First Column first encountered Matt Hales in 2000 when he approached Phil Nelson and asked him to manage his indie band RUTH, who had achieved some minor success in the 90’s.
Phil took them on and the 4-piece were soon re-incarnated as The 45’s, but major success still evaded them and Matt was starting to wonder if his musical career would ever take off. Aqualung was born almost by accident, after a VW Beetle advertising campaign in the UK featured his haunting song Strange And Beautiful.
With record shops and radio stations across the UK besieged by people desperate to find THAT song from the advert, Matt suddenly found himself signing record and publishing deals and the song was released, reaching Number 7 in the UK singles chart in 2002.
It became the first in a batch of 11 tracks that would comprise Aqualung’s self-titled 2002 debut album. Several singles followed into the next year, as did the second Aqualung album, Still Life, which spawned another hit single, Brighter Than Sunshine, attracting attention from music supervisors on both sides of the Atlantic, leading to a number of song placements in movies and TV shows. Hales then combined tracks from his two UK albums into one 12-song set for Aqualung’s proper American debut Strange and Beautiful released in 2005 on Columbia Records and going on to sell over 250,000 copies.
After long periods away from home touring the USA, Matt found himself back in the studio making his third album-proper, Memory Man, released in the US and UK in 2007. However, the music industry being what it is today, he found himself rather suddenly dropped by his record label, so the album never got the exposure it deserved, despite critical acclaim. However, a new record deal was soon signed with the Verve Forecast label in the US, who released the intimate Words & Music, followed in 2010 with Magnetic North.
As early as 2004, Matt had begun collaborating with other artists as a songwriter and producer. He co-wrote UR by DJ Tiësto and worked with Leona Lewis on her album Echo in 2009, and in 2010 he co-wrote songs appearing on albums by Brooke Fraser, Christophe Willem, and Boyzone.
Matt moved with his family to Los Angeles in 2011 and has since been co-writing and producing a variety of projects with artists such as Jason Mraz, Paloma Faith, Diane Birch and Laura Jansen. His biggest success to date has been co-writing and producing the album Is Your Love Big Enough? by British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas, which debuted at Number 4 in the UK Albums Chart, was named iTunes UK album of the year, and was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award and the 2012 Barclaycard Mercury Prize.
Matt has many other production projects in the pipeline, but Aqualung certainly hasn’t gone away – Matt is currently working his next studio album, which will see him collaborating with Lianne La Havas and Disclosure amongst others.