A day with Matt Mulholland

My first introduction to Matt Mulholland was his deliciously awful recorder rendition of “My Heart Will Go On.” The YouTube version I saw had a still image of Rose and Jack on the bow of the Titanic. I laughed so hard my eyes brimmed with tears and when the song finished, I listened two more times to make sure it was real.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I soon learned that Matt was a Kiwi based in Wellington and that the recorder song had its own video entitled, “My Heart Will Go On-Recorder by Candlelight.” In it, an earnest young man wears a satin shirt, stares meaningfully into middle distance and tosses his curly mop of hair in the breeze blowing off Wellington harbour.

From there I found his soothing version of “O Holy Night” where the lyrics were all replaced with the word “penis.” Then there was the epic power ballad, “I Fucking Love You” and the live looping version of “Teenage Dream” (which I actually prefer to Katy Perry’s original). There was also the saga of Shampoo Batman, the tutorial on how to sing Falsetto, the performance of “Love is an Open Door” where he sings both the male and female parts in perfect harmony and “Holding Out For A Hero,” where he romps around in lederhosen and imbibes a lot of beer.

Recently, I got the opportunity to hang out with Matt in Lyttelton and when I wasn’t boring him with my passion for the Law of the Sea, I actually remembered to ask him questions about himself.

He told me he started out playing the violin and piano around age seven and said his home seemed to always have musical instruments available. He later picked up the trumpet, guitar and, seemingly, every other instrument known to mankind. I’m basing this last assertion on the fact that he plays of lot of instruments in his videos with enviable proficiency.

Behind the general silliness is a seriously talented musician. His vocal range is vast and can alternate effortlessly between bass and falsetto. He writes his own music and admires many genres including gospel, bluegrass, pop and rock n’ roll power ballads. His uni years led him to jazz, religious studies and a passion for musical theatre.

We discussed my fellow Americans’ insatiable love for Kiwis’ self-deprecating humour, and I asked if he ever thought of doing voice work for Disney (he has and would love to).

He previously spent time in Dubai and London leading me to ask if he felt the need to leave New Zealand to further his career. He said Wellington wasn’t always his favourite place, but it suits him for the moment. I got a distinct “I’ve come home” vibe from him on this question.

His latest project is the album “After You Grow,” which he bravely released toward the end of New Zealand’s lockdown. While the opening track, “The First Move,” and “Boy/Girl Stuff” showcase his typical humour and cheeriness, tracks like “Knowing Love” and “Come Back to Me,” are tinged with unmistakable traces of heartbreak.

The song “I Think We Should Date” was written for a girl but Matt’s mates convinced him not to tell her. I told him if a dude ever wrote a song about me, I’d want to know, and I’d make time for him. I am now breathlessly awaiting the release of his future single, “Kelly Talks About Law Too Much, Is This Even an Interview?”

“After You Grow” is an accomplished album which graces some of the highs and lows of getting older. Overall, it maintains a hopeful tone and even contains its own love letter to London and the people who made it special.

For those worried that grown up Matt might lose his puerile humour, he says more songs with “penis, penis, penis” lyrics aren’t out of the question. He’ll likely get back to that when he’s finished his current project of writing a musical and then subsequently become the first man alive to conduct the music of the spheres. Again, I’m speculating on that last point.

I do not consider it hyperbole to say that Matt Mulholland is a national treasure. I spent several hours with him and I know this to be true. If you ever get the chance to hang out with him I would highly recommend it. If not, the next best thing is to experience his album “After You Grow” on Spotify, Bandcamp or Apple Music.

By Kelly Phillips