Aron Matthews is a music producer from the Zillertal Valley known for his summer-inspired pop tracks popular with radio stations and Spotify subscribers alike. We visited the musician in his studio to talk about life, Ibiza and the perfect song.
Aron Matthews is sitting at his mixing desk, surrounded by faders, pointers, keys and screens. It looks a bit like the cockpit of a spaceship. He is in the middle of telling me how to write the perfect pop song. “Generally I start with a basic hook,” he says, before pulling out an electric keyboard from under the desk and tapping out a simple four-beat melody. As he plays them, the notes appear as brightly coloured blocks on the screen in front of him. “Once that is done, we concentrate on the arrangement, the verses and all the other stuff.” Despite his success, Aron remain modest when talking about the process of making music: “There’s a lot of trial and error,” admits the young man from the Zillertal Valley, “then all of a sudden it all clicks into place.” His breakthrough hit Over Again made it onto the playlist of Ö3, Austria’s biggest pop music station, and has been streamed almost 350,000 times on Spotify since it was released at the end of June.
„You’re the only one who still hasn’t got a proper job.“
From Schlitters to Wattens.
Aron Matthias (his real name) was born in the village of Schlitters in the Zillertal Valley and still lives there today. His mother is Hungarian (he speaks the language fluently) and his father is from Tirol. As a child, Aron learned to play the hammered dulcimer, a traditional instrument often used in folk music from Tirol, before switching to the drums at the age of eight. Six years later he was performing with a range of bands. Back then he had no idea which path he wanted to pursue later in life. “I remember that the headteacher of my polytechnical school said to me, ‘You are the only one who hasn’t got a proper job'”. He ended up doing an apprenticeship at Musikhaus Hammerschmid, a musical instrument shop in Wattens. During these years he sold drumkits, spent his lunch breaks learning to play the piano and developed basic skills on many other instruments – such as the accordeon – so that he could demonstrate them to customers. Surrounded 24/7 by musicians and instruments, Aron soon had plenty of unwritten “tunes in his head” as he says. One day a well-known producer came into the shop to have an instrument repaired, and Aron saw his chance…
A lucky break.
Aron was practising his piano skills when Manuel Stix, a music producer based in the village of Mils, walked past. His colleagues told him that Stix had a “studio at home and international singers on his books”. Aron seized the bull by the horns and asked the producer if he could play him the latest tune he had been working on. Stix listened politely, but wasn’t impressed. “The good thing is he had to come back to the shop a few days later to pick up the instrument,” smiles Aron. “When he did so I was ready and waiting for him.” Stix listened to the new and improved version of Aron’s idea and this time promised he would get back to him. A week later the phone rang. The two began work on a shared project in Stix’s Ambient Studio. In 2014 they released Merry Christmas to the World, which will be covered this year by two-time Eurovision Song Contest winner Johnny Logan.
„I sit down at the piano and just play around for half an hour. At some point the moment arrives when I know I’m onto something.“
Stix and Matthews have become good friends. In the evenings Aron can still often be found in the studio of his mentor and supporter. Nature and the mountains, he explains, are an essential part of his creative process: “They are a place where I can recharge my batteries before sitting down and making music again in the evenings. Tirol inspires me”.
Musical adventure in Ibiza.
“For me, the songwriting process is an intuitive one. I sit down at my piano and just play around for half an hour. At some point the moment arrives when I know I am onto something,” says Aron. As an intuitive musician who cannot read music, he has created diverse sounds from the piano pop vibes of Merry Christmas to the World to the electro blues of his more recent release, a remix of the popular hit Sexy and I Know It. One evening he was clicking through YouTube videos in his studio and came across a new inspiration: Ibiza. “Four days later I was on a plane heading for the island on a two-month musical adventure,” he remembers. He spent his time in the Balearics learning about the scene, talking to DJs and producers, and even drumming for drinks at a few gigs.” Aron enjoyed his time in Ibiza but was soon back in Austria. “Tirol has a strong music scene with great musicians,” he is keen to emphasise. And it was these musicians whom he sought out for his own projects combining electronic and acoustic instruments to create a fusion of funk, indie pop and house.
Team work makes the dream work.
One of the most important voices in Aron Matthew’s music is provided by Andreas Steiner, who stars on the hit Let Me Go and the new single September and You released on 4 September. Aron discovered the singer and guitar player at a concert in Treibhaus, one of Innsbruck’s leading venues for independent live music. “His voice just touched me,” remembers Aron. After the concert he approached Steiner and asked if he would be interested in working together. Steiner agreed, and today he is a major part of Aron’s musical project.
In his role as producer, Aron has overall control of the musicians who contribute to each song. After developing the basic hook, she sits down with Steiner to develop verses and lyrics. Once that is done, it is time to record in the studio. Whenever possible, Aron uses high-quality acoustic instruments. In one corner of the studio stands an expensive Schimmel grand piano, in another room is a drumkit often played by the producer himself.
Once the song is finished, it is sent off to Manuel Stix and Phill Köll before coming back to Aron for one final check. “Every song is a collaboration between all of us,” explains Aron. He places great value on creating a balance between creativity and technical expertise, drawing on people with many different backgrounds. “Team work makes the dream work. It is important in the music scene to have people with different opinions.”
Surprise while cooking.
„I was at home cooking gulash and suddenly my song came through the speakers.“
Aron has been working with Manuel Stix and other composers for over six years now. Instead of writing, recording and releasing music as quickly as possible, he has made a conscious effort to let himself and his style develop at its own pace. Four years ago he even withdrew a song he was planning to release. His biggest hit to date, Over Again, made it onto the playlist of national pop radio station Ö3. “I was at home cooking gulash and suddenly my song came through the speakers,” he remembers. When he asked his friends how they had got their hands on the single, the were more than a little confused. “I don’t know what you mean,” one of them said. “We’re listening to the radio. It’s Ö3.” The people at Austria’s number one music broadcaster were so into Aron’s song that they put it straight onto the national playlist after being sent a demo by e-mail. “Some people think I must be a millionaire now,” he says with a wry smile, before adding: “I want to touch people with my music and make enough money to live off. At the moment I can do that.”