Iain Matthews biography
Iain Matthews ( also popularly known as Ian Matthews ) has had a long singing career dating from the swinging 1960s, where he released material as the vocalist of Pyramid. He later joined Fairport Convention, formed and left Matthews' Southern Comfort, and went on to have a long and winding career, sailing through trends in rock, pop, country and folk with some chart success and maintaining a continuous cult following since his commercial peak in the late 1970s.
After his stint in Fairport Convention, came the country-tinged Southern Comfort (1969) album , where Matthews recruited Richard Thompson, and other members of Fairport to collaborate. He secured a deal with MCA’s UNI label and a touring lineup of Matthews' Southern Comfort released two more albums of material, Second Spring (1970), and Later That Same Year (1970). Much like he had when Fairport had it's first success, Matthews walked away from the band just as fame became inevitable and Tops Of The Pops were calling.
He went solo again releasing the self produced If You Could See Thro’ My Eyes (1971)on Vertigo with a cast that included Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Keith Tippet (King Crimson), Tim Renwick (Al Stewart), and other British performers, Matthews seemed, for a moment, to have found a comfortable balance of autonomy, support, creativity, and success. The follow-up for Vertigo, was Tigers Will Survive (1972), and then a new project Plainsong, who signed with Elektra[/label and released In Search of Amelia Earhart (1972). ex- Monkee [artist]Michael Nesmith produced the LP Valley Hi (1973), which featured a version of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” so definitive that you can hear the Eagles recreate it note for note on their 1980 live album.
Matthews took over production again for Some Days You Eat the Bear and Some Days the Bear Eats You (1974), which featured LA session men like guitarists Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, on his way from Steely Dan to the Doobie Brothers, and David Lindley of Jackson Browne’s band. That LP also featured a Tom Waits song called "ol 55" whom the Eagles also must've heard, as it showed up on one their next Elektra/Asylum releases.
Matthews moved to CBS for Go For Broke (1976), and then Hit and Run (1977). Finally in Stealin’ Home (1978) Matthews hit the US top ten with the single "Shake It". Even with chart recognition, his next LP Siamese Friends (1979) stiffed due to poor distribution through a Canadian indie whose founder had died. Spot of Interference in 1980 was followed by Discreet Repeat a best of from the Southern Comfort years.
Matthews had been struggling in the music biz for nearly 15 years by the early 80's and was still living hand to mouth, with nothing to show for his efforts but a string of out-of-print albums, and the loyalty of those musicians and fans who shared his vision. More or less on a whim, Matthews abandoned LA for Seattle, where he met vocalist David Surkamp, late of Pavlov’s Dog. The two formed Hi-Fi, an 80s guitar band that included Bruce Hazen on guitar, Garey Shelton on bass, and Bob Briley on drums. They produced a live mini-album, the Hi-Fi Demonstration Record (1981), as well as a full length studio album, Moods for Mallards (1982), on which they covered Prince’s “When U Were Mine.”
The hi-tech sound of Shook (1984) was followed by a record of mostly Jules Shear songs called Walking a Changing Line (1988). Matthews found day jobs at labels like Island and then Windham Hill while he planned a comeback that included a Fairport Convention reunion, and a live solo album recorded at NY's Bottom Line. Finding a renewed interest in songwriting Matthews put out Walking A Changing Line, Pure and Crooked (1990), Skeleton Keys (1992), and Dark Ride (1994)and God Looked Down (1996) both on Austin’s Watermelon Records. A revitalized version of Plainsong also recorded Dark Side of the Room (1992) Sister Flute (1996) a Live in Austria EP (1998) and New Place Now (1999).
Compilations of older songs also appeared including Orphans and Outcasts (1991), The Notebook Series (1992),The Soul of Many Places (1993), all selecting highlights, outtakes etc from his long career.
Relocating to Amsterdam, Matthews found steadier live work and began playing numerous live shows, both with new and established acts.
Matthews formed a Sandy Denny tribute band No Grey Faith with Jim Fogarty, who played on Tiniest Wham, and singer Lindsay Gilmour. The resulting album, Secrets All Told (2000), includes Denny’s “Rising For the Moon”. Also released in the year of the millennium was Iain AdVenture (2000). The next year Matthews re-tested the Plainsong waters once more in 2001 with a six-song mini-album, A to B, which includes his controversial take on racial issues, “To Be White.” A collaboration with American rocker, (now Paris resident) Elliott Murphy resulted in the commercially successful album La Terre Commune (2001). Other collaborations followed including More Than a Song (2001) with Eliza Gilkyson.
It might be tempting to see Matthews’ career as having completed some kind of circle but his path is more like that of the sailboats that he would rather sing about than actually venture out on--changing direction only to deal with the prevailing winds, pressing steadily toward a single goal. In Matthews’ case that goal has always been the simple and undying dedication to the perfection of his craft.