Cerys Elizabeth Matthews
(/'k?r?s/; born 11 April 1969) is a singer/songwriter, author and broadcaster, a founding member of Welsh rock band Catatonia.Matthews programmes and hosts a music show on BBC Radio 6 Music, has made documentaries for television as well as BBC Radio 2 and 4 and has been a presenter for The Culture Show
and The One Show
. She writes a column for Songlines
, and has written for The Guardian
, The Times
, and is author of children's stories Tales From The Deep
and Gelert, A Man's Best Friend
, (2013).Early lifeMatthews was born in Cardiff, the second of four children. The family moved to Swansea when she was seven. She attended St Michael's, an independent school in Llanelli, and Fishguard comprehensive school. She is fluent in English, Welsh, Spanish and French. She has cited her childhood heroes as being Pippi Longstocking and writers WB Yeats and Dylan Thomas. She learned to play the guitar at the age of nine, teaching herself blues and Irish folk songs. She was a member of the West Glamorgan Youth Orchestra. She had a stint in Spain as a nanny, where she learned to speak Catalan.
Catatonia was formed in 1992. She subsequently sang lead vocals on, and co-wrote the music and lyrics for, the band's hits. Songs she co-wrote included "You've Got a Lot to Answer For", "Mulder and Scully", "Dead From the Waist Down", and "Road Rage". Matthews also played guitar on the earlier material before second guitarist Owen Powell joined the band. She also performed a single with the band Space named "The Ballad of Tom Jones", which tells the story of two lovers who want to kill each other, but then hear a Tom Jones song that defuses their homicidal feelings. Matthews later collaborated with Jones to record a version of Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on Jones' album Reload
. Matthews was voted the "Sexiest Female in Rock" in a 1999 readers' poll in the now defunct magazine Melody Maker
.After Catatonia's rise to fame with their second album International Velvet
, and subsequent success with Equally Cursed And Blessed
, the band returned in 2001 with their fourth studio album Paper Scissors Stone
. In September 2001, the band officially split.
In December 2001, Matthews returned to the recording studio for the first time since Catatonia split up. She recorded a song in both English and Welsh for the pre-school cartoon series Sali Mali
.Matthews provided guest vocals on the track "Cyclops Rock", from US alternative rock band They Might Be Giants 2001 album Mink Car
. Her line was originally supposed to be provided by Joe Strummer of The Clash.Matthews moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2002. On her arrival she began playing with Bucky Baxter, who had played lap steel guitar for Bob Dylan and Ryan Adams. She had already collected seventy-six traditional folk songs with the idea of making an album of folk covers. Her debut album, Cockahoop
, ended up consisting mainly of her own songs. It was recorded in seven months and appeared on Blanco y Negro Records in the United Kingdom in May 2003. Whilst recording this album she met Seth Riddle, whom she married in Pembrokeshire in February 2003. She toured the album around Britain with minimal promotion as she was several months pregnant at the time. The album's Stateside Records release followed in October 2004.In December 2005, Matthews recorded a new version of Len Barry's 1960s UK and US top 10 hit "1-2-3" in Nashville. She released it as a download-single with all profits going to a children's charity.In spring 2006, Matthews introduced material from her upcoming album at SXSW in Austin, Texas.In 2006 Matthews conducted a short tour of the UK to promote her new second solo album, Never Said Goodbye
. The new album was preceded by the single "Open Roads". Band members included Kevin Teel on guitar, Ben Elkins playing keyboards, Mason Neely on drums, and Jeff Irwin playing bass. She headlined Cardiff's Big Weekend festival
. During September and October 2006, Matthews embarked on a UK and Ireland tour, during which she played tracks from her first two solo albums as well as three Catatonia hits. She also embarked upon a short acoustic Welsh tour in November 2006 before returning to Nashville for Christmas.Matthews appeared on the 2007 series of ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
, which aired from 12 to 30 November. She was voted off one day before the final episode, coming fourth behind Jason "J" Brown, Janice Dickinson and eventual winner Christopher Biggins. Matthews became involved with fellow contestant Marc Bannerman after the show, but they split four months later. Matthews appeared at the live Guilty Pleasures
concert at the Hackney Empire, London in 2007. She performed the Bonnie Tyler hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and the Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers duet "Islands in the Stream" along with Terry Hall and the BBC Concert OrchestraIn an interview on the eve of the launch of her Welsh mini-album Awyren = Aeroplane
, Matthews confirmed she had divorced from Riddle and temporarily moved back to her farm in Pembrokeshire. Awyren = Aeroplane
won her the 'Contemporary Composition' award in the National Eisteddfod. The award had been resurrected and presented for the first time since 1936. In 2007 Matthews became Vice-President of the Welsh homelessness charity Shelter Cymru. She also accepted a role of Performing Arts Ambassador for Linden Lodge School, Surrey in the same year.Matthews joined the Welsh band Manic Street Preachers onstage at The O2 on 28 February 2008 to sing the female vocals of their 2007 hit "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough". She replaced Nina Persson in both the awards ceremony (within indigO2) and at the following 'Big Gig' live show (within The O2 arena).From November 2008, Matthews sat in for Stephen Merchant and Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music and went on to present George Lamb's slot in April 2009. In May 2009 she presented show A Month of Sundays With... Cerys Matthews
. She then covered for Nemone on 6 Music from July 2009 while Nemone was on maternity leave.Matthews began maternity leave from November 2009 and had to finish presenting the show a month early. In April 2010, Matthews returned to 6 Music to present a weekend show on Sunday mornings. She spoke out in 2010 after the (now-abandoned) proposed closure of BBC 6 Music, calling for the decision to be reversed. She produces and presents radio documentaries and shows, including Hook,line and singer
, where she shared her love of fishing on Radio 4.Matthews released her first CD in two years in October 2009. The album, entitled Don't Look Down
, was released in two versions, one in English and the other in Welsh (the title of the Welsh edition was Paid Edrych i Lawr
). It was recorded in Providence, Rhode Island, Nashville, Seattle and London, and coincided with a two-week UK tour in October.
Matthews has covered Glastonbury Festival for both BBC Television and BBC 6 Music, she wrote and presented a BBC Two programme on poetry, and presented TV documentaries on singer Dorothy Squires, the Mississippi River and Cuba. She wrote and presented a documentary on early blues players such as Memphis Minnie, also Pippi Longstocking, Mahalia jackson, iconic British blues label 'Blue Horizon'. She has presented a documentary for BBC Radio 2 on Maida Vale studios. She frequently contributes to BBC Radio 4 programmes such as Feedback
, Loose Ends
and Saturday Live
, writes a column for world music magazine Songlines
. She has curated festivals for the likes of the Tate Modern, the Shetland theatre and Womex.In 2010, Matthews released Tir
(in Welsh: 'territory' or 'land'), a collection of traditional Welsh songs, and of photographs from her family archive from the 1880s to 1940s of people at work and play. They included "Calon Lân", Cwm Rhondda, Migldi-Magldi (sung as a duet with Bryn Terfel), Myfanwy and Sosban Fach. This is the third release on her own label, Rainbow City.Explorer
is Matthews' fourth solo album (2011). In both selecting and writing the songs she delved into the influence of both the music she has heard round the globe, and the places she had visited. Recorded over seven days, the album from the outset had no pre-determined sound or calculated format. On the album she incorporates a little Spanish, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and American sensibilities, styles, and genres. In April 2011, a video was released through Matthews' official YouTube Page of the lead single from Explorer
, "Sweet Magnolia".Matthews played the Isle of Wight and Hay festivals in 2012, the latter with a Woody Guthrie tribute show, and collaborated with artists such as Arun Ghosh, Tunde Jegede, Attab Haddad, Frank Moon and the London Bulgarian Choir. 2012 also saw her play music from her acclaimed and popular selling collection of Welsh traditional songs 'Tir', with Ballet Cymru, ending in a show in Sadler's Wells, and a nomination for a Theatre Critics Award 2012. She produced and arranged Christmas album Baby, its Cold Outside
(2012) to much acclaim, recognised by the Sunday Times
as an "essential seasonal album". Cerys played UK literary festivals including Dartington, Chester, Hay and Edinburgh and released an album of traditional Welsh reels and songs Hullabaloo'
. Matthews sang Patsy Cline's Crazy
and Dylan's Blowin' in the wind
as part of the memorial service for esteemed War correspondent Marie Colvin, in May 2012. Matthews appeared as a celebrity guest mentor on the first series of the UK version of The Voice
for Tom Jones's Team broadcast. Matthews won gold at the 2013 Sony Radio Academy Awards, winning in the 'Music Broadcaster of the year' category. Baby it's Cold Outside
, released for Christmas 2013 on the Rainbow City label, is a selection of Christmas carols and classic Christmas songs all arranged and produced by Matthews using instruments such as Chinese temple blocks, oud, celeste and coconut shells. She was Artistic Director for the opening ceremony of Womex 2013 representing Wales.