Matt Cardle talks about his new album ahead of Enjoy Wolverhampton Live
It’s perhaps no surprise the new album from Matt Cardle is called Time to Be Alive. For the X Factor winner has pulled himself back from the brink after a torrid few years.
Time to Be Alive isn’t just a record title – it’s a philosophy, and one that the 35-year-old Southampton singer embraces.
He plays the stage at the free Enjoy Wolverhampton Live gig in Queen Square on June 2.
On his new record, the lyrics are all personal observations on addiction, redemption, atonement and eventual contentment. It’s a collection that will surprise and one Matt is incredibly proud of.
“We’ve got to count our blessings each and every day. This album was a luxury for me, time-wise, because I had three years to do it. Adele takes her sweet time when she records a record but not many others do. I did three albums in three years after X Factor and it completely burned me out.
“Those three albums were all records about heart break – though I guess that’s what 90 per cent of music is written about. My relationship broke down and that’s what I wrote about. But I didn’t want to rehash the old sentiments and how I felt about her so that’s why I stopped writing.”
That didn’t mean Matt was short of material, however. Far from it. He plumbed new depths as he developed an addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs – almost killing himself in the process. Snorting illegals and eating a daily mix of valium and tramadol took its toll.
“You don’t wind up in a place like rehab if you like to read books and go for walks. I’m a hedonistic person, I’ve grown up heady. I’ve always been that way I always will be that way.
“With something like winning that show and having money and a place in London and being surrounded by it all, it was easy to slip down that road. But it wasn’t the party that took me down, it was stress and pressure. I was struggling full stop, with life. I found something that made it all OK. But then the drugs made it worse than it’s ever been. It wasn’t about the party. It was tramadol, then temazepam then Zan X. They were all benzos. Mixed with alcohol, they become deadly.”
Matt pushed himself close to the limits on drugs that are used as muscle relaxants. “They relax your heart as well as other muscles, but that can be to the point it stops beating. It’s so deadly. I was so lucky to come through it and to be talking to you about it. I have hundreds of people to thank. But the whole scene is a problem. I’ve got friends out there who are still doing it. It’s rife.” Coming off the drugs was the hardest thing that he’s ever been through. His muscles and joints, his ligaments and bones – everything seemed to ache when he withdrew. “I was in The Priory with other people who were coming off heroin. They were seeing me and weren’t envying my trip. It was a horrible, painful experience. I was feeling it on my own and it was petrifying. Those were the moments, it got very dark.”
Matt’s been clean for 20 months and has managed to keep his drinking under control. Before writing his record, he flew off to spend time sitting on beaches where he drank mocktails and learned how to relax.
He remains proud of his heritage, of winning X Factor, though recognises it had a mind-warp effect. “It bends your mind. It’s one of those things. I don’t think anyone realised how big the show would be at the time but 19.5 million people were watching – that’s a third of the country.
“No one can prepare you for that or the way your life changes so dramatically and so suddenly. Because you’re in the show, you’re in the bubble of the show while it’s building up. You’re hidden from it all. I couldn’t move in London without people running and jumping on me in the street.
“But weirdly, I wouldn’t change what’s happened regarding any of it, including the personal struggles and addiction. That’s made me the man I am. It’s got me to here. I don’t have any regrets. I might have written a bit more after album three and not left such a huge gap. I could have pulled my finger out but I was in a very unsteady state and needed to fix myself first.”
Matt hopes to hit the road soon and is pleased that his new album has been well received. All but one of the album’s 14 songs were co-written by him and they reveal a portrait of an artist struggling with personal battles, but ultimately winning the war. Producer Jim Eliot was chosen by Matt to help him translate those intimate songs into an electronic, soulful album, which was primarily recorded at Jim’s Hay-on-Wye studio, and at Sarm Studios in London.