Matt Corby: Building Something Real

 
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It seems a dream come true—the hype, the attention, the success and the opportunities that follow.

But for Matt Corby, runner-up in the 2007 season of Australian Idol, the aftermath of his experience has seen him trying to step back, reassess and perhaps, start over.

“I’ve just been cruising,” Corby says of the few months following Idol, “just been writing music and sort of taking myself out of everything.

“I had some pretty sweet opportunities come my way but I wasn’t keen on them, so I have returned to being a normal kid. I’m still a musician but just doing it in a normal way, instead of a way that consists of hype and is pretty shallow. So I’m just taking a step back and trying to build something that’s real.” As a high-profile finalist, Corby attracted the interest of a couple of major record companies but he says the offers just didn’t feel right.

“I didn’t want to be part of a big machine like that,” he says. “I sort of realised half-way through Idol that it was a bit harder than I thought it was, with the commercial side of things, and wasn’t really ready for it. So I just wanted to go back to my roots and play what I wanted to play. A lot of the songs I did on Idol were manipulated by certain people within the whole system of the show.” So while Corby has been playing and writing music, it has not been in the way that might be expected from an Idol star. “I haven’t even advertised,” he explains. “I’ve mostly been supporting people—I supported Ian Moss the other day and a couple of Canadian guys. It’s a lot of fun and just playing for the sake of it.” “I never really enjoyed all the hype,” he says. “It’s kind of a weird feeling to have people know who you are. But [these past few months] have been really enjoyable because I’m starting to feel more normal. I’m just a kid, really—I’m only 17 and just love music. So I’m taking it back to what I used to do. I toured for a couple of years before I went on the show, so it’s been pretty normal.”

Corby credits a fellow Idol alumnus with helping him through this process.

“I’m really good mates with Guy Sebastian,” the first Australian Idol. “I met him half-way through the show and that night, we went fishing. He’s just a top bloke. Because he’s been through it all, he’s a great guy to talk to about it.

So he’s really helped me through a lot of stuff.” For a 17-year-old, Corby admits the sudden fame was a lot to handle.

“Guy’s helped me in dealing with the public,” says Corby. “It’s a whole other thing when people are suddenly watching you all the time. It’s kind of hard.

You’ll walk down the street and you’ll have guys who want to give you a piece of their mind and you don’t even know them. You haven’t done anything wrong but for some reason they don’t like you.

“Guy was great with dealing with stuff like that because he’s done it for five years and he’s had a lot more stuff thrown at him than I have. So it was cool that he coached me through it.” Listening to Corby speak of his experience, the obvious question is would he do it again if he knew beforehand what it would mean and what it would be like. “That’s a tough one,” he says.

“In all fairness to Idol, it got me here.

I’ve met some great people, and had the chance to sing at some really great places and showcase what I’ve got.

“But it was a very strange experience.

It was very challenging most of the time, so I would probably lean toward thinking I wouldn’t do it if I knew what I know now. Just because it is kind of tough and your normalcy gets taken from you. It’s weird to deal with and it’s changed my life. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad way yet but positives and negatives have come from it—just like anything.”

One aspect of the TV show emphasised by the media during the 2007 season of Australian Idol was the number of Christian musicians among the finalists—even to the point of suggesting that Christians were “stacking” the voting to keep “their” artists on the show. Corby rejects such suggestions. “Obviously that theory was proven wrong [by the way the show turned out],” he reflects. “I’m not even part of a massive church and I wasn’t trying to promote myself as a Christian through the show.

I hardly said anything about it and the media blew it all out of proportion.

They said most of us were, when it was just me and another bloke who were actually Christians.” Apart from this misrepresentation, Corby is happy to be described as a Christian musician and was in his element as a headlining artist at Easterfest (formerly the Australian Gospel Music Festival) in Toowoomba, Queensland, in March. “There are a few people in this nation who think it’s a bit weird or whatever but I love it,” he says. “And it’s great coming to places like this.

You get a warm reception, so I am not ashamed [of my faith] at all. I used to sing in church for many years, so it’s nothing different.” Corby’s parents became Christians when he was two years old, so he says he grew up in the church. “When I was 13, I started touring with a ministry team and we went around schools and churches, promoting Jesus and tackling depression issues and stuff like that. I did that for a couple of years.

So I’ve sort of been in church my whole life and it’s been fun.”

Heading into the Australian Idol competition, Corby says he wondered how his faith would fit with the TV show. “At the church I attend, we have a very structured system and I was leading a group there with a bunch of young guys,” he recalls. “I thought, What about the group I’m running? And I’m not going to be in church and that’s going to be weird [for me]. I don’t want to slip away in that intense environment.

“But it actually made me more selfreliant, as in I had to push myself to ‘get into’ God more. What I thought could push me away, actually brought me closer to God because I was getting myself into the Bible— not being encouraged by anybody else. I was selfmotivated, so it strengthened my relationship [with God], which was great.

“Since Idol, I’ve been back in church and everything’s been going sweet.

Knowing what I know now, it has made church so much sweeter. You know when you’ve been starved from something you love, when you come back, it’s so much better.” So where next for Matt Corby? He is interested in travelling but at this stage, more for expanding his personal horizons and experience than for pursuing his musical dreams. He speaks enthusiastically about a couple of beaches south of Sydney with “lots of waves with not many people around.” And of course, his faith and music continue to be important parts of who he is.

Corby says he is thinking about working on an album. “Most people would probably jump right in,” he says.

“But I’m still considering the prospects of creating an album. I’m writing pretty full-on for something—I’m just not sure what. But I’m a bit directionless at the moment, so I am just singing and having a bit of fun.” It’s an unexpected lull—but perhaps necessary to begin “trying to build something that’s real.”