Matt Hales (born 17 January 1972) is an English songwriter, musician, and record producer who has been performing professionally under the name Aqualung since the early 2000s. Aqualung is best known in the UK for his song "Strange and Beautiful," which was featured on a television advertisement for the new Volkswagen Beetle during the summer of 2002 and went on to become a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart later that year. In the United States, Aqualung is also known for the song "Brighter Than Sunshine," which had considerable airplay and was used in the film A Lot Like Love and various television spots. Hales has released six albums as Aqualung, the most recent 10 Futures appeared in 2015.
Aqualung at Webster Hall September 2015
|Birth name||Matthew Nicholas Hales|
|Born||17 January 1972|
|Genres||Alternative rock, soul, folk, piano rock, electronic|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, musician, record producer|
|Labels||Verve Forecast, Columbia, B-Unique|
|Associated acts||Lianne La Havas, Tom Chaplin, Jacob Banks, Disclosure|
As a songwriter and record producer, Hales has collaborated with Lianne La Havas, Bat for Lashes, Tom Chaplin, Mika, Daniel Wilson, Kina Grannis, Andreya Triana, The Fray, Kwabs, Jason Mraz, Reignwolf, Sara Bareilles, Jacob Banks, Paloma Faith, Disclosure, Alex Clare, Mansionair, Mikky Ekko, For King & Country and many others.
Life and career
Hales grew up in Southampton, where his parents ran an independent record shop. He aspired to be a musician from an early age, writing songs using the family piano when he was just 4 years old. When he was 16, Hales was awarded a scholarship to study music composition at Winchester College. Within a year, he wrote his first symphony titled "Life Cycle," and formed his first band, which carried several different names during its lifespan. In the spring of 1990, the band (known at the time as Mecano Pig) produced their debut self-titled album, but broke up soon afterwards. That same year, Hales moved to London to study music at City University, and in 1992 formed a new band with his brother Ben called Gravel Monsters.
RUTH / the 45s
Gravel Monsters became a quartet that featured Matt & Ben Hales, Matt Vincent-Brown, and Stephen Cousins. The band's name was changed to RUTH in 1992, and although it enjoyed a minor hit in 1997 ("I Don't Know") which earned them a loyal fan base, the indie rock quartet failed to find commercial success in their seven years together. Arc Records released RUTH's debut album Harrison in 1999. After the band parted ways with Arc Records in the Summer of 2000, they renamed themselves the 45s and signed a short-term contract with Mercury Records (part of the Universal Music Group). Despite releasing two well-received singles, the label declined to renew the band's contract in March 2002, leading the band to split up. It was at this moment that Matt Hales began to concentrate on a solo project that he would call Aqualung. In 2003 a double CD "Donut (A Collection Of Songs For Fellow Appreciators Of RUTH)" was compiled by the bands's former guitarist Ben Hales and independently released on the Vanity Press label. It featured re-mastered studio, demo and live tracks on one CD and three promo videos on a second CD.
Almost immediately after the 45s split, Aqualung's debut single "Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell on You)" gained popularity when it was used as the soundtrack on a television commercial for the new Volkswagen Beetle. It was released as a single on B-Unique Records in September 2002, and reached No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart. Later that month, B-Unique released the eponymous debut album Aqualung, which according to the sleeve notes was recorded entirely in Hales' hallway. It peaked at No. 15 on the UK Albums Chart, and achieved Gold status before year's end. The album's second single "Good Times Gonna Come" was released on 2 December 2002. It was featured on the British television show Skins, and reached No. 71 on the UK Singles Chart. Several singles followed into the next year, as did Aqualung's second album Still Life, which spawned the single "Brighter Than Sunshine". The song attracted the attention of film and television music supervisors in both Europe and North America, and was featured in the television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the motion picture A Lot Like Love. "Brighter Than Sunshine" enjoyed Top 40 airplay success in the United States, leading Aqualung to a worldwide recording contract with Columbia Records in 2005, and the US release of Strange and Beautiful, a compilation of tracks from his first two UK albums. It reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart, eventually selling more than 250,000 copies in the US. Throughout the mid and late 2000s, Aqualung's music was used in television shows such as Grey's Anatomy, The O.C., CSI: Miami, Gossip Girl, Cold Case, Scrubs, One Tree Hill, Eli Stone, and Brothers and Sisters.
Hales and his touring band spent the next two years performing throughout North America, participating in the Hotel Cafe Tour, which also featured Cary Brothers, Meiko, Greg Laswell, Tom McRae, Joe Purdy, and Jim Bianco. While on the road, Hales would routinely switch up the Aqualung show with different musicians, settings, and approaches. The diverse elements he explored during these tours (including the use of an echo device called the Memory Man) subsequently drove the creative process behind what would become Aqualung's next album, Memory Man. It was released in March 2007, and the liner notes credit Hales with playing the following instruments: piano, Fender Rhodes, glockenspiel, electric guitar, Stairwell Drums, harmonium, Moog bass and vocoder. Hales completed his first UK tour since his debut album was released, and concluded the run at the newly re-opened Tabernacle, Notting Hill.
2008 brought the release of Words and Music, Hales' first album for Verve Forecast Records. It featured acoustic versions of two songs from his debut album Aqualung, as well as new songs written in a similar style. In 2010, Hales moved to Los Angeles, to begin the production of his sixth studio album titled Magnetic North. In reference to the album on his Facebook page, Hales said, "It's hard to describe. It's like 12 kids who you would never guess were in the same family until you hear them speaking." The album's first single "Fingertip" was released on 2 March 2010, and reviews of Magnetic North make reference to the indication of Los Angeles' influence on Hales as a writer, with songs containing words like "California," "Sundowning," and "Hummingbird," which were not used prior to his moving Stateside. In 2013, Hales announced on his Facebook page that he had begun work on a new Aqualung album. Also in 2013, Aqualung is featured on the song "Surrounded" on the album A Song Across Wires by EDM artist BT.
Songwriter and producer
As early as 2004, Hales began collaborating with other artists as a songwriter and producer. He co-wrote "UR" by Tiësto which featured his lead vocal, and was released as a single and featured on the album Just Be. He 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.
After co-writing and producing the song "Pick Up Your Tricks" by Australian pop rock band Amy Meredith in 2011, Hales wrote and produced "Cold" which featured himself and Lucy Schwartz and appeared on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (soundtrack), which sold more than 500,000 copies in the United States.
2012 proved to be the breakout year for Hales in the recording studio. He co-wrote and produced Is Your Love Big Enough? by British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas. It debuted at No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart, was named iTunes UK album of the year, and was nominated at the 2012 Barclaycard Mercury Prize. In addition to this, Hales co-wrote "Everything Is Sound" on Jason Mraz's Grammy nominated album Love Is A Four Letter Word, and worked with Paloma Faith on the single "Just Be" from her album Fall to Grace. He also co-wrote and produced Diane Birch's single "Unfucked", and the single "Same Heart (feat. Tom Chaplin)" by Laura Jansen. Hales has recently spent time in the studio collaborating with Christina Perri, The Fray, Sara Bareilles, Birdie, Alex Clare, Katharine McPhee, Ginny Blackmore, Kina Grannis, Matt Nathanson, among others.
|Album details||Peak chart position|
|Words and Music
|Album details||Peak chart position|
|B-Sides Volume 1
|Remixes Volume 1
|Strange and Beautiful
|If I Fall/Live at the Scala|
|Still Life 1|
|Exclusive iTunes EP
|Exclusive iTunes EP 2
|Year||Song||Peak chart position||Album|
|2002||"Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell on You)"||7||36||7||—||—||—||Aqualung|
|"Good Times Gonna Come"||71||—||79||—||—||—|
|2003||"Brighter Than Sunshine"||37||—||53||116||32||3||Still Life|
|2004||"Easier to Lie"||60||—||62||—||—||—|
|It's Easy to Play the Aqualung Way|
|2005||The All or Nothing EP|
|2006||Live & Rarities: With Apologies to Anyone Who Is Actually Heartbroken|
Selected songwriting discography
|2009||Christophe Willem||Caféine||"Heartbox"||Guy Chambers|
|2010||Boyzone||Brother||"Time"||Greg Wells, Kim Oliver|
|Brooke Fraser||Flags||"Who Are We Fooling? (featuring Aqualung)"||Brooke Fraser|
|2011||Ximena Sariñana||Ximena Sariñana||"Wrong Miracle"||Ximena Sariñana|
|Aqualung & Lucy Schwartz||The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)||"Cold"||Lucy Schwartz|
|Amy Meredith||Non-album single||"Pick Up Your Tricks"||Amy Meredith|
|2012||Lianne La Havas||Is Your Love Big Enough?||"Is Your Love Big Enough?"||Lianne La Havas, Willy Mason|
|"Lost & Found"||Lianne La Havas|
|"Au Cinéma"||Lianne La Havas|
|"No Room for Doubt (featuring Willy Mason)"||Lianne La Havas, Willy Mason|
|"Age"||Lianne La Havas|
|"Everything Everything"||Lianne La Havas|
|"Gone"||Lianne La Havas|
|"They Could Be Wrong"||Lianne La Havas|
|Paloma Faith||Fall to Grace||"Just Be"||Paloma Faith, Greg Wells|
|Jason Mraz||Love Is a Four Letter Word||"Everything Is Sound"||Jason Mraz, Mike Daly, Martin Terefe, Tyler Phillips|
|Diane Birch||Non-album single||"Unfucked"||Diane Birch|
|Good Old War||Come Back As Rain||"Amazing Eyes"||Good Old War|
|For King & Country||Crave||"Light It Up"||For King & Country|
|"Pushing on a Pull Door"||For King & Country|
|2013||Lucy Schwartz||Timekeeper||"Boomerang"||Lucy Schwartz|
|Sara Bareilles||The Blessed Unrest||"Eden"||Sara Bareilles|
|Laura Jansen||Elba||"The Lighthouse"||Laura Jansen|
|"Queen of Elba"||Laura Jansen|
|"Little Things (You)"||Laura Jansen, David Sneddon, James Bauer-Mein|
|"Same Heart"||Laura Jansen, Kim Oliver|
|"Around the Sun"||Laura Jansen|
|BT||A Song Across Wires||"Surrounded"||BT|
|2014||For King & Country||Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.||"Run Wild"||Andy Mineo, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Tedd Tjornhom|
|"To the Dreamers"||Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone|
|"Without You"||Timmy Jones, Blake Kanicka, Stephen Lynch, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Benjamin Backus, Mark Campbell|
|"Already Home"||Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone|
|Brooke Fraser||Brutal Romantic||"Thunder"||Brooke Fraser|
|Luke Sital-Singh||The Fire Inside||"We Don't Belong"||Luke Sital-Singh|
|2015||Waters||What's Real||"Rebel Yell"||Waters|
|Mika||No Place in Heaven||"Last Party"||Mika, Teemu Brunila|
|Lianne La Havas||Blood||"Green & Gold"||Lianne La Havas, Jamie Lidell|
|"What You Don't Do"||Sam Dew|
|"Tokyo"||Lianne La Havas|
|"Wonderful"||Lianne La Havas, Howard Lawrence|
|"Ghost"||Lianne La Havas|
|"Good Goodbye"||Lianne La Havas|
Selected production discography
|2005||Aqualung||Strange and Beautiful||Producer, mixer, engineer, arranger|
|2007||Aqualung||Memory Man||Producer, programmer|
|2008||Aqualung||Words and Music||Producer, mixer, engineer, arranger|
|2009||Seabird||Rocks into Rivers||Producer|
|2010||Aqualung & Lucy Schwartz||The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (soundtrack)||Producer|
|2011||Amy Meredith||"Pick Up Your Tricks" (non-album single)||Producer|
|2012||Lianne La Havas||Is Your Love Big Enough?||Producer, mixer|
|Diane Birch||"Untucked" (non-album single)||Producer|
|For King & Country||Crave||Producer, programmer|
|For King & Country||Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.||Producer|
|2015||Lianne La Havas||Blood||Producer|
|2016||Tom Chaplin||The Wave||Producer, arranger|
|Bat for Lashes||The Bride||Producer|
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- Information from sleeve notes on the CD
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- Peaks in Scotland:
- "Billboard.biz". billboard.com. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
- Peaks in Scotland:
- STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL: "2002 09 22 Official Scottish Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. officialcharts.com/.
- GOOD TIMES GONNA COME: "2002 12 08 Official Scottish Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. officialcharts.com/.
- BRIGHTER THAN SUNSHINE: "2003 10 09 Official Scottish Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. officialcharts.com/.
- EASIER TO LIE: "2004 03 21 Official Scottish Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. officialcharts.com/.
- "Aqualung Chart History: Triple A". Billboard. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
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