‘There was no eureka moment!’: Interview with composer Matt Sheeran

There’s often an idea that people at the top of their game have a specific experience or moment in their life that propels them onto greatness. Whether it’s sport, business, academia or art, the most successful people usually have one thing they point to as being “that moment of clarity” which defined their future trajectory. But to what extent is that realistic? 

Meet Matt Sheeran, Grammy-nominated composer and brother to Ed.  I say “meet” as this may well be the first time you’ve heard of him. Matt, a notoriously private person who admits he isn’t interested in the spotlight, spoke with us about his life as a musician, and how he came to find his passion.  

When asked if there was a defining moment when he decided to dedicate his life to composing, he told us that: ‘It was a gradual process, there was no eureka moment!’.  

As we ask him about his earliest memories of being introduced to music, he confesses that he was a big fan of Disney movies, particularly captivated by iconic movie soundtracks such as ‘Fantasia’ and his Christmas favourite: Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale for children, ‘Peter and the Wolf’.  

Having found classical music at such a young age, it’s no surprise that Matt went on to fall in love with the genre at the age of just 14; something not a lot of teenagers could probably say. He mentions ‘there was no nudging from my parents’, but his grandmother, a classical singer, ‘was very supportive’ of his developing passion.  

However, it was at university where he started to hone the skills needed to pursue music professionally. Learning how to transcribe and understand the technical side of music, Matt found his preferred way of working. Speaking about how he composes now, he says: ‘I find it helpful to transcribe the song first if it is brand new or get hold of the transcription/MIDI if it is old.  Things then start to suggest themselves.’  

One of his most special collaborations so far, was the production of Amo Soltanto Te alongside Bob Ezrin and Ed Sheeran – where he orchestrated the string re-arrangements. He adds that ‘it was also very interesting coordinating the Italian translation with Tiziano Ferro.’  

Contrary to the stereotypical attributes of people who’ve succeeded in a competitive industry, Matt Sheeran is not preoccupied with ticking items off ‘a bucket list’ or fixating on the ‘next big thing’. Rather than trying to control his destiny, he finds that ‘interesting projects always turn up’. He trusted in his talent and patiently waited for opportunities to present themselves – and they did.  

The composer was immersed in the world of music from a very young age, but his path to becoming a renowned musician goes to show that musical inspiration stems from the most mundane activities such as watching a movie, and that talent and projects don’t happen overnight – it’s an evolutionary process. One’s career isn’t a ticking time bomb! 

When asking the composer to share with us some advice for students wishing to develop their music skills at university, he says:  

‘I think it’s very important to trust your own instincts and not try and write music you think will please your teacher.  My first teacher Michael Christie would always say I shouldn’t necessarily take anything he taught me as gospel.  I also believe it is very useful to diversify the types of music you write. Writing commercial music shouldn’t stop you from working on other musical projects that interest you, and vice versa.’ 

Matt Sheeran is represented by Carolynne Wyper from SMA Talent. 

Leora Garling

Leora is a final year German and International Management student and Features Editor for 2020/1.

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