Youth Matters Fixed

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In January 2011, 12-year-old Chrislon Fraser took to the stage in front of a packed dining room at the Rehobot Restaurant in Keartons, St. Vincent. With a calm, confident stride the lanky young musician wearing wire-rimmed glasses made his way to the keyboard, set against the glow of a string of purple lights. Throughout his melodic rendition of “Forever Young” the audience gleamed with amazement at the indisputable talent standing before them.

 

Chrislon’s performance was part of Pieces of Peace, a PCV organized event designed to provide a forum for Vincentians to showcase their creative talents. In the audience that evening was Vonnie Roudette, director of the Art and Design program at St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College. Meeting Chrislon after the show, she told him how she wished her son could have witnessed his incredible performance.

 

Around St. Vincent, Vonnie is widely known as ‘Mattafix Mummy’; her son is Marlon Roudette, former frontman of the internationally recognized London-based band Mattafix. Famous for the song “Big City Life,” the band’s music is often heard being played in the same mini-buses, streets and nightclubs that Marlon frequented during his formative years as a youth in St. Vincent. In 2011 Marlon launched his solo career with the album Matter Fixed. The success of his newest project has spread quickly; his first single “New Age” is making its mark in the U.K. and has reached number one in three European countries. He is arguably St. Vincent’s biggest international celebrity.

 

Marlon returns to his hometown regularly, often engaging in community outreach, speaking with and hoping to inspire youth around the island to follow their dreams. Last year he collaborated with Volunteers on a video to promote a youth summer camp, in which he discussed overcoming challenges he faced growing up in St. Vincent.

 

“I was in the struggle with a lot of the youths I came up with,” said the 28-year-old recording artist, “my songs always came from the street and the yard.”  As the setting sun cast a warm glow of light on the picturesque La Soufriere volcano behind him, Marlon revealed the formula for his success. “The reassuring fact about achieving your goals is that it really is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, and that has always given me a lot of hope.”

 

This video, with its message of dedication and perseverance, reached the eyes of another rising Vincentian youngster, Everton Creese. A student of the drums since 2010, Everton, 12 years old, has shown great promise with his intuitive rhythm and talent in creating steady, fluid beats. He found a connection to the singer-songwriter’s message and subsequently discovered inspiration in his music.

 

During a recent visit to St. Vincent, Marlon met up with Chrislon and Everton for a very special exclusive interview about his career in music. Seated in a booth at a busy café in Kingstown, the two Vincentian youth were curious to know about his mother’s reaction when he decided to pursue music, the genesis of Mattafix, and what goes into creating a hit tune.

 

Chrislon Fraser: What made you decide to make music your career?

 

Marlon Roudette: It’s funny because I don’t think I thought that I could make a living from music, so I actually studied something else. But, when music is in your blood and in your system I think it finds you. You don’t really have a choice.  It’s probably after I got signed that I thought maybe I could make this work as a career.

 

CF: Was your mom okay with you being a musician?

 

MR: I think she was worried when she first heard I was going into music because maybe she’d heard all the stories of the negative side of the music business. She heard my first demo when I came home one Christmas when I was 17 or 18 and I played her three or four tracks. And she said, “You have a gift. This is what you need to do.” That was all the encouragement that I needed, so I went back and kept recording.

 

CF: What was your first gig and where?

 

MR: My first gig was at the Arts Club in West London, for about 100 people, and I was very, very nervous. I still get nervous before every show. Do you get nervous before you play?

 

CF: No, I’ve been on stage doing things like songs and poems for Christmas shows since I was three years old.

 

MR: You’re a brave guy.

 

Everton Creese: What encouraged you to choose Mattafix as your name?

 

MR: I got the name Mattafix from the late Sister Patricia Douglas, who was the headmistress at the St. Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua, which was my secondary school. She rescued my education because I was maybe on a negative path before she took me into Marriaqua. So she used to say it all the time, “Problem solved, matta-fix.” But I also believe you need a positive name for a band, if you’re making positive music.

 

EC: How do you write your music? Do you write the words and lyrics first or do you start with the beats?

 

MR: There are all different ways. “Big City Life” I wrote at home on my guitar. I had the verse and the bridge when I left my house and on the way to the studio I came up with the chorus while I was on the train. By the time I got to the studio, I had the whole song. But “New Age” was written completely differently. It was written with a piano and someone was playing the melody for me, and I came up with the lyrics. I don’t think you should think that there’s only one way. It’s however inspiration strikes you. Amazing music has been written by people who are poor, people who are rich, people who wrote to the beat first, by people who couldn’t sing...

 

CF: By people who couldn’t hear.

 

MR: Exactly. Deaf people, blind people. There’s no rulebook.

 

As the interview came to an end, Marlon shared some profound insights with the gifted young Mattafixers about handling life in the spotlight and continued success.

 

“You’ve got to stay humble. The minute you think you deserve a hit song, or start expecting success, you’ve got nothing.” He emphasized to Chrislon and Everton the importance of being honest and working hard, and pointed out the blessings that come from having been raised in St. Vincent. “Being from the Caribbean makes you unique, and people want to hear your story.”

 

After thanks and handshakes, Everton and Chrislon walked to the bus terminal each holding on to a copy of Marlon’s new album. Two aspiring youth with dreams to reach for, and a rising star pointing them in the right direction … Problem solved, a.k.a. Matta-fix.  

 

[For more about Marlon’s music, visit www.marlonroudette.com]

 



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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.