Being born into a family of musicians, Matty Brown’s journey into music began even before his first birthday. Mentored by his dad and uncle, both deeply rooted in the UK music scene, he was off to a strong start, but it became far more serious when he won the Young Drummer of the Year competition in 2013.
Today, at the age of 21, he has already played for the likes of Plan B, Stormzy, Wretch 32, Little Mix and many more and is definitely one to watch for the future.
I caught up with Matty to chat about his upbringing, his way into the pop scene and his work off the drum chair.
First things first, why drums?
My earliest memories would be at my grandparents house when I was very little, and when it was time for bed I would just be tapping rhythms on my grandma’s back. She would just always complain and tell my parents, so my dad obviously knew I had an interest in drums. Eventually he got me a little play kit when I was eight months old. So yeah, I was really young.
Your dad is a musician too, right?
Yeah, he’s always been a producer but he was also one of the first leading black gospel musicians in the country. He played on this TV show called ‘People Get Ready’ on Channel 4 every week in the late 80s and early 90s. He was the musical director on that. I think that was the last thing he played drums on and then he moved to just doing production and keyboards full time. So yes, he was a drummer but I never really got to see him in his drumming days when he used to play for Paul Weller, Level 42, Earth, Wind and Fire and many more.
So did you learn your first grooves and tricks from him?
Funnily enough I learned my first stuff from a girl called Alicia Hughes. She used to play down at my home church. She was the main drummer there at the time so I used to see her play every Sunday. My dad became a minister in 2003 so I moved to another church and the main drummer there was a guy called Michael Smith. I literally took his whole style: I set up my drums the way he did, I played the cymbals he did, I even grew my hair like him. He was my day to day inspiration
Yeah, a massive influence because I was there every week. Church even today is my life. My grandparents are pastors, my dad and my uncle are ministers so I kind of have it on all angles, my house is like a church.
Did you ever have any lessons or did you learn from just watching guys?
I never really had lessons, I only had about ten when I was in Year 9. It was with a guy called Courtney Daniels, he’s an amazing drummer. He helped me with my rudiments and reading, I learned a lot from him. It wasn’t really lessons that influenced me and got me to where I am at the moment, it was listening to a lot of records. My uncle used to play for Jamelia, Louise Redknapp, Ms Dynamite, Girls Aloud, Blue and so on, so every few months I went to see him at Wembley Arena. I was always in arenas watching shows, that’s where I learned a lot of my musicianship.
Did you have any more drummers that influenced you especially?
I really appreciate the drummers close to home so I wouldn’t be one of those guys that would be on YouTube for hours checking out drummers in America, I used to look at drummers in the UK. I think my first influence was Drummerworld on a VHS cassette. I always used to watch a Vinnie Colaiuta video and this track that he would play, I think it was called ‘Tweaked’. It used to freak me out. Even though I was four/five years old, time signature was weird and I didn’t understand what he was doing but it felt right. When it comes to time signatures I kind of understand it because of that. So Vinnie was one of my heroes.
Also my uncle Jerry Brown because I was just always around him and used to go and see him on different shows and another guy called Joshua Mckenzie who used to do Tiny Tempah. There are loads of guys.
Also my friend Jessie Grant did an album with this guy called Angel and I used to listen to that back to front. I would take his style, the way he set up his kit and tried to adapt my sound.
So yeah, I would say my main three influences were Jerry Brown, Joshua Mckenzie and Jessie Grant.
I was always good at playing the drums. Growing up in my house with the family I’m from, music is like second nature; it’s like writing, it’s so easy to do. I didn’t ask for it to happen, it just happened. It was like growing up and starting to talk. There were drum kits in my house, there were keyboards in my house, I had a studio in my house – it was so easy to me. I liked drumming but as I got into secondary school I thought it wouldn’t be cool so I stopped for a while. I didn’t actually play from the age of 11 to 14. As you all know that age is a really important age because that’s when you’re developing as a person. It wasn’t until I got into year 11 that I chose music and I kind of had to get into playing drums again.
The turning point for me was the London Drum Show 2012 where I joined the Young Drummer of the Year competition.
Which you ended up winning!
Yes. I walked past the audition booth and my friend was like: “Just go in there and play!”. I thought it looked like a nice kit but I didn’t want to do the competition, I don’t even like competitions. I thought I’m not gonna win anyway and that there are lots of kids that are better than me. I went in, played for two minutes and when I came out the guy that was filming it said he thought I was really good. He asked me if I wanted to apply but I wasn’t too bothered so I told him to put my name down if he liked. I didn’t really care. On my first day of college I got a phone call from someone telling me that I was shortlisted to the top 40. I was like: “Wait, me? I didn’t even take this thing seriously.” It went online and people where like: “well done man” but I thought I wouldn’t get into the top 10 anyway. Another day I got a phone call telling me I got into the top 10 and I just thought: “Damn, I’ve got to do this final now”. I don’t like losing and I didn’t want to bring embarrassment to my family because my dad is who he is, my uncle is who he is, I’m who I am but I’m not really anyone. I didn’t really wanna be Nicki’s and Jerry’s son. They’re amazing, they’re legends and he’s just not really that good.
So when I found out I started practising a lot and really got into drumming. I just thought: “I’m gonna win this thing” but I didn’t tell anyone.
I just told my mentor Jessie, I told my mum and I told my dad the night before. When I heard it was in Coventry I thought I would just get the underground there, that’s how young I was in my head. My mum told me that it was in Leamington Spa and that she wouldn’t drive me so I just went: “Well, I’m not doing it then’. I had to call my godfather, explain to him what happened and he offered to drive me there.
As soon as I got in I just told myself I would win this thing! I decided to keep to myself but got really nervous when I heard all the guys playing upstairs. A friend of mine, Stephen Asamoah-Duah, won two years before and told me to not think about it and just let loose and play. That’s what I did. I still didn’t think I would win but when they said my name I just went blank. I couldn’t believe it.
My life has literally changed from that day. It was January the 13th 2013, don’t think I’ll ever forget it. From then I knew what I wanted to do.
I did a lot of underground gigs, I played for a little group called Rascals. My first pro gig will have to be a guy called Shaka in 2013. Literally just after I won Young Drummer Of The Year I did Glastonbury on the BBC Introducing stage with him. Straight after that my first record label big gig was a girl called Sinead Harnett who’s an R’n’B artist in this country. I was 17 at the time. Props to Tobi Oyeride and Wes Chavez who called me for that gig. It grew me into the musician I am today and taught me how to be in the pop industry.
Was it always the goal to work in the pop industry?
The thing is with life, I have goals but I let life play out, I let God do his thing. I see something and I chase it. For example I always used to watch Wretch 32’s show and it was always a gig I would like to do, so I hit up the MD Joshua Mckenzie, who is one of my drum heroes, and let him know that I wanted to do it – then he called me for it. Same with Stormzy. I always wanted to play for him, so I messaged him on Instagram, got in touch with his tour manager and they got me in. For Plan B I was recommended to the MD. The MD, a guy called Kojo who is one of my mentors, called me and I went to Ben’s studio (who is Plan B) and we just clicked from there. The rest is history. I’ve been working with him in the studio and on his live shows and it has been the best experience in my musical career ever. He’s taught me the most and I’ve got the most respect for his artistry.
All that music is quite electronic heavy, is it very much a hybrid kit vibe?
Funnily enough Plan B has three records out and the last album is very electronic heavy but on the gig I only play electronics on 2 out of the 16 songs in the set. It’s all very old school Soul/Rock so I don’t play much electronics but I’ve had to change the way I play and set up quite a bit. On the first day of rehearsals I played a 20” kick and 10”,12” and 15” toms. As rehearsals went by I had to get bigger sounds to match the old school 60s/70s sounds from the record. Now I use a 24” kick and 12”, 16” and 18” toms. I also use a 16×5,5 auxiliary snare next to my main one. It’s really big sounds.
Do you still find time to work on other things?
Yes, I’m a manager, A&R and producer for a gospel artist called Becca Folkes and we’re in the process of finishing of her EP and this campaign. I’m co-producing that with my production partner Iziah Yarde.
I’m also getting ready to do a bunch of clinics around the country, one of them being the London Drum Show which is really massive for me.
Yes, I definitely want to get into it more. Also, I’m a musical director for a few artists, so I’m getting into that as well.
Finally, what’s next?
Loads more touring, loads more production, music out from myself, I’ll do loads more clinics, working with Ben (Plan B), working with this cool guy called Kojo Funds who I musical direct, just loads of different artists. All I can say is: just keep an eye on me man. It’s gonna be an amazing journey.
Thanks a lot for your time Matty!
Interview by Tobias Miorin