This biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. (February 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Birth name||Iain Matthew McDonald|
|Also known as||Ian MacDonald, Ian Matthews, Iain Matthews|
16 June 1946|
Barton-upon Humber, Lincolnshire, England
|Genres||Country rock, folk, pop, rock|
|Labels||Decca/Deram, Polydor, Vertigo, Elektra, Columbia, Mushroom, Windham Hill, Mooncrest, Brilliant, Watermelon|
|Associated acts||Fairport Convention, Plainsong, Matthews Southern Comfort|
Iain Matthews (born Iain Matthew McDonald, 16 June 1946) is an English musician and songwriter. He was a singer with Fairport Convention before forming his own band, Matthews Southern Comfort, which had a UK number one in 1970 with a cover version of Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock".
Born in Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, Matthews was known in the 1960s as Ian MacDonald, then as Ian Matthews. In 1989, he reverted to the original spelling of his first name.
Influenced by both rock and roll and folk music, he has performed as both a solo artist, and as a member of various bands. He was a member of Fairport Convention during the early period when they were heavily influenced by American folk rock and sang on their first three albums before leaving in 1969. He initially embarked upon a solo career before forming the bands Matthews Southern Comfort and then Plainsong. Later in his career he was also a member of the bands Hi-Fi, No Grey Faith, and More Than A Song. In a career spanning over fifty years he has featured on over 100 albums and in 2018 published an autobiographical book, “Thro’ My Eyes : A Memoir’’, about his life in the music industry.
Matthews' family moved to Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, when he was twelve years old. On leaving school at sixteen, he initially worked as an apprentice sign writer for a local painting and decorating firm. During the British pop music explosion of the mid-1960s, he sang with several local bands in Scunthorpe and then moved to London in the spring of 1965, taking a job in a Carnaby Street shoe shop, Ravel. In 1966 he formed a trio, The Pyramid (later just Pyramid), a short-lived English surf music band, with Steve Hiett and Al Jackson. Pyramid released one single, "Summer of Last Year" in January 1967, on Deram Records. A remaining song, "Me About You," surfaced on Matthews' Orphans & Outcasts Volume 3 in 1999.
In the spring of 1967, Matthews was recruited by Ashley Hutchings as a male vocalist for Fairport Convention, where he sang with Judy Dyble and then with Sandy Denny. In 1969, as Fairport increasingly drew their material from a traditional British folk repertoire, Matthews found out he had not been invited to a recording session and, after a short discussion with producer Joe Boyd and Ashley Hutchings, departed on a musical direction of his own.
Matthews Southern Comfort
In 1969 Matthews recorded his debut solo album, Matthews' Southern Comfort, which was rooted in American country music and rockabilly. He made the album with ex-Fairport colleagues Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol and Ashley Hutchings, plus guitarist Mark Griffiths, drummer Gerry Conway, pedal steel guitarist Gordon Huntley, and keyboardists Dolly Collins and Roger Coulam. This was his first significant experience as a songwriter, although the band did also cover versions of Neil Young and Ian and Sylvia songs. He followed it up by forming a working band, Matthews Southern Comfort (using the name of his first album, but without the apostrophe), releasing two more albums in short succession, Second Spring (1970 – UK #52) and Later That Same Year (1970).
The band went through various different line-ups and toured extensively for the next two years. They had one commercial success, a cover version of "Woodstock" by Joni Mitchell which was a number one hit single in the UK Singles Chart in October 1970. It received heavy airplay in Canada, reaching No. 5, as well as peaking at No. 23 on the Billboard singles charts in the United States in 1971. Afterwards, Matthews left Southern Comfort, who went on to release three albums of their own on Harvest Records.
In 1971, Matthews recorded two solo albums (If You Saw Thro' My Eyes & Tigers Will Survive), on Vertigo Records. Under the sponsorship of former Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith, and surrounded by likeminded British semi-folkies (notably another ex-Fairporter, Richard Thompson), he formed Plainsong with Andy Roberts, previously of The Liverpool Scene. The band's line-up consisted of Matthews, Roberts, guitarist Dave Richards and American bassist Bob Ronga.
In 1972 Plainsong released In Search of Amelia Earhart. The album included a cover of Dave McEnery's "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight", plus a song by Matthews, "True Story of Amelia Earhart's Last Flight". The song is based on research that suggests that Earhart may have been spying on Japanese bases in the Pacific islands. It also included "Even the Guiding Light", an answer to Thompson's "Meet on the Ledge".
After Plainsong collapsed due to a bandmate's alcohol problem, and with his career now based in Los Angeles, Matthews released several more albums with ad hoc bands: Valley Hi (1973), produced by Michael Nesmith, (formerly of the Monkees); Journeys from Gospel Oak and Some Days You Eat The Bear (1974); Go For Broke (1976) and Hit and Run (1977). None of these met with commercial success. Valley Hi featured a cover of the Steve Young song Seven Bridges Road, arranged by Iain Matthews and Nesmith, creating a multitracked harmony with all parts sung by Matthews. This version became famous after being covered live by the Eagles on 28 July 1980 and released on Eagles Live. With lack of success on his albums, Iain Matthews went from Elektra to Columbia Records, to the small Rockburgh label, where he scored a hit single in 1978 with a cover of Terence Boylan's "Shake It", which reached No. 13 on the US charts.
He had a moderately successful follow-up covering Robert Palmer's "Gimme an Inch". However, the North American rights for his album Stealin' Home and its follow-up Siamese Friends were held by the small Canadian label Mushroom. When label-owner Shelly Siegel died in 1979, Matthews' association with that label came to an end. The song "Shake It" is heard at the beginning of the 1980 movie Little Darlings. It can also be heard on the radio in the game The Warriors from Rockstar Games.
Matthews' official web site states that at this point he "had been struggling for nearly 15 years now and was still living hand to mouth, with nothing to show for his efforts but a string of out-of-print albums, and the loyalty of those musicians and fans who shared his vision." He moved from Los Angeles to Seattle, where he teamed up with David Surkamp, formerly of the St. Louis band Pavlov's Dog, to form the power pop band Hi-Fi, whose repertoire included Matthews' originals, but also covers of Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" and Prince's "When You Were Mine". He worked in an A&R capacity at Island Records and then Windham Hill Records.
Starting in 1977, Fairport Convention held the annual Cropredy Festival. In the mid-1980s, there was interest in reviving the band and recording new material. Matthews was invited to perform with them as a part of the band, and in their other projects, at the 1986 Cropredy Festival. This led to Walking a Changing Line (1988) on Windham Hill, a tribute to Jules Shear of Jules and the Polar Bears. This beautifully produced effort was the first vocal album ever released by Windham Hill. Matthews then moved to Austin, Texas and recorded several albums for a series of German independent labels. He appeared with Andy Roberts at the 1992 Cambridge Folk Festival, which led to the first of what became several changed versions of Plainsong.
In 2000 Matthews moved to Amsterdam, where he became involved in independent music projects and collaborations, including the Sandy Denny tribute band No Grey Faith (an anagram of "Fotheringay," which was the name of the castle in which Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned, as well as the title of a song about the castle that Denny had recorded for Fairport Convention, and the name of a short-lived band Denny had led in the 1970s), and another revival of Plainsong. Moving to Horst in the south of the Netherlands, in 2008 he produced Joy Mining with the Dutch jazz ensemble, Searing Quartet. In September 2010, he released the first Matthews Southern Comfort album in 40 years and returned to a major record label.
Since 2003 Matthews has worked with Dutch pianist and composer Egbert Derix. They met when Matthews, a jazz fan, came to a concert of Derix's Searing Quartet in Cambrinus (Horst, The Netherlands). Matthews asked Derix to join him in his 2003 tour of his 1970 album If You Saw Thro' My Eyes. They played a series of concerts with Eric Coenen (bass), Arthur Lijten (drums) and Ad Vanderveen (guitar). After the tour Matthews and Derix started writing together, resulting in the 2008 album Joy Mining Matthews & Derix started their own label: MatriX. In 2012, the Iain Matthews/Egbert Derix album In the Now was released by Verve Records. Joy Mining and In the Now had separate releases in the United Kingdom and United States.
In December 2011 he performed as Matthews Southern Comfort with his Dutch band at the 2nd Great British Folk Festival at Butlins Skegness and performed a set of both old and new songs. In January 2014, Matthews toured as part of the Gene Clark No Other band, performing Gene Clark's album No Other with other singers such as Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes
In January–February 2015 Matthews and Derix toured in California to promote the US releases of their albums. Dutch filmmakers Peter Jong and Olivier Hamaker made a documentary about the making of In the Now. Matthews can also be heard on Egbert Derix' solo album Paintings in Minor Lila (2012) on which the music of British progressive rock band Marillion is featured. The album has contributions by Matthews, Marillion singers Fish and Steve Hogarth, and Supertramp saxophonist John Helliwell. Matthews was guest vocalist in 2011 on the Helliwell/Derix Quintet tour in The Netherlands. Matthews and Derix co-wrote eight songs for Matthews's solo album The Art of Obscurity (2013).
- Pyramid, "The Summer of Last Year" / "Summer Evening" (1967) UK Deram; his first recording (single)
- Matthews Southern Comfort (see below)
- If You Saw Thro' My Eyes (1971) UK and US Vertigo
- Tigers Will Survive (1972) UK and US Vertigo
- Valley Hi (1973) UK and US Elektra
- Journeys From Gospel Oak (1974) UK Mooncrest
- Some Days You Eat the Bear...Some Days the Bear Eats You (1974) UK and US Elektra
- Go For Broke (1976) UK CBS / US Columbia
- Hit And Run (1977) UK CBS / US Columbia
- Stealin' Home (1978) UK Rockburgh / US Mushroom
- Siamese Friends (1979) UK Rockburgh / US Mushroom
- Discreet Repeat (1979) Rockburgh
- Spot Of Interference (1980) UK Rockburgh / US RSO
- Shook (1984) Polydor
- Walking A Changing Line (1988) Windham Hill
- Nights In Manhattan (1988) Taxim Records (live at The Bottom Line in New York, May 1988)
- Pure And Crooked (1990) Gold Castle
- Live Alone: Notebook Series No.2 (1991) Perfect Pitch
- Orphans & Outcasts Volume I 1969-1979 (1991) Dirty Linen
- Skeleton Keys (1992) Line / Mesa (different artwork)
- Intimate Wash: Notebook Series No.3 (1993) Perfect Pitch
- Orphans & Outcasts Volume II 1981-1989 (1993) Dirty Linen
- The Soul Of Many Places (1993) Elektra (compilation album)
- The Dark Ride (1994) Watermelon
- Pure And Crooked (1994) Watermelon (4 bonus tracks)
- Camouflage: Notebook Series No.4 (1995) Perfect Pitch
- God Looked Down (1996) Watermelon
- The Seattle Years 1978–1984 (1996) Varèse Sarabande (compilation album)
- Nights In Manhattan (And Points West) (1997) DCC (4 bonus tracks)
- Excerpts from Swine Lake (1998) Blue Rose / US Tangible (4 bonus demo tracks)
- Orphans & Outcasts Volume 3 (1999) Perfect Pitch
- A Tiniest Wham / A Live Wham 2CD (2000) Blue Rose and Perfect Pitch (different artwork) (CD2 Iain Matthews & The Swinelakers live in Nurnburg, September 1998)
- If You Saw Thro' My Eyes (remaster) (2003) MK2 Records
- Zumbach's Coat (2004) MK2 Records / Perfect Pitch
- Zumbach’s Coat CD + DVD (2004) Blue Rose / Perfect Pitch (DVD features 6 songs live by Iain and Ad Vanderveen)
- Sparkler 2CD (2005) Blue Rose (CD1 Best Of The Texas Recordings 1989-2004; CD2 If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes Live)
- I Can't Fade Away DVD (2006) Cherry Red (features a full show from Iain and his band at the Marquee Club in London in 1984).
- If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes Live (2006) Vinyl Japan / ItsAboutMusic
- Osolomeo DVD + CD (2006) Inbetweens Records (DVD is A Night In Colorado solo concert from October 1993; CD is Iain and Andy Roberts at the Brosella Festival July 1992)
- Journeys From Gospel Oak (Expanded Edition) (2006) Castle Music (includes 5 songs rerecorded in 2006 as bonus tracks)
- Go For Broke (2007) Vinyl Japan (limited edition Japanese CD of Go For Broke + 6 live bonus tracks recorded in Denver June 1976)
- Hit And Run (2007) Vinyl Japan (limited edition Japanese CD of Hit And Run + 7 live bonus tracks recorded at rehearsals in Los Angeles)
- Contact (2007) Blue Rose, CD + DVD (with Richard Kennedy and Mike Roelofs, live in Heilbronn, Germany, December 2004)
- Rhino Hi-Five: Ian Matthews (2007) Rhino / Elektra/ Apple Music (5-track digital EP)
- Collected (2011) Universal (57-track 3CD career retrospective, all tracks chosen personally by Iain)
- If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes (remaster) (2012) Esoteric / Cherry Red
- Tigers Will Survive (2012) Esoteric / Cherry Red (original album remaster + bonus track)
- The Art Of Obscurity (2013) MK2 Records / Omnivore Music / Fledg'ling
- Stealin’ Home (2014) Omnivore (original album remaster + 9 live bonus tracks recorded at Texas A&M University in November 1978)
- Live At Rockpalast – Hamburg 1983 (2017) MIG (DVD + 2CD: CD1 is the audio version of the DVD; CD2 contains the studio versions of all the songs)
- Walking A Changing Line 2CD (2017) MIG (original album remaster + CD2 of outtakes)
- A Baker’s Dozen (2017) MK2 Records
- Thro’ My Eyes (2018) Route (2CD compilation released as the DeLuxe edition of his Thro’ My Eyes biography)
- The Original Notebook Series (2002) Coast To Coast
Limited edition 5CD archival box set containing Live Alone, Intimate Wash, Camouflage, Nights In Manhattan And Points West, plus a fifth, then unreleased CD, Woodshedding.
- Amen (2009) Perfect Pitch (live at Café de Amer, Amen with Bart Oostindie and Mike Roelofs)
- Woodshedding (2009) Perfect Pitch (single CD issue of CD5 from the Original Notebook Series box set)
2-on-1 Reissues / Remasters
- If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes / Tigers Will Survive (1992) Vertigo
- Valley Hi / Some Days You Eat The Bear (2003) Water Records
- Stealin’ Home / Siamese Friends (2005 remaster) BGO Records
- Spot Of Interference / Shook (2005 remaster) BGO Records
- Go For Broke / Hit And Run (2006 remaster) BGO Records
- The Dark Ride / God Looked Down (2006 remaster) BGO Records
- Pure And Crooked / Skeleton Keys (2009 remaster) BGO Records
- Valley Hi / Some Days You Eat The Bear (2017 remaster) BGO Records
- Fairport Convention (1968) UK Polydor / US Cotillion
- What We Did On Our Holidays (1968) UK Island / US A&M
- Unhalfbricking (1969) UK Island / US A&M
- Heyday: The BBC Sessions 1968-69 (1986) UK Island / US Hannibal
- Heyday: The BBC Sessions 1968-1969 Extended (2002) Island Remasters (8 bonus tracks)
- What We Did On Our Saturday (2018) 2CD (Live At 50th Anniversary Cropredy Festival) Matty Grooves
Matthews Southern Comfort
- Matthews' Southern Comfort (1969) UK Uni / US Decca (first solo album)
- Second Spring (1970) UK Uni / US Decca
- Later That Same Year (1970) UK Uni / US Decca / US Reissue Pickwick
- One, Two, Three…Too Good ! (1970 vinyl) Teldec / MCA (German 2LP best of compilation)
- Best Of Matthews Southern Comfort (1974 vinyl; 1989 CD) MCA Records
- Scion (1994) Band Of Joy (collection of outtakes and BBC recordings)
- The Essential Collection (1997) Half Moon (retrospective of 1970s recordings)
- Matthews’ Southern Comfort / Second Spring (1996) BGO Records
- Later That Same Year (2008 CD) BGO Records (original album remaster + 4 bonus tracks)
- Kind Of New (2010) Brilliant / Genepool
- Kind Of Live (2011) Perfect Pitch
- Matthews Southern Comfort: A Simple History Vol.1 (2017) MK2 Records (2017 tour album)
- Like A Radio (2018) MIG
- In Search Of Amelia Earhart (1972 vinyl) UK and US Elektra
- In Search Of Amelia Earhart (1991 CD) Japan Elektra / Warner-Pioneer Corporation
- And That’s That - The Demos (1992) Taxim Records
- On Air - Original BBC Recordings (1992) Band of Joy (BBC recordings from 1972)
- Voices Electric (1994) Line
- Sister Flute (1996) Line
- On Air (1997) Strange Fruit (original album + 2 extra tracks)
- New Place Now (1999) Blue Rose
- Live In Austria (1999) Plainsong (4-track mini-CD, live in Thalgäu)
- A To B (2001) Spinalong Records (6-track mini-CD)
- In Search Of Amelia Earhart (CD 2001) Perfect Pitch
- Pangolins (2003) Blue Rose
- Plainsong (2005) 2CD Water Records (remaster of In Search Of Amelia Earhart, unreleased second album Now We Are 3, plus radio sessions, live recordings and singles)
- Fat Lady Singing (2012) Blue Rose
- In Search Of Amelia Earhart (CD re-issue 2016) Man In The Moon
- Reinventing Richard: The Songs of Richard Farina (2015) Fledg'ling
- Return To Zero (1995) Watermelon
- Demonstration Record (1982) First American Records (live mini-album)
- Moods for Mallards (1982) First American Records
- Complete Works (2006) CD + DVD Blue Rose
No Grey Faith
- Secrets All Told – The Songs Of Sandy Denny (2000) Perfect Pitch / Unique Gravity
More Than A Song
- More Than A Song (2001) Perfect Pitch / Coast To Coast
- Witness (2002) Turtle Records (live in Amsterdam)
- Witness (2003) DVD Inbetweens Records (DVD has live clips of 3 full songs plus backstage footage and interviews. Total playing time ~ 20 minutes)
With Julian Dawson
- Songs From The Red Couch (1996) No label (live in Thalgäu, 4 August 1996)
- Flood Damage (2002) No label (live in Thalgäu, 29 November 2002)
With Elliott Murphy
- La Terre Commune (2001) Blue Rose / Perfect Pitch / Eminent
With Elliott Murphy and Olivier Durand
- Official Blue Rose Bootleg Series 2CD (2001) Blue Rose (live in Solingen, 1 June 2001)
With Searing Quartet
- Joy Mining (2008) Perfect Pitch (an easy listening/jazz oriented album)
With Nick Vernier Band
- Woodstock (2009) Brinker Media
With Egbert Derix
- Afterwords (2010) CD + DVD MatriX (CD live at Café Thembi, Maastricht, 17 May 2009; DVD live at Acoustic Alley, Den Haag, 18 October 2009)
- In The Now (2012) Verve / Fledg'ling (UK), Omnivore (US)
- That Is To Say (2012) DVD MatriX (live concert at The Music Star, Norderstedt, Germany, 12 May 2012 + 3 bonus tracks recorded 10 October 2010)
- The Making Of 'In The Now' (2014) DVD Omnivore (~40-minute documentary about the making of the album)
With Nick Vernier Band and Emitt Rhodes
- Time Will Show The Wiser (2010) Brinker Media
With Ad Vanderveen
- The Iain Ad Venture (2000) Blue Rose
- Ride The Times (2010) Turtle Records
Hot 100 Singles
- "Woodstock", Matthews' Southern Comfort (Band) (No. 23, No. 5 Canada, 1971)
- "Mare, Take Me Home", Matthews' Southern Comfort (Band) (No. 96, No. 86 Canada, 1971)
- "Tell Me Why", Matthews' Southern Comfort (Band) (No. 98, 1971)
- "Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)" (No. 96, 1972)
- "Shake It" (US No. 13; Canada No. 6, 1979)
- "Gimme An Inch" (No. 67, 1979)
Easy Listening (Adult Contemporary)
- "Woodstock – Matthews' Southern Comfort (Band)" (No. 17, No. 22 Canada, 1971)
- "Shake It" (No. 21, No. 32 Canada, 1979)
- "Gimme An Inch" (No. 43, 1979)
- "Don't Hang Up Your Dancing Shoes" (No. 42, 1979)
- Chris Woodstra (8 October 1996). "The Seattle Years 1978–1984 – Ian Matthews | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Nettleton, Paul. "Old music: Matthews Southern Comfort – Woodstock : The second best Fairport Convention singer secured a UK No 1 only to move on, leaving solo success behind". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
- Unterberger, Richie. "Iain Matthews Interview".
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 355. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Iain Matthews website biography Archived 6 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.