Quiet Loner (AKA Matt Hill) is a songwriter who has had rave reviews from Uncut, Maverick, Rock n Reel comparing his Americana influenced songs with Elvis Costello. Having seen Matt perform three times, his most powerful performance in my opinion was the ‘Battle for the Ballot‘. As songwriter in residency at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, Matt embarked on a journey to write an album about this subject and took his audience on a chronological journey in story and song about the events that made Britain’s struggle for the right to vote for all.
Johnny: How did this project first come to light and can you tell us more?
Matt: I love the museum and I’d done a couple of gigs there so I approached them with the idea of residency. I spent a year in and out – reading, researching and writing the songs that tell the story of the fight for the right to vote.
Johnny: The setting of the People’s History Museum lends itself well to such a show and of course, Manchester’s rich political history runs through the whole building. Was this the obvious choice to set up such a show?
Matt: It’s a national museum but it’s apt that it is in Manchester as many important parts of the story happened in Manchester but the battle for the ballot was fought right across Great Britain and Ireland.
Johnny: One thing that I’ve always felt about your songwriting is delicate wordplay which has been crafted I feel quite naturally over time. The process with Battle for the Ballot is a little more unorthodox than what is perceived as the normal creative process of editing over time. What was your approach to this?
Matt: Yeah it was different to other things I’ve written. My method was to do the research. I read a lot about the subjects and tried to draw from contemporary accounts where possible. Then I used some creative techniques for coming up with hooks and lyrics ideas. Then there was a lot of editing. Most songs started out with about 20 verses and were gradually whittled down to 3-4 minute songs.
Johnny: Women were only allowed to vote in the UK 99 years ago, which I know you write about such events…therefore it can seem the right for the ‘Battle for the Ballot’ may be over, but new battles are always fought on people’s rights for equality…the ‘Battle for the Ballot’ is not over yet in the UK…is it?
Matt: Absolutely not. I think voting is important but our democracy is about much more than that. I think the vote could be made a lot fairer. If you’re young and poor you’re unlikely to vote so although there is no legal bar to your involvement like there was a 100 years ago, there are barriers. We need to work to get more people enfranchised. I support the campaign for proportional representation because I think the present system is just not delivering a Parliament that represents the public’s views.
Johnny: What can people expect from your show at the Red and Green Club?
Matt: I hope it’ll be fun and enjoyable. I describe it as a entry level history lecture with songs. I know that on paper a gig about the fight for Universal Suffrage might not sound like a top night out! But I try and make the story accessible and I think the songs stand up. It’s a bit unusual too, so I hope folks will come along and see what it’s all about.
Matt will be performing the Red and Green Club in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield on 15th December. Support will come from myself, Johnny Campbell. 7pm doors, 8pm start with aiming to finish 10:15-10.30pm. The show is unplugged in an intimate setting of the country’s oldest Socialist Club with real ale and more.
This is a Pay What You Feel event between £5-10 to support creative and inspiring projects at the Red and Green Club.