With an obsession with Sting, ‘80’s music and the love of the bass guitar, creativity is at the core of Matt Cornell’s being: he didn’t choose music, it chose him.

A history of playing with rock and country royalty in Australia and internationally, has influenced Cornell’s solo works that not only get stuck in your head, but also make you feel every word of the storylines.

Cornell’s path to being a country artist is thanks to Adam Brand who recognised the storyteller in the musician’s songwriting after a life-changing move from the Baby Animals to join Brand’s band as a singing bass player more than a decade ago.

Brand suggested he focus on a country career that would later lead to meeting Mike Carr.

“At that first meeting, Mike and I discovered that our parents used to work together and we had a connection and Mike and I would go on to co-write four songs on my self-titled country release in 2014 before forming Cornell & Carr in 2018,” he said.

From being snuck in back doors of venues so he could play professionally at 16, to playing some of the biggest stages in the world with Baby Animals, Richard Clapton, Angry Anderson, Rose Tattoo, Shannon Noll and now Adam Brand, Cornell is ready to re-focus on his solo career after four years as half of Cornell & Carr.

Manager and good friend Ian “Dicko” Dickson was a driving force behind Cornell’s new direction.

With five Golden Guitar nominations to his name, five years between his last solo single, It’s Only Midnight, and the release of his new song, Stick Around, and COVID being the hardest two years of his life, the next chapter is a potent one for the Gold Coast artist.

“It was a long walk in a park in Maleny and a very open conversation at Christmas with my manager Dicko in 2021 about my career and the vision going forward that lit a fire inside me, and he gave me the confidence and belief to re-focus on my solo career.

“After seeing me perform with a full band for the first time at Country on Keppel in 2021, Dicko couldn’t help but notice the rock influence was still prevalent and wanted me to embrace it, along with my love of ‘80’s music, moving forward.

“For me, music is in my DNA; I’ve truly never wanted to do anything else and any artist will tell you that their latest release is their best work yet, but I will leave that to the listener.

“This next body of work truly feels like an evolution of where I’ve come from as a Sydney musician cutting my teeth with cover bands, then performing with other acts, and, of course, my love of ‘80’s music, you will be able to hear flavours of all those things in these next releases.”

The son of performers Cheryl Assange and former Delltone Wayne Cornell, his parents would often rehearse shows in the loungeroom and it was normal for Col Joye or Digger Revell to pop in for a coffee. Cornell’s uncle, George Assange (also performed under the name Vic Sabrino), was also influential, being the first Australian to make a rock ‘n’ roll recording in 1955.

“I’ve never had a plan B; I knew from about the age of five that all I wanted to do was music and wanted to be on stage and sing to people,” Cornell said.

“My obsession with playing an instrument at age 4 when I studied classical piano until the age of nine, then classical guitar – my dad was and still is a great classical guitarist – and from there, I naturally moved to electric guitar in my early teens but around 15 I discovered the bass guitar and I knew that was going to be my instrument.

“I make music because I have to, not because I want to: I’m obsessed with it. For me, to be able to connect with an audience, whether they’re listening on a streaming platform, CD or they come to a live show, that’s the reason I do it.

“Apart from my love of performing in front of a crowd, it’s a spiritual thing for me and it’s something that my mind and my soul yearns for.”
The multi-award-winning artist is proud of his rich musical and family history including Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Cornell plans to explore these roots further in coming years.

“As I get older, I get more and more interested and proud of my family history and my Torres Strait Islander heritage and am planning my first trip to Thursday Island to trace my grandfather’s footsteps,” he said.

“My grandfather was one of 11 born on Thursday Island, his brother George Assange was the first Australian to land a US record deal and was one of my idols growing up. He was a recognised actor starring in Spy Force and Skippy, but was also a revered jazz guitarist and singer.”

With music coursing through his veins, and the generations before him, Cornell’s next works promise to be timeless.

Bec Gracie
The Country Journo