Wolverhampton singer-songwriter Scott Matthews talks to Sarah Probert about his newly found fame – just don't mention James Blunt
For a guy who has been pounding away at his guitar since the tender age of seven, Scott Matthews is somewhat of a late starter.
Since his days at Highfields School in Wolverhampton he has leapfrogged from one local band to another, putting himself through art college, providing music for local theatre and working in the odd warehouse or two.
Now the 30-year-old has been thrust into the spotlight almost overnight, being championed by Radio One DJ's Jo Wiley and Zane Lowe and Radio Two's Mark Radcliffe.
By the time his excellent debut album was launched last month, Scott had already risen to fame, supporting his heroes the Foo Fighters and attracting a new army of fans to his gigs.
"I don't know why there is this sudden surge of activity, obviously one of the key things has been the radio play I have had," he explains in his booming Wolverhampton accent so far removed from his smooth soulful crooning.
"I did a session with Janice Long first of all and then got on Mark Radcliffe's show. Then it was 6 Music, XFM and Radio One.
"Gigs are getting sold out and I am playing bigger venues but I want to keep it fairly low key – I am never going to sell my soul, I want to keep it really down to earth."
His career break came two years ago when he decided to go solo and turn some of the "hummings in his head" into tunes.
It was while he was supporting a Smith's cover band, The Other Smiths, at a club in Brierley Hill that he was talent spotted by DJ Martin Davies.
A few months later he was approached by Martin at another gig at The Little Civic in Wolverhampton and was encouraged to produce a demo.
"We just bumped into each other and I didn't have anything recorded then, I was quite lazy," he says.
Martin teamed up with colleague Marco Thomas and launched the record label Sam Remo, of which Scott is the only musician to be signed up.
"They were really positive about the demo and offered me the opportunity to sign to their record label, which was a great relief," he adds.
His debut album, which yo-yos from blues to folk, rock and then back again, gives a strong hint of Scott's influences, such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Hendrix, Nick Drake and Led Zeppelin.
"I also like more recent artists such as Beck and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I love The Beatles, there are so many great songs and there is never going to be a band like them again," he explains.
He admits that, despite being a born and bred Black Country boy, Wolverhampton hasn't really given him much inspiration when penning his soulful tunes.
"Wolverhampton is all I have ever known being born here. It is alright, it has got the essentials but it doesn't do anything for the soul – maybe like it did back in the day when Steve Bull was doing the business."
Scott's music has already sent the critics into a frenzy as they attempt to typecast his music. He has been compared to the likes of Nick Drake, Jose Gonzalez and even James Blunt.
But when I ask him about his feelings on Mr Blunt, I sense the happy, easy-going Wolves fan is suddenly turning slightly green.
"Why do you have to ask me that? It is such a lazy question," he replies. I am not too sure what has brought this cold shoulder, but I sense it could be a slight disliking for the soldier-turned-crooner.
"Fair play to him for what he has done, but I want to be taken a lot more seriously than that – have a lot more depth," says Scott, hoping to shrug off the issue.
"Critics have struggled with my album because it doesn't fit the norm. But you can't pigeon-hole it," he adds.
The Perfect Stranger is difficult to categorise and it's maybe its varied sounds which have attracted a diverse audience to Scott's gigs.
"I don't think there is one particular age group or type of person that I attract. The music can be anything from blues to folk with a bit of rock in there. Some of it may be regarded as 60s and 70s music and that may be attracting an older crowd, but I am also getting a younger audience as well. But there isn't one particular audience, not like a Mark Knopfler crowd."
Since Scott's days at the school he shared with another Wolverhampton singer – Beverley Knight – his ambitions were always aimed at the creative arts – whether it be in music or as an illustrator.
After completing a graphic design course at Stourbridge Art College, he went on to perform music for Zip Theatre and visit schools to put on music workshops.
But now he has been thrown into the limelight overnight, Scott insists he wants to "keep it real" and that no amount of fame will bring him to perform giant stadiums, or see him on TV.
"I wouldn't mind doing Jools Holland, but that is it. I want to be an underground classic," he adds.
For now, he is still beaming over his recent performance with the Foo Fighters and meeting his hero Dave Grohl.
He supported the band on two acoustic performances in Ipswich and London.
"I have grown up with Pearl Jam, Nirvana and I was a big Soundgarden fan so just meeting him was amazing.
"He said 'hi dude, do you fancy a beer'. We went into the VIP lounge and there was James Hetfield from Metallica and Juliette Lewis talking really loudly in the corner – I just thought wow, I'm just a boy from Wolverhampton."
Scott Matthews performs at The Glee Club, Birmingham, on Nov 1. The Perfect Stranger is out now.