If you’re a regular gig goer on the UK country scene, you’ll be sure to have seen Matt Spracklen on your travels in recent months. Matt is a radio DJ for the ‘Country Hits’ radio station, as well as a podcaster and a TV judge too. Wecaught up with Matt this week to talk all things music, emerging talents on the scene and meeting two members of Queen and Ronnie Wood!
Hi Matt, fantastic to be speaking to you! I’d like to start by asking you how your musical journey got started? What made you want to work in the industry?
“I grew up with my Dad playing in bands and had access to instruments and recording devices from an early age. I just loved recording the sounds I made as a kid so inevitably later on ended up playing in bands.”
You’ve got a number of roles, including radio DJ, a judge on TV and your own podcast. It must be enjoyable juggling those different areas, each with their own challenges and audiences?
“It’s so cool and I feel very lucky. To make a living from it is incredibly tough and there is lot of work that goes in behind the scenes that I guess no one sees on social media etc but I love it. Filming All Together Now felt like a break from it if anything. The BBC were really good to me and the rest of the judges and it was a fun couple of months!”
As a UK country site, we’re particularly interested in your Country Hits Brits show, where you focus on the UK country scene. What can people expect from your show when they tune in?
“Firstly, being on a station called Country Hits Radio, we focus on the big country hits. That said, I am very fortunate on the #CountryHitsBrits show to have the freedom to play not just big tracks from well known artists such as The Wandering Hearts, The Shires and Ward Thomas but also emerging artists, bands that are prevalent in the scenes right now and even music I hear for the first time at a show that moves me enough to want to play it to the Country Hits Radio audience. Artists such as Remember Monday, O&O, Robert Vincent and Kezia Gill.”
And what is it that has grabbed you about the UK country scene?
“What really grabs me is when an artists is clearly influenced by authentic country music sounds. Having spent a long time studying music in Nashville, I know the sense of family and community in the country music scene and I’m really seeing that play out across the UK scene too now. Festivals such as The Longroad and Buckle & Boots really emphasise that.”
And if you had to pick one or two artists in the UK who you think have got what it takes to go all the way, who would you say?
“Remember Monday and Holloway Road spring to mind straight away but there are certainly a few more that are well on the way. Oh and of course without a doubt, Twinnie. She’s absolutely killing it.”
And I’ll ask the same question about stateside artists?
“Really into Royal South and LANCO at the moment. Glen from Royal South is from the UK so I often play them on #CountryHitsBrits but they fit into this question as they’re based in Nashville.
There seems to be something of a divide in country music right now – some are happy for new sounds and influences to come into the genre, while others prefer a traditional country sound and have a natural resistance. What side of the fence do you sit on?
“I was getting into Punk Rock in 1994 when Green Day broke with the album Dookie and it sparked division from purists and new lovers of punk with calls of Green Day selling out on a major label for the first time. That So Cal sound became the sound of punk rock and that wasn’t what the true punk rockers were all about. Think Sex Pistols, The Clash etc… I see this same thing happening now and perhaps for the first time in any major genre since ’94. Personally, I listen to ‘authentic’ country music and grew up on Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and Johnny Cash so I don’t listen to as much of the ‘pop country’ such as Taylor Swift and even going back to when Shania broke. That said, there are collaborations and albums that whilst the traditionalists won’t like, are paving the way for new country musicians to emerge and also creating a bigger audience of new country music lovers for our artists to play to. Most recently of course, we have the example of Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. This can only be a good thing. I’m glad there is divide. The scene is growing fast enough that soon, whilst only the very best will survive, the community grows and supports itself. We’ve seen this just this year with even more Country Music festivals emerging such as Dixiefields and The British Country Music Festival. When you think that we already had C2C, FSA, Buckle And Boots and The Longroad in a country as small as ours, that’s quite incredible.”
You’ve met some very famous people in your various career roles. Which individual stands out more than any other and why?
“Meeting Brian May and Roger Taylor was a life highlight. I’ve had time to chat to them both. Queen have been my favourite band ever since I knew who they were. Meeting Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones was very special too. Two bands there that have iconic and legendary status in rock and roll. Both country music fans too!”
To finish Matt, can you tell us when we can tune in to your radio show and where we can find you on social media!
“Yeah! Tune into Country Hits Radio on Sundays at 7pm for Country Hits Brits. I’m also on from 8-11pm that night playing hits from all over. And find me on Instagram & Twitter @MattSpracklen. Thanks!”