Matt McHugh—surfer, lead singer of The Beautiful Girls, and now father—shares his thoughts on music, life, and something he believes in: SurfAid
Polly Armstrong: Tell me a little bit about yourself, your life and what makes you tick.
Matt McHugh: I’m just a bum that grew up a street back from the ocean. I’ve spent my life surfing and working crappy jobs that gave me time to surf and play music. The last few years have been taken up by touring and making records, but any chance I get, I’m in the sea, growing barnacles.
PA: What are your biggest influences in Life, Work and Art?
MM: I just want to try and leave the world a little better place than when I arrived in it. I’m influenced by all kinds of creative people from all walks of life. Chefs and bakers and shoe-makers. I try and represent my culture and how I grew up. I believe in karma and nature. I believe in love over money.
PA: Tell me about SurfAid and your involvement with it?
MM: As a surfer, I’ve spent a lot of time in remote areas of Indonesia. SurfAid is an organization that provides basic healthcare and support for communities in the areas of Indonesia that are frequented by surfers.
PA: How has SurfAid’s work affected the communities and yourself?
MM: It’s a fantastic operation that gives back to communities that have given traveling surfers so much, myself included. It’s easy to
exploit a holiday destination and treat it as a kind of playground with little regard for its inhabitants, but SurfAid reverses that
equation. There’s a lot of people, from doctors to construction workers, that have given a lot back to the Island communities through healthcare and practical solutions like providing clean water and improving structural integrity of a lot of dwellings. SurfAid was also right in the thick of things after the Indonesian Tsunami and provided invaluable support to people in pretty remote areas.
PA: What other causes are you involved in?
MM: I support a lot of causes to do with the ocean, such as Sea Shepherd and The Surfrider Foundation, as well as various Australian Conservation societies. As a musician, I try not to politicize it too much and just quietly play my part. If my visible support can help a cause though, then I’m there. I’ve played rallies for Occupy Sydney and Greenpeace and believe in being careful about how we treat each other and the planet.
PA: You recently became a father… How has this changed your life and affected you?
MM: It’s the craziest, most overwhelming, most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing I can say about it that hasn’t been said a trillion times before. I’m just trying to do the best I can and be the kind of man my son can look up to. He is the most important thing in my life.
PA: What direction is your music taking you now?
MM: I’m interested in making things as simple as they can be. The truth is always pretty simple. I’m always trying to get to the heart of the matter. To identify the basic things that concerns us all. I’m not trying to be a huge star or have my ego stroked by fame. I just like the idea that music can remind us that we’re all in it together.
PA: You are branching into a solo career… Tell me about it.
MM: Well, The Beautiful Girls has always just been a name I have used for my music. It’s the sound of the inside of my brain, a 24-hour-a-day concert. I surround myself with players and friends that I respect and love. It’s gotten to the stage where on the last Beautiful Girls record, I played all the instruments myself so I thought it would be fun to start using my own name. I would like it to be transparent. If you like it, blame me. If you don’t, blame me. Same music, just different letters on the cover.
PA: 2012 is here and there is lots of talk around it….What’s your take on it?
MM: I haven’t thought too much about it to be honest. I just try to take care of each day as it arrives. If it all ends, I’ve had a good time.
PA: How would you describe yourself in five words?
MM: A screw up who tries.
PA: What inspires you?
MM: Creativity in all its forms. Amazing, inspirational things are absolutely everywhere. Every second of every day I’m inspired by what I see, feel, hear, taste or touch.
PA: What makes you happy?
MM: Love and stillness.
PA: What is your biggest hope for the planet and the world?
MM: That respect becomes the default approach. Respect for each other and our differing points of view. Respect for our planet. Respect for the one energy that runs through every single thing and ties it all together.
PA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
MM: Probably at a parent-teacher meeting defending my son’s rights to have his own thoughts and opinions.
PA: What can people do for the planet today to make it a better place?
MM: People should worry about making their home a better place. Making their own heart a better place. The only way to achieve anything on a giant scale is one individual at a time. We should all think for ourselves and make our decisions based on love and empathy. Then, things may change.
PA: What makes you most vulnerable personally?
MM: I care more about the well-being of my family and friends than I do about myself.
PA: How do you transform your pain?
MM: I soak it in the ocean or let it fly away on a melody.
PA: How do you let go?
MM: One piece at a time.
SurfAid, in partnership with communities and government, works to prevent disease, suffering and death through educational programs and health promotion that aim to change poor health behaviors and reduce the risk from natural disasters.
SurfAid’s goal is to empower communities to help themselves and build local capacity so their improved health resilience is sustainable. We advocate health and well-being for all and create collaborative relationships with other stakeholder groups wherever we can so as to further sustain change in behavior and development.
Our community-based health programs involve education in nutrition, hygiene, healthy environments, and disease prevention—including mosquito net distribution. In response to an unfortunately frequent need, we have built an award-winning capacity in Emergency Preparedness and have delivered practical, locally-based Emergency Responses.
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