Cerys Matthews

About Cerys Matthews

As co-founder and lead vocalist of '90s indie darlings Catatonia, Cerys Matthews was thrust into the spotlight with the rise of the "Cool Cymru" scene alongside bands such as Super Furry Animals and Stereophonics. But it was her interest in traditional folk and blues that would lead her to become known for her broadcasting and solo work, with releases such as 2003's Cockahoop and 2010's Tir exploring country, soul, and traditional Welsh folk. Born in Cardiff but raised in Swansea, Matthews first started playing guitar at the age of nine, focusing on traditional Welsh folk songs and other forms of folk music from around the world. As she hit her teens, she found herself drawn to the local indie scene, eventually teaming up with Mark Roberts in 1992 to form Catatonia. Over their ten-year career, the group released four albums, with 1998's International Velvet breaking through to the mainstream and peaking at number one on the U.K. album chart. Its singles "I Am the Mob," "Road Rage," and "Mulder and Scully" became anthems for the "Cool Cymru" scene as well as the national "Cool Britannia" movement that swept through not only U.K. music but also art and politics. By 2001, after the release of Paper Scissors Stone, the bandmembers went their separate ways, with Matthews moving to Nashville to soak up the city's rich history of country music. During her time in Nashville, Matthews wrote and recorded her debut solo album, 2003's Cockahoop. The record's mix of country and folk was a marked difference in direction from the Britpop of Catatonia, and she reached a new audience of music fans. Her sophomore album, Never Said Goodbye, appeared three years later, and once again mixed the country and folk sound of her debut with a blend of indie pop. Following its release and after a short tour in support of the album, Matthews took part in the 2007 U.K. television survival show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, coming in fourth place to winner Christopher Biggins, a U.K. TV personality. That year, she also released the mini-album Awyren = Aeroplane. Shifting away from the country of her debut, Matthews delivered her third album, Don't Look Down, in 2009 -- along with a Welsh-language version, Paid Edrych I Lawr -- opting for a more soulful pop sound than what had come before. The same year, she stepped into broadcasting, taking on radio duties for the BBC's alternative station 6 Music. In 2010, Matthews released the low-key Tir, a selection of traditional Welsh folk songs that she performed with just an acoustic guitar, followed by her fifth album, the more expansive Explorer, in 2011. By this time, Matthews was a regular on 6 Music, presenting a weekly show on Sunday mornings where she explored her love of world music, traditional folk, and poetry. Inspired by her show, she released the more alternative-sounding Christmas album Baby, It's Cold Outside in 2012, which saw her take on staple Christmas standards with an array of international and traditional instruments. Matthews returned to traditional Welsh folk for her seventh album, 2013's Hullabaloo. The release took on a low-key acoustic sound, acting almost like a follow-up to 2010's Tir. Embracing her love of poetry, she embarked on a project that brought her love of music and the Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas together. The resulting Dylan Thomas: A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs brought Thomas' work alive in a new way, with Matthews reciting his words over a musical backdrop composed by her and partly inspired by Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Over the next few years, Matthews moved into television presenting, becoming a regular face on the BBC while also adding to her radio presenting with a weekly blues show on BBC Radio 2, in addition to her Sunday-morning stint. At the beginning of 2020, Matthews entered Abbey Road studios with the Hidden Orchestra to start work on her collaborative album We Come from the Sun. The record saw her showcasing the talents of ten U.K. poets -- including Liz Berry, MA.MOYO, and Adam Horovitz -- by putting their words to music composed by Matthews and played by the Hidden Orchestra. The Decca-released album was issued at the beginning of 2021. ~ Rich Wilson

Cardiff, Wales
April 11, 1969
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