Most musicians pick up their weapon of choice to emulate stars they see on stages and TV screens but for Matthew Harris, that wasn’t the case. When he started playing guitar at age six, it was because of a family friend who had “a shed full of 100 guitars”.

Coming from a musical family, his parents were eager for him to follow suit. While most young musicians are eager to make their mark on the world as soon as they can, Matthew didn’t write a song until he was 17 – and that was to serenade a girl. This is just one example of the very untraditional growth of the Dubliner, who saw himself behind the scenes rather than on stage for most of his endeavours.

Photos by Paula Trojner

Essential Listening

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Matthew Harris performs under the moniker of Chameleon, a testament to the wide-ranging selection of music that he outputs that is forever changing. While he became known for his incredible production work with artists like Malaki (Hugh Mulligan), it has taken him a while to fully step out from behind the boards and blossom into his own artist.

“It’s funny because I actually released music before Hugh did.” he recalls. “My first love was film, but that changed as I got older. I used to make terrible short films that I’d put on YouTube but it was always me behind the camera, not in front of it. But I feel at home on the stage, performing is something that I really want to do with my music.”

Unfortunately, with Covid-19 bringing in a myriad of ever changing public health restrictions, Matthew and the entire industry have been left clamouring for direction and he hopes that this year, he may actually get to perform live.

“It’s funny, I haven’t actually gotten to play a proper gig as Chameleon yet but I’m really looking forward to it. Everything is changing day by day though and it’s hard to know what normal is even going to look like when everything opens back up again.”

While he has yet to perform as Chameleon, he is no stranger to the stage. He accompanied Malaki on his tour last year, taking in some of the finest venues Ireland has to offer. From watching footage of Matthew on stage, you would be forgiven for thinking that he had been on a stage his entire life.

"Nobody is going to come in with notions and change my sound"

Picking up the guitar without wanting to be the next Noel Gallagher or Alex Turner allowed Matthew to spend years building his skill on guitar and learning how songs were written. The theoretical practise and knowledge is noticeable in his music of a much higher standard than you would expect a musician starting out to be capable of producing.

His lyrical delivery is urgent at times, balanced with a more melodic voice in other sections. This is especially true in the style-hopping ‘Are You Still’ which builds from an unassuming base around the central issue of “never call me lately // are you still my baby?” What starts with strained vocals and a very traditional structure grows into a cry for an answer.

Matthew has a penchant for blurring the lines of genre, a nod to his inability to narrow down his influences down just to one section of music, instead admitting that everything can inspire him to write. If you delve into his released work, you will discover that there are only three songs on offer – something that Matthew intends to add to this year.

“Whenever I write anything I’m really happy with, I feel the need to release it as soon as possible and get it out there. But I know I need to reign it in a bit because long-form releases like an EP are appealing to me.

“So I’m hoping to maybe release an EP this year and collaborate with others on it. I definitely prefer bouncing my ideas off others, I think that’s where the best of my talent lies.”

Writing, recording and producing your own music is something that is a relative rarity in the industry and it is something that Matthew aims to branch out from to make sure that he doesn’t stay closed off to broadening his horizons.

He adds: “I think for me sometimes I can have a closed-off view and I worry that by letting other people in, it could compromise my sound. But nobody is going to come in with notions and change my sound. Collaborations lend themselves to the style of music I am trying to create.”

At the end of December, Matthew wrote a blog post that explored his own insecurities around music and creativity as a whole. This isn’t too surprising because we’re living in weird times where musicians who may have been squirrelled away writing music during lockdowns have not had the chance to play it in a live setting.

"Adapting to things is a necessity but you can’t compromise either. You have to stay true to yourself."

This is something that will hopefully change as time goes on but the post really paints the picture of a young man who is as aware of his shortcomings as well as his sky-high potential, a mix of things that assure he stays humble writing:

“I have been going insane. Literally insane. My brain’s doing doughnuts, so full of contradictions and negativity, so full of doubt and self-deprecation. I really struggle with it. In general I’m doing okay, but I’m more up and down than ever. I wake up in the morning fresh and ready to make the most out of the day and by 1:30pm I’m sitting on the couch repeating mental mantras of self-loathing and scrolling through Instagram as if punishing myself, just to feel something”

When asked about this particular section, Matthew is honest and admits that it has been incredibly hard. But he also understands that to feel frustrated and trapped is a normal feeling, and there is certainly some comfort to be found in the fact that it isn’t a unique experience.

“I think you can have all the ideas in the world and hold infinite potential, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t weather the storm and the hardships and come out of it on top.

I think there’s a definite air of competition coming back to things which is great to see, everyone is ready to go. Adapting to things is a necessity but you can’t compromise either. You have to stay true to yourself.”

Stepping into 2022, it is difficult to tell just when live music will really open up again. One thing is certain – Chameleon will be there to impress crowds as soon as he gets the chance to.

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