Matthew William Charles
I had been playing music in bands ever since I was 15 years old. I started setting up my own shows, booking touring bands and local acts when I was 16-17 growing up in Cortland, NY.
I started going on small regional tours when I was 18, and after moving to Richmond, VA when I was 22 I started playing in bands that were touring nationally. I had always been the vocal point of every musical project I was involved in. I was always one of the main songwriters and was always the one who did most of the booking, networking etc. The last band I was in while I was living in Richmond completed two US tours, with many smaller tours in between. We had a couple of opportunity’s to tour Europe, release on indie labels and other various exciting opportunity’s but there was always a problem with having everybody in the band fully committed. Any musician that is passionate about music can relate. After my last band parted ways in Richmond, VA I took off several months to backpack across Europe with my partner and when I returned to the states we promptly moved to Philadelphia, PA. After about 6 months of living in Philadelphia I started looking for people to play with, but I never had the same expectations as I had before. I just wanted to play music and have fun, and I was willing to be in a band that wasn’t necessarily ready to tour all the time and just write some songs and play out occasionally. I accomplished this, but eventually I did start to miss touring. I missed the adventure of it, meeting new people and playing in new places. I decided I would try and play solo. I had never done it before, but my thought process was that if I could pull it off, if it was good enough then I could be able to do all the things I wanted to with music without dealing with conflicting interests and schedules that you have in a band.
In 2012 I recorded a self-released LP in my basement. I decided that I would just book some shows out of town, in places that I never played before. I didn’t want to play in front of people who were familiar with me. I wanted to play in front of a new audience and get an objective response. The first accomplishment was getting booked. That was reassuring. I played a show in a different town in front of completely different people, and it went over well. So I kept booking shows and recorded some new material, all the time playing under the moniker “No Excuse For A Cheap Suit”. That was originally going to be the name of a zine that I started but never got off the ground, so I decided to give my acoustic project that name. After booking a couple tours and playing under that moniker I realized that it was a hard name to remember. Also I was doing everything myself, so why didn’t I just start playing under my own name? I was sort of conflicted about this, but one night I played a show in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the conflict of my name was fresh in my thoughts. I talked to somebody after the show who asked me why I decided to play under the “No Excuse” moniker, and I tried to explain the reasoning. He told me that in his opinion it would make sense just to go by my full name. Without getting into details he made a compelling argument and that was what tipped the scales. I started going by Matthew Charles, but then I realized that it’s a fairly common name, so I changed it to Matthew W Charles just so I could be distinguished a little from the rest.
What song of yours is the one you like the most?
Right now “Help” is my favorite song. It’s one of my newest songs, I’m always more excited about my most recent material. This song kind of wrote itself, I had the basics of the songs and the lyrics finished within a half an hour. It’s usually the songs that come out easy that are the best! It’s my featured songs off my new E.P. “Static” that is going to be released on Orange SLS Records. Listen to the song at
Help me find the clues to uncover the ruse
I feel so confused, so dead and drained
Should I just kneel and pray
Feel so helpless and contained
My mind is full of facts but I don’t believe them to be truth
I’m way off track, and I’m trying to crack the code
I just don’t where to go!
I’m so starved
I’m begging for knowledge
I hold me sign up at the intersection
I’m a skeptic everything needs a second look
They slip the poison in the newspapers and the books
Anyone can be a wicked crook
So I laugh and I smile and I sing
And I open up my mind and try and question everything
How do you write your music?
Writing music happens in several different ways for me. I always keep a pen and a piece of paper nearby. When I get an idea for some lyrics I jot them down, sometimes in a flurry and sometimes in bits and pieces. When I sit down to play my guitar and I am feeling like writing some new material I’ll usually sift through the pages of lyrics and try to find something good to work with. I’ll see if I can find something that matches a chord progression I’m working on. I’ll spend some time tweaking the music until I come up with something that I like. Other times I can write a whole song in my head through the course of a day. I’ll keep running the song through my head over and over so I don’t forget it, and when I get home I transcribe everything as quick as possible. Always transcribing the lyrics, which are the hardest parts to remember. I don’t transcribe music; I can remember riffs and chord progressions pretty easily. Other times I write the music first, and then put lyrics on top of that, but that doesn’t happen often.
What is music?
I believe music is any sort of sound, beat or rhythm that has some sort of physical or mental effect on a person. I don’t know how else to describe music, but there are so many different forms, genres of music that it’s hard to pinpoint and say that it’s one specific thing. It’s a question that is obviously open to interpretation.
What´s the best experience you have had with your project?
The best experience I’ve had with my current musical project was touring Europe. I played shows in Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Holland. The people that I met over there were absolutely friendly, and it was one of the best adventures I had ever had in my life.
I had a contact in Germany who told me they would book a tour for me. I had helped them book a couple of shows for a German band in the states. The return favor was a German tour. They promised 5-7 days, transportation, lodging, food and a percentage from the door every show. I booked a flight for a two week stay in Europe, and I starting booking the other dates by myself.
I started to get nervous as the days got closer to the time when I was supposed to leave for tour. My contact had not provided me with any information about the tour. They promised me that everything would be ok, and they were in discussions with several venues. I let them know if something was not happening or wasn’t working out to please let me know so I could make other plans, and that I would not hold anything against them. They still said everything was fine. So the day before I left for tour with my non-refundable tickets I had no word from my promoter, they completely stopped communicating with me. We landed in Copenhagen, Denmark. I had managed to book myself one show in Kiel, Germany the next day, so we took the train to Kiel. The show in Kiel was great and the hospitality was excellent! I let them know my current situation. The promoter in Kiel felt so bad about my predicament that he booked me a show the next day in Hamburg, Germany by making a last minute call to a friend. Long story short, the rest of my tour was completed in this fashion. Every show I played I was able to find another the next day through people’s good will. The hardest part was finding last minute buses and trains to my next locations, but I managed to get a week’s worth of German shows, and then made it to Belgium and Holland for shows that I had booked (missing one show in France due to transportation problems). Then to end it off I stepped into a pub in Copenhagen a day before my flight and I was offered a stage for free beer. Greatest tour ever!!
What plans do you have this year?
I’m currently about to release a new EP, which is by far the best stuff I’ve wrote and recorded yet. I plan to keep pace with what I have been doing this past year. I want to continue to tour as much as I can. Trying to play more locally and trying to network with other artists to release some splits and compilations. I want to hold off on releasing another LP and focus on recording smaller sessions.
Mention something you don´t like about your project.
What I don’t like about playing solo is not having a band to play with. I have always liked writing and touring with a group of people. There are a lot of advantages to playing solo; mainly I do what I want, when I want. It is definitely more of a challenge, and I like that aspect. But I enjoy collaborating with other people. A lot of times when I write I have other thoughts for other instrumentation. It’s hard to find people to tour with you, that you can mesh with. I don’t make a lot of money on the road, and frankly don’t really care that much about it. I always make enough money for the tank. But when I approach other musicians that’s usually the first thing they ask, how much money? For me it’s about the experience. I’ve been playing music for years and it’s about the experience more than anything else. So usually I just don’t reply when somebody asks me that question.
Mention the biggest sacrifice you did for your project.
My biggest sacrifice for my project is time. I have a personal life; a wife, a dog, a job, family, friends and other hobbies that I enjoy. To make this music project operate the way that I want it to operate is to sacrifice precious time with the other things in life that I enjoy. Music is my passion without a doubt. But the endless hours spent on the computer networking and booking shows is mind numbing. Sure there are people you could hire to do this aspect of your music, but they are expensive and only you can represent yourself the way that you want to be represented!
What band, music project or solist from your city do you like?
It’s hard to say what musician from my city I admire the most. There are a few that come to mind, it’s hard because the time I spend in the city I spend working. I don’t get to go out and watch shows as much as I would like. There is so much art and talent in this city it’s overwhelming. But if I had to mention a name I would say Curtis Cooper. He is similar to me in the fact that he plays in a punk band and also has his solo stuff. He works hard, writes good material and is friendly. When you reach out to musicians and they respond to you it means a lot to me. Some people in this city or any city are so competitive in a negative way. A lot of the time musicians have the attitude of, “What can you do for me?” instead of, “What can we do to help each other”?
If your project was a word, what would it be?
This is kind of a tricky question, but if my project was a word it would be improving. I initially was thinking evolving, but I’m not so much as changing my style or trying to do something different. I’m just trying to get better at what I do.
What´s your full name? Where were you when you answered the interview?
My full name is Matthew William Charles. I am doing this interview at home, at my desk where I spend far too much of my time.