Long lasting, and hugely creative, artistic partnerships often start in the strangest of ways. John met Yoko half way up a ladder whilst holding a magnifying glass, Sonny met Cher randomly in a coffee shop, and Mick met Keith when they passed each other on Dartford train station holding a collection of records. Details were scarce on how Sting and Shaggy met, but it’s highly likely that the meeting was similarly surreal.
When we come to think of the impact these partnerships had on the musical world, and the ultimate depth of their relationships, it’s strange to think how close these random, one in a million, moments came to never-happening. What would the world look like if they hadn’t happened? Where would the direction of each artists career gone next? Would Mick Jagger be chancellor?
Local musical ones-to-watch Holly Rees and Matt Dunbar, both tipped as rising artists independently, also had an interesting way of meeting. “I had my last EP up on band camp to purchase and I saw that Matt had ordered a copy” says Holly “so I added a note saying that I hoped he liked it and that we should probably write a song together. The next thing I knew Matt got in touch and we did exactly that”.
“It was a little strange I must admit” laughs Matt “but I liked Holly’s work and I was incredibly honoured that she’d ask me to do some work with her.”
The lets-write-a-single suggestion then spiralled into an intertwining artistic collaboration spanning various art forms. Holly helped clear up the timeline for us “we decided early on that we worked well together and that our early song writing work would go onto Matt’s EP rather than mine. This was what eventually became “Your Place”. I had a lot of material already written and was keen to record this. As it happened I needed a producer for this material and Matt seemed the perfect choice”.
“We were half way through the writing of “Your Place” when Holly played me some of her songs and asked me if I would do some production for her. I loved the songs and jumped at the chance”.
“My first EP wasn’t really produced” clarifies Holly, “it was some live recordings in a studio setting. With this EP I wanted to work with a producer who could support the song structures and help me to create the sounds I heard in my head”.
Unable to pay Matt in cash, Holly, a painter in her own right, offered Matt an interesting way of producing the work “between us we came up with a cool plan for a skills swap, I would paint the front cover of his new ep – and he would produce mine.”
“I certainly got the best deal” laughs Matt “I really like the idea of creative people helping each other and swapping skills, and particularly so on our work where we’d started with the idea of writing one track and now we were also producing each other, adding vocals to each other tracks and designing art covers”.
With the resulting EPs written, produced and ready to be released, it seemed only right that the next step would be a joint tour.
“The first night of the tour will be fun” says Holly “my EP is released that day, Matt’s EP is released that day, and there’ll also be a video out for one of my tracks. Plus we start the tour and it’ll be great to go out and showcase our work together”.
“It seems like a great end to a journey” agrees Matt “to think that we’ve been working on each other’s projects and then we’ll have a joint launch day and a joint tour makes it a great way to end the work we’ve been doing together. The tour will be great as we’ll do some collaborations in a live setting as well”.
It sounds like the perfect end to a perfect story, but both Matt and Holly don’t seem keen to end the collaboration just yet. “For me” says Holly “there’s so many songs written which didn’t make the cut on this EP and I’d love to get back into the studio as soon as I can. If Matt could help me with that, it’d be ideal. He has such a supportive way of producing and I’d love him to do it again.”.
“I’m looking forward to the tour and what comes after we’ll wait and see” agrees Matt. “What I like most in an artist is their passion. Regardless of whether a show has 3 or 300 people in the crowd, I want an artist to give their full commitment to a show. Holly certainly does that both live and when recording. It’ll be a great tour and then the plan is to work together as close as we can afterwards”.
From song writing, to production, to skills-swapping, we can all learn something important about sharing from Matt and Holly, and perhaps the next time you meet someone randomly why not stop for a moment and just imagine where it could take you. As Matt says “In addition to the work, the most important thing for me in all of this collaboration is that I’ve gained a great friend and someone who inspires me”. Well said.