360, aka Matt Colwell, releases his third album, Utopia, this Friday, June 13. MERRAN REED talks to Colwell about sobriety and haters ahead of his shows at Metro City on Friday, September 19, and the Astor Theatre (all-ages) on Saturday, September 20.
360 rose to success in 2011, after releasing his second LP, the double platinum-selling Falling And Flying, at a time when audiences were hungry for Australian hip hop thanks to the likes of Bliss N Eso, The Herd and Hilltop Hoods.
Falling And Flying, though, had less of that Straya twang and more a palatable pop sound to it, which beckoned in outsiders to the already-dedicated hip hop crowd. It also opened the door for a barrage of haters, especially on social media.
“The hate, at first, was hard to deal with,” Colwell recalls. “Especially because I was partying a lot and my mind was really fragile. You read certain things and it gets to you.
“But now, I’m fine. I think it is a reflection of their personal struggles, you know? If you are really happy and content in your life, you don’t go out of your way to post negativity. Like, there are heaps of artists who I don’t think are good. But I’m not gonna go and hit them up and say ‘this is the worst shit I ever heard’ ‘cos I’m doing my own thing, too.”
Colwell hasn’t always had a balanced outlook. Late last year the 27-year-old weighed a skeletal 67 kilograms and was toiling with a drug and alcohol addiction.
“I was like, ‘If I don’t stop doing this, I’m going to die’. So I called up Rae (Harvey, manager) and, I didn’t actually go to rehab, I just went to her house and stayed there for a month,” Colwell recalls.
“I was so paranoid. Rae has four cats and I thought the cats hated me. It was insane.”
When asked what he was detoxing from, Colwell politely declines comment. “I don’t want kids to know what I was doing,” he says, “’cos I don’t want to influence them.”
Colwell is aggressively aware of his position as a role model to young people, with 671,000 Facebook fans, over 100,000 Twitter followers and 88,000 Instagram users hooked on him. He has, he says, a responsibility to “not be a dickhead.”
“I was made to see that I was role model by a gay man, actually, who interviewed me and said, ‘you say faggot a lot in your raps. Do you really think about the impact that could have on gay people? You are in a place at the moment where you could influence kids in such a positive way, where you could make them understand that it’s not cool to say that’.
“And that really made it click. It made me realise that I had a kind of power among young people and I could do good with that.”
Along with really caring about the impact he has, part of Colwell’s unassuming charm is his vulnerability; his ability to share stories of sobriety and personal struggles which are truly self-aware. On Falling And Flying, Colwell lamented the myth of a Casanova lifestyle on Boys Like You, and shared his basketball career-ending injury on Miracle In A Costume, both of which featured Gossling.
Colwell teams up again with the Melbourne singer for Price Of Fame, from his new album, Utopia. “It’s about going from being someone who walks down the street and having people almost avoid you to walking down the street and having kids mobbing you, “ Colwell says of the single, which was released last week.
“I love collaboration,” he continues. “Like when you enjoy someone’s music and then you get together and you have a really good chemistry, it’s cool, because it brings a lot of different shit out of you. And vice-versa.”
In an unusual pairing, Colwell has also teamed up with former frontman of Silverchair, Daniel Johns, for two tracks on Utopia.
“He’s a fucking freak show when he makes music,” Colwell says. “I went and stayed at his house for three days to record the last song (It’s All About To End) on the album. He would sing over the song but he would sing in gibberish, so there would be this melody coming out but he wouldn’t be saying it in words. Then when he was writing the lyrics he would write the words which sounded like what he was singing. And the lyrics would end up suiting the track perfectly. It was fucking weird, but amazing.”
The Utopia tour will be Colwell’s first headline tour sober. It’s an experience he isn’t worried about, having already played his first dry shows supporting US hip hop heavyweight Eminem on his Australian and New Zealand tour.
“I expected to go to that concert (in New Zealand) and have people throw bottles at me ‘cos I was so nervous,” Colwell says. “But they were some of the best shows I have ever played. So it really boosted my confidence. In the past I wouldn’t get nervous because I would be on things that would not make me nervous, now I get nervous and I love the feeling.
“I love the rush of that. Like I’m shitting myself backstage and I have to calm myself and centre myself so I walk on in front of 50,000 people. It’s so liberating.”