The first show was at the Mudgee RSL (NSW) in April 1991, a year after her debut album Émigré went platinum and won her ARIA awards for best female singer and best newcomer (single).
Her hit singles included ‘Token Angels’ (inspired by a tragic school bus crash in Grafton,NSW), ‘Woman’s Gotta Have It’ and ‘Let’s Kiss (Like Angels Do)’.
It was one of the first shows her band did after just three weeks of rehearsals. Already they were red-hot, quickly adapting to Wendy’s mix of soulful ballads and funk-jazz slammers.
By the time of the second tape, recorded three years later at Bunnamah Estate in Margaret River (WA), she had international tours under her belt, and her stage confidence had soared.
The second album Lily, which reached #2 and certified triple platinum, yielded more hits as
‘The Day You Went Away’, ‘Friday’s Child’ and ‘If Only I Could’ and even led to her making her acting debut as a nightclub singer in the 1993 movie Flynn about actor Errol Flynn.
“It was a very prolific time for me, very creative and magical,” Wendy recalls that era. “But it was a bit nerve-wracking because I wasn’t prepared, as a human being and as a dreamer.
“I was used to being in the back line, singing backing vocals as my chosen profession, and it took me a long time to feel more relaxed out in front. So I was still figuring out who and what I was.
“But listening to it now, I seem to have had a strong idea of what I wanted to do musically and what I wanted to say.
“I do marvel at that young voice, I remember in those days thinking I wish I had more depth, age and soul in my voice. Now that I have that depth, age and soul, I’m thinking ‘wow, listen to that clear young high voice.”
Many of the band and crew are still with her today. Jim Blackfoot, her front-of-house and tour manager for five years – who recorded Wendy Matthews Live 1991/1994 – remembers how the singer ran her touring party as a family.
“She was absolutely lovely, she was like a mother hen, concerned about every single person in the tour party that they were OK.
“Onstage she has a great time. Off stage, she never complained. In fact she couldn’t get to sleep after a show, so she and guitarist Mick King would come into my room when I was doing the post-show finances and serenade me until 3 in the morning!”
Wendy Mathews and her songs celebrate being a free spirit and outsider and lover of nature. She’s been these all her life.
Born in Montreal, Canada, her art school parents split when she was 14. Two years later she left school and went busking across North America with friends.
At 18 she was in Los Angeles busking, making jewellery and working as a session singer.
She did backup vocals on Little River Band co-founder Glenn Shorrock’s solo album, and he invited her back to Australia to sing on tour.
She stayed, singing backup on albums by Jimmy Barnes, Richard Clapton, Tim Finn, Icehouse and Cher, and joining bands as The Models and The Rockmelons (where she first started working with Jim Blackfoot) and Peter Blakeley and The Resurrection.