U.K. singer-songwriter River Matthews was happy enough when he signed a deal with Catherine, the label run by Jamie Scott, composer of huge hits by One Direction and Major Lazer. But the pact has now blossomed into an international licensing agreement with Nettwerk, a significant U.S. television sync on the hit series Elementary and the prospect of a debut album later this year.
Matthews has won acclaim from such tastemakers as Clashmusic and BBC Radio 2 presenter Jo Whiley, and impressed at a first London headline show at St. Pancras Old Church in July. He also won many friends opening for the chart-topping Rag ‘n’ Bone Man on his Human itinerary, and will embark on the headlining Feels Like Morning tour in November, with shows in Holland and Switzerland before nine in the U.K. and Ireland.
Matthews signed a worldwide deal with Catherine, run by former artist Scott, whose co-writes include One Direction’s 2013 global smash “Story Of My Life” and last year’s U.K. No. 1 and worldwide hit “Cold Water” by Major Lazer, Justin Bieber and MØ. His emergence is now being amplified by healthy transatlantic activity. Nettwerk picked up the licensing option for the world ex-U.K., and “Light The Way” was synced on the long-running CBS show Elementary, the fifth series of which finished airing in the U.S. in May.
Tom Gates, artist manager and label A&R for Nettwerk Music Group, says: “Jamie and Rick [Scott’s label partner Richard Wilson] sent over a couple of demos, and within a week we had an offer out to them. It was just one of those moments when you hear an artist and immediately know that something special is going on.” Matthews’ current EP features the lead track “Sunshine,” supported on release on Spotify’s New Music Friday.
After Matthews’ education in classical guitar, his interest in rock and pop took over, but before he became a songwriter, he worked for many years in music therapy at The Park school in Woking, Surrey, helping children with special needs.
“It was great fun, and really powerful when you saw how often they would grow in confidence and self awareness through music,” he says. “But as time went on, I had this little voice at the back of my head whispering ‘You’ve got to be a songwriter.’”
A chance meeting with Scott’s brother and fellow writer Mikey led Matthews to submit covers he had recorded of songs by Bob Dylan and Ray LaMontagne.
“I knew about Jamie through his previous work and we both share a love of ’60s and ’70s songwriting,” he says. “He definitely made me feel confident I was going in the right direction. He’s a passionate guy, and that boost of confidence has definitely played a big role in driving my songwriting.”
Of the association with Nettwerk, he adds: “It felt like a good fit with them. They didn’t wanna change anything I was doing, and they’ve just encouraged me to keep growing.”