By Andrea Rowe Photos Justine McNamara
Chatting to Matilda Pearl is like spending time with a glitter ball of girl-power joy. Her creativity and professionalism leave you feeling you’ve chatted to an old soul with a sprinkle of sass.
While many of us spent lockdown just trying to get through each day, 18 year-old songstress Matilda Pearl wrote and recorded songs, filmed quirky video clips, featured in Triple J Radio’s Unearthed High national spotlight, and appeared on ABC’s Rage. All while remote schooling for her VCE through Peninsula Grammar.
The self-described “Mermaid meets Disco Ball’ songstress has found her groove making music to get people dancing. Taking inspiration from artists like Deee-Lite, Madonna, Dua Lupa, Jamiroquai and Boney M, Matilda Pearl’s “glock pop” tunes showcase a young talent who is unapologetically and delightfully original.
It’s no wonder the Triple J Unearthed High Class of 2020 Yearbook heralded her as Miss Congeniality. The program is a firm radio fixture in a nationwide search for Australia’s best high school act and Rye-based Matilda Pearl wowed airwave audiences.
Her new track ‘Soak’ featured in Spotify Aust New Zealand’s Pop Edge and New Music Friday catalogue, followed with the release of ‘Your Touch’.
“Last year I was added to the Triple J rotation play list and made the Year Book as Chorus Queen. It was the last year I could enter and Soak and Your Touch had brilliant airtime. I was surrounded by inspiring artists and it was surreal to set the alarm to 3am to watch my video on RAGE!”
Matilda Pearl oozes coastal street cred. Salt water raised, she’s grown up on boats on Port Phillip Bay, snorkelling with Bottlenose dolphins as the third generation of the famed Polperro Dolphin Swim family. She’s even cavorted as an ‘accidental mermaid’ in Port Phillip Bay with the Make A Wish Foundation, fulfilling dreams for sick children.
“Water is such a part of my life. I grew up swimming in the Rosebud swim team, did my Bronze medallion with Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club, hung off the pier and dive boat, took boat trips with my dad Troy and Grandfather Tony to Tasmania and swam in Tonga with humpback whales. There’s never been a moment I haven’t been afraid of the water.”
As the daughter of talented Peninsula artist Justine McNamara, creativity is definitely in her DNA.
“Growing up in a close family who all love the environment, music, and arts has given me a wonderful start in life,” she said.
Matilda Pearl took to music from an early age, playing saxophone in Grade 2. After her grandmother Judith Muir first took her to musicals in Melbourne, she was hooked, and soon her pitch-perfect voice secured enviable roles in school musicals, theatre and Victorian Opera productions.
Matilda’s musical appearances read like a Broadway billing list: Belle and Beauty in the Beast, Gertrude in Seussical, Elphaba in Wicked, and the Donkey in Shrek. Peninsula audiences may also recognise her from angelic performances at Sorrento’s Christmas Carols, “Accompanying the Australian navy band was one of the coolest moments ever”, as was featuring as a support act for Ella Hooper at Musiqua Festival last summer. “Supporting an icon like Ella was incredibly empowering. From the sound checks to stepping onto a festival stage – it was an important part of my self-recognition as an artist, and the first time I’d played a full set of my own songs!”
She’s quick share her gratitude for her family and support crew – her school mentors, singing teachers, theatre companies, professional recording experts and a 2019 USA based singer-songwriting camp.
“I’m lucky to be surrounded by incredible people. 2020 has weirdly exceeded my expectations, I’ve hit goals recording, challenged myself with singer-songwriting and connected with audiences.”
“I wrote ‘Soak’ last summer between working on the boat and preparing for Year 12. I was mindful of the year ahead needing to surround myself with authentic people who lift me up. There’s some layered lyrics, but I love how songs enable us to interpret things in our own way.”
When lockdown prevented ‘Soak’s’ video being filmed beyond her home, she recruited her family, transforming their deck into a video set with bed sheets and cardboard cuts-outs to produce a perky disco-pop infused video.
“We had a ball. I grew up playing disco influences from the 1980’s – so I’m a big fan of awkward dance moves, and female artists not taking themselves too seriously. I just wanted ‘Soak’ to be a fun escape from the heaviness of the year.”
“I drew on my musical theatre background for the storytelling production, and hope people have fun with my music”
Matilda filmed the second video for ‘Your Touch’ at a friend’s Air BnB between the two lockdowns. “It’s video was reflective of how we’ve all missed something or someone in lockdown; for me it was hugs from friends.”
While acknowledging that isolation has been a challenge, she’s also thankful. “I’ve worked on myself instead of worrying about what’s been taken away. The pandemic has gifted me time to create and self-reflect. With the commute to school, and gigs and performances on hold , I’ve concentrated on studying and being more in tune to myself as an artist. I’ve got super big dreams; I know I won’t get to them all overnight, but it’s about making every moment worth doing.”
What’s next for this coastal “too cool for school” chanteuse? Well, there’s VCE results and a BA of Arts in Media and Communications as her first university preference. From there, the world’s undeniably her creative oyster.