360, AKA 31-year-old Melbournian Matt Colwell, has just released his fourth studio album, Vintage Modern, and he is, for all intents and purposes, an artist re-invigorated. Colwell wrote the bulk of the album on the guitar, creating melodic acoustic pieces first, before teaming up with a tight-knit production crew including longtime collaborator Styalz Fuego, executive producer Nic Martin and chief instrumenalist Carl Dimataga to shape the album into the banging, textural beast it is today.
Fuzzed-out layered, Vintage Modern pairs Colwell's trademark charm, honesty and razor sharp raps with a lush sonic backbone of guitars. It's somehow both immediately familiar and genuinely game changing for the artist, with live instrumental loops taking the place of the heavy synths and electronic drops Colwell's music is traditionally known for.
Colwell attributes a lot of the album's success to the involvement of Fuego, Martin and Dimataga, describing Dimataga in particular as the best artist he knows. "He's just incredible. He makes such amazing music, and he's just a real musician. He's like an encyclopedia of music. You can ask him about any artist from any era and he knows about all of them, so he can deliver any style of music that you want. Nick and Styalz are probably the best producers in the country. I'm just incredibly lucky to work with people like that."
And that's not even to mention the swathe of guest stars Colwell pulled in to collaborate with him: everyone from Hein Cooper to Teischa to Seth Sentry to PEZ got involved. "I feel like working with Hein Cooper on Yesterday was great - like, he's just an incredible songwriter and artist. Also, Teischa, who's on Way Out just has one of those incredibly unique voices - the kind I haven't heard in a long time.
"Then there's Gary Clarke, who's on Trouble - he is such an outstanding writer. The chrous on tat song is incredible and the lyric 'the trouble with God is man' is probably one of my favourite lyrics on the whole album. I think it sums up what the song is about perfectly. He's someone I've worked with in the past a fair bit, and I'll hopefully continue to work with."
The driving manifesto behind Vintage Modern was, much as it says on the tin, about combining the traditional with the cutting edge. That, Colwell explains, is why you'll hear both a lot of organic instrumentation and a lot of modern production: why you'll hear both guitar work and pitch-shifted drums. "With the rapping we wanted to do the same thing as well," Colwell says. "We wanted to have a modern kind of feel. It was really just about blending vintage music and modern music together, and trying to create one album that's like the perfect mix of both."
Colwell's personal favourite track on the album is Tiny Angel, which he describes in no uncertain terms as the best song he's ever written. "I think it's just the best songwriting I've done. I feel like it's important for me as an artist. I really wanted to show my songwriting ability and show that I can do stuff that's not always about personal experiences that I've gone through; that I can write songs about other stuff that's not necessarily anything that I've experienced myself. So to put myself in someone else's shoes and write a song like that and have people connect with it... I feel like it really worked."
Moreover, Colwell feels Vintage Modern is a fresh start for him, both as an artist and as a person. "I actually feel like I'm starting over again. I have got a fanbase already, so I feel like that is a career-defining moment for me to actually release an album after such a long time off, being clean and off drugs. Releasing this album is just a really huge deal for me - just even being able to do it."
Colwell has a huge national tour coming up, one that will see him take on Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and more. As he tells it, he feels like this will be the first time he will properly be able to drink up the experience of being on the road, given his head is that much clearer now.
"I can't wait to get back out there and be really present in the moment and soak it all up. It's really easy to get run-down, so it's important to stay healthy and look after yourself. In the past I haven't really thought [touring] out properly and was just winging it everywhere that I went, but this time, I really want to try and have a routine set in place so when I do wake up in the morning, I go for a run or do a bit of exercise. I'll try and eat really healthy while I'm away, and try and keep my shit together rather than just eating junk food."
After that, Colwell isn't really sure where his road will take him. His plans for the future get no more complicated than this: he wants to open people's minds, break out of boxes, and quietly, ambitiously, change the game. "If you think of a painter, a painter would never create the same painting twice. They would always make something new and different, and that's something that I hope really comes across with my music. I want every album to be different; every album to show a lot of growth, and to hopefully inspire other people to do the same."