Riding shotgun with pop’s new anti-hero at the Groovin The Moo festival
“Today’s going to be f—ing off- tits,” beams Matt ‘360’ Colwell as we jump out of the Tarago. It’s a sunny afternoon in May and we’ve just arrived in Maitland for the next stop on the Groovin The Moo festival tour. The mood amongst Colwell and his crew – MC wingman Joel ‘Bam Bam’ Chamaa, manager Rae Harvey and audio engineer Paul ‘Woody’ Annison – is one of excited anticipation. Last weekend’s festival shows in Bendigo and Townsville were 360’s biggest yet and today’s expected to top it.
“Townsville was f—ing crazy,” says the 25-year-old Melbourne MC as he pours a glass of white wine in his dressing room which is really a tent. “Some chick threw her bra onstage with her number on it. So I threw it back out and told the crowd ‘give her a call – she’s up for it!’”
If success is relative to cup size, Colwell should be buried in a barrage of double-Ds right now. After years of Centrelink, battles with depression and drinking and a near fatal go-kart accident in 2010, the former apprentice carpenter has become the country’s hottest –and most controversial – cross-over star. His second album Falling and Flying, which wraps electro beats and pop choruses around casual yet cathartic rhymes, peaked at number four on the ARIA charts and has sold Platinum (over 70,000 units) since its September release. His upcoming national tour’s sold out and radio can’t get enough of him thanks to breakaway hits like ‘Boys Like You’ (now Triple Platinum) and latest single ‘Child’.
The latter’s just sold Gold (35,000+ sales) according to Harvey’s figures and Colwell wants to post the news on social media, but she says ARIA need to certify it first. “Okay, but I’m still gonna text my mum but,” he argues.
Not exactly what you expect to hear from a tatt-slathered MC who regularly drops the c-bomb but then again Colwell is full of surprises. In person he’s friendly, funny and attitude-free. And while it’s clear he doesn’t take himself too seriously – today he’s wearing skinny jeans, a basketball t-shirt, a giant fake gold chain and furry tail a fan gave him – his music and his fans (over 300,000 on Facebook and counting) are another matter completely. “He’s quite ambitious and focused, which is what I love about him,” says Harvey. “When we did all those in-store signing, that was his idea.”
Other things you quickly learn hanging with 360: his metabolism is ridiculous (today he eats four burger meal deals before 2pm), he’s crazy in love with his fiancé Crystal and he’s unashamedly candid to the point of cringeworthy. (Later he’ll proudly inform us he’s shelved two Voltaren suppositories for shoulder pain. “Put that in the story!” he’ll insist.)
On record and online, he’s equally uncensored, spilling his guts on his drinking problem (he now only drinks on special occasions, like today), depression and relationships. It’s a trait that’s earned him both an intense connection with fans and the wrath of online trolls who’ve called him everything from a dumb bogan rapper to a hip hop sell-out. “Some roughneck f—head told me he’s gonna give me a permanent scar with a boxcutter to remind me that hip hop isn’t for softcocks,” he says. “But I don’t want to make straight up hip hop… I don’t want to restrict myself.”
If there’s any haters out there this afternoon, they’re drowned out by the roars of the heaving, mostly teenage crowd waiting inside the big top stage. As his tour DJ Matt Cant drops a siren-heavy intro, Colwell and Chamaa take the stage before launching into electro stomper ‘Killer’ and when the bassline drops, the mass of shirtless dudes and teenage girls wearing not much explodes into a writhing, sweaty mess.
They sing every word as one and when Colwell introduces ‘Child’ with “If you have a family you love and adore, make some noise!” and dedicates ‘Boys Like You’ to “the f—ing slut who cheated on me”, they go berserk. As forecast, bras start to rain down and in one of the day’s most comical moments, 60 and Bam Bam both hold lacy numbers aloft at the climax.
“The audience noise hit 119 decibels,” Annison says in disbelief when we meet back at the dressing room. “That’s even louder than the PA.”
“I couldn’t hear myself for the last four songs,” adds Colwell, eyes still blazing with adrenaline. “There was one girl up on shoulders that just keep rubbing her breasts. I was like ‘I’m going to jail for this!’”
Three hours and two Voltaren later, we’re in the foyer of Sydney’s ultra-swank Intercontinental Hotel. The night looks over – Colwell wants to work on lyrics for his upcoming track with UK rap star Professor Green – but that all changes when he discovers the hotel’s posh lounge bar. “Have you seen this place?” he asks, eyes lighting up. “We need champagne – good shit!”
Next minute, we’re reclining in a plush booth toasting 2002 Dom Pérignon worth a hefty $440. It’s Colwell’s first real rockstar moment of the day but today’s been such a resounding success, even Harvey just laughs. While Chamaa and Annison debate going out, I ask Colwell what he savours most about success. The answer surprises.
“I love seeing how proud my parents are. They were real hesitant at the start when I was living in their garage on Centrelink, just making music. I was like ‘just believe in me and trust me, I guarantee if you let me do it, I will succeed.’”