Empire

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Matlock says the highlight moment of Miss Purple’s journey in Empire is a song she sings called Clarity. “It’s a pop song; a really beautiful expressive number arranged by our acoustic guitarist John Shannon, and it’s performed in the background during this beautiful routine Hand to Hand where there’s just a man and a woman, just the two of them, no tricks. It’s lovely to sing; it’s a pleasure.”

The Utah born performer fell in love with musical theatre as a child. “When I was about 11 I was into Shakespeare, I was in the Junior Shakespeare Company. I always used to love singing and then when I was about 13 I saw Phantom of the Opera in New York and realized that people could sing and act and dance all at the same time. I never realized you could do all those things at once.” After training at the University of North Colorado in musical theatre she moved to New York City to take classes in performance. “I did a bunch of training classes with various individual teachers.” In the same way as artists used to learn to paint by copying the great masters, brush stroke by brush stroke, Matlock built up her skills by imitating the styles of a range of great singers. “I started by imitating sounds I liked, copying them to see if I could sound like those voices.”

Six months ago Matlock moved to Los Angeles to focus on TV and acting work and pursue various opportunities including doing ‘procedural research’ on crime dramas such as Law and Order. “I’d been in New York for about 15 years. You can’t buy a house there – there aren’t any!” LA suits her as it combines the best of city living with a chance to get out into nature. “You can get in your car and get out into the mountains or the beaches. You can escape.” Isn’t LA a mad city to live in? Matlock agrees. “I’m in a mental business for sure; you have to be very strong and open for rejection. You have to be able to say who you are, what you want from your life. In LA you can get to create your life, there’s a bunch of different styles of living; New York tells you what lifestyle you have to live.”

She writes some of her own music. “I’m used to singing other people’s music but I do write a little bit, expressing myself, exploring what style I want to sing in, where my voice lies, and I’m also learning guitar.” Being versatile is a must for anyone wanting to get in the business, she says. “Get into as many classes as you can. You have to be able to do everything,” she says. “Acting, dancing, singing. Get voice lessons, get dance lessons, join acting groups, find what inspires you. You need to be able to sell a song. It’s  not enough to just sing it, you have to perform it, sell the song or no-one’s going to want to watch you.” Who does she like to listen to? “Adele. I wish she were performing where I could see her.”

Are there any downsides to her life of singing and touring? “It’s tiring,” Matlock answers. “Sometimes we do ten shows a week. You have to be aware of how far you can push your body.” How does she prepare, as a performer, for these sorts of challenges? Keeping muscles relaxed is the key to looking after her voice, Matlock reckons. “There are lots of tiny muscles in the throat that get really tired; I have to take care not to over-exert them. Sleeping a lot, drinking a lot of water, not getting too tired. I am homesick,” she admits. “I’ve only just moved into my house in LA, I was just getting myself started there. But I’m enjoying being here.” Matlock’s been too busy to explore Melbourne in depth but so far she’s enjoying what she’s been able to experience on her first visit to Australia. “I drove from Sydney to Melbourne down the coast and saw some of the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen.”

BY LIZA DEZFOULI