husband was like no, she does this all the time –  so I had no idea what to do so I found my friends and carried on watching Majozi kill it.

I have to be honest and say I think your mom Jenni is your biggest fan. Her absolute adoration for you and your talent is contagious to the point where you are going to have fans following your gigs in a reconditioned Roadlink bus. How important is the support of your family for you and do any of them share your musical talent?

My mum really does support me a lot and I must say I am so flippen lucky to have a family that supports my decision to play music. A lot of musicians aren’t as lucky as me. Family is everything to me, so their support is something that means more to me than I can describe. My parents both sing, and my mom used to play piano and my dad used to play guitar. My brother was also in the choir with me back in school.

What is next on your agenda? Any new music coming our way? Festival appearances? What can we expect from you for the next year.

In the next year, my plan is to have a few songs out on the radio, and to be traveling around the country with my music sharing my life with people who support me. My favourite thing is seeing people smiling in the crowd, I love it.

You are forced to perform only one song for the rest of your life. What’s your pick?

Jeez that is a tough one. I’m drawn to a song I wrote called “Friendzone”, because it’s so much fun to play. But I also flippen love playing “Galway Girl” and “Shape of You”.

-photos courtesy of Namaste Photography-

Author: Justine Bishop

Untamed, outspoken and just a little bit crazy.

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