Meet Victoria's Matilda Pearl, whose new single What Can I Do? is brilliant pop gold
The riveting new single comes as the Mornington Peninsula-based artist continues to arm herself with some of the year's best new music.
Header image by Michelle Grace Hunder.
It felt like just the other week we were introducing Matilda Pearl to the world, as the Mornington Peninsula-based artist shared her third single Linger alongside accompanying news of a shiny new label deal and a couple of tour dates to match. In fact, that all happened four months ago now, but Linger - and the presence Matilda Pearl creates through the song - has left our brains since; her riveting pop sound and intimate songwriting arming her with music amongst the year's most promising for a new, homegrown artist.
Arriving via her new label home Sweat It Out, Linger brought a glimpse of continued brilliance from Matilda Pearl, continuing her streak of singles that began with her debut last year. Now, it's something that continues once again through the release of What Can I Do?, a fourth track to her discography that showcases the musician's versatility, and the talent that allows her to dance and flirt between genres without seemingly breaking a sweat.
What Can I Do? is Matilda Pearl's sound at a crossroads, capturing her many sides within a tidy three-minutes-30. It's a cross-section of her influences and sounds, piecing together a butter-y R&B vocal with a production that sways between something a little more indie-like with its instrumentation but without veering too far away from her electronic backing; Touch Sensitive and The Belligerents' Lewis Stephenson adding their distinctive flairs to the song as they bring the production to life.
It's above this production where Matilda shines, continuing to emphasise the reflective nature of her work through a bright-eyed delivery that feels natural to the big popstars - as well as Matilda Pearl, as she begins to transform into one herself. "What Can I Do? is about mixed messages. Living in a world that is increasingly online, I think we've become more familiar with being online and can throw big statements out with no risk, but it’s not a reflection of how someone actually acts around you in real life," she says on the single.
"Navigating relationships is already hard enough without the pressure of living up to how confident and cool you can seem online."
What Can I Do? is one hell of a moment, and as Matilda Pearl continues to teeter on the edge of a breakthrough moment, there's no better time to introduce yourself to the star than now. Do so below, as she continues to wreck havoc on Australia's pop scene with her sights set on a bright, exciting future ahead:
Tell us about yourself?
I was actually named after a dolphin, which sounds super weird, but our family runs tours that take people out swimming with dolphins in Port Phillip Bay, so that makes it a little less strange. When my mum was pregnant, she said she would name me after the first dolphin that she swam with while I was in her belly. Dad laughed his head off when the first dolphin to come check me out was called Fingers. Luckily the next dolphin she swam with was called Matilda, one of the matriarchs of the bay. So, being named after a dolphin, and being raised on a boat has given me little choice but to be obsessed with everything about the ocean, especially protecting it. Our family, before COVID obviously, spent lots of time over winter in Tonga swimming with the Humpback whales.
I actually did all my early singing underwater, singing to the dolphins which probably sounds totally mad, but dolphins are incredibly intelligent and communicate through whistle-like sounds, so they love checking out our funny, singing noises. Most of the time I think they are people watching as much as we are watching them. I’ve always been very influenced by the sounds of the underwater world.
What’s your music like? What does it sound like? What kind of themes does it usually cover?
At the moment I’m obsessed with mixing pop sounds with retro funk and disco elements. I became obsessed with disco last year in lockdown. My dad and I love having music parties where we take it in turns choosing themes for the night. Dad started putting all this disco stuff on one night and was like, “disco music is so great because anyone can dance to it. The beat is slow enough but still groovy so you can dance along, but not get too out of breath.” I love that, because I always want my sound and world as an artist to be inclusive and fun.
I would say sonically, I like to use lots of glittery synths, funky guitar lines and big bass lines that you just can’t help but dance to. I take heaps of inspiration from the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jamiroquai, Benee, Confidence Man and Dua Lipa. Thematically it varies all the time, but I really like every song at its core to cover some sort of feeling or experience that other young people can relate to, like the struggle of letting go of broken-down relationships or waiting for someone else to make the first move.
As a young artist, I think it’s so important to realise and help other people to see that despite our differences, music continually reveals how similar we all are regardless of our opinions. I often hear people say that there are too many love songs out there, but I think that’s because, despite our backgrounds, we all fall in love and get our hearts broken. That’s what music is really, a way to express those universal human experiences and emotions.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
I’m really trying to challenge myself as a writer at the moment. For the last few years, my process has very much been writing all my songs in the privacy of my own home and only taking them to my collaborators throughout high school, Lionel Towers and Stephen Docker, whom I have been working with since I was 14 so am super comfortable with. I think this independent method did really teach me so much about writing, however, I’m starting to do lots of co-writes at the moment with some incredible Australian writers and artists, and it’s just insane how much value there is in collaborating. I’ve definitely learnt I don’t have to be so private and protective of my ideas.
I’m also doing heaps of work with Lewis Stephenson who is such a legend. We kind of do a bit of everything. Sometimes I’ll bring him a topline and then other times he’ll bring me an instrumental idea. Right now though we are doing heaps of sessions where we just start something completely new together which is sick. Lewis is insanely talented. I don’t think we’ve had many sessions at all where we haven’t come away with the foundations of a really cool track. It’s such a good feeling to find someone who you just gel with instantly. You never know what to expect going into a songwriting session, which I love. It’s hilarious, you meet someone, then tell them everything that’s going on in your life. That kind of vulnerability is actually super empowering. I swear all Aussie writers and artists are so caring, so writing days literally sometimes become like a therapy session.
Can you tell us about your latest single, What Can I Do?
Lewis and I pretty much smashed this one out in one day. He was playing around with that post-chorus guitar riff and we were both like oh this is definitely a vibe. Some songs I do full maps and train of thought writing bursts to find lyric ideas and song structure. This one though, the first chorus line “boy you make a lot of noise” came pretty early on. After I got that line, I kind of realised it would be super fun to capture that sarcasm that Doja Cat channels in a lot of her work.
It’s about that awkward and frustrating part of a relationship where you are just waiting for the other person to make a move. With dating sites and social media, I’ve found so many people are the most confident version of themselves online, where there is no risk, but as soon as you actually meet up there’s no follow-through of what they say online. I think that’s a huge reason why dating now feels extra hard for young people. It’s also a bit of a sarcastic dig at that idea that guys have to make the first move, which I’ve always found a bit stupid.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2021?
I’d love to get some performances in! Most of my gigs have been cancelled or postponed this year. It’s been hard some days to keep feeling motivated during the most recent lockdowns in Melbourne. It’s hard not to feel despondent about lost opportunities to build my live show and my audience but I’ve been trying to take this opportunity to really better myself as a writer and just keep building on creating a big bank of work…..so you can definitely expect some more new music this year!
What do you want people to take away from your work?
My biggest aim as an artist is to create a world and environment that is inclusive and encourages everyone to be completely and authentically themselves. I just want people to dance, smile, feel empowered and have fun when they listen to my music. I always say when I’m performing that everyone shouldn’t hold back, literally dance like no-one is watching. So I hope people take away feel-good vibes!
Where can we find more of your music?
My Instagram is probably the easiest place to stay updated on all things music! I’ve got a few tracks out on all streaming platforms if you are interested.