Wendy Matthews will next week take a musical journey through a career that started in the mid-’80s and took off 20 years ago with the release of her debut solo album, Emigre.

The State Theatre concert, 20 Years of Hits has forced the “rarely introspective” singer to pore over her works to date.

“I’ve got a pretty wacky relationship with time — it moves a lot quicker than I think it does,” she told the Star Observer. “I’m always busy doing whatever’s on at that time, rather than looking back … or even forward, for that matter.”

By the time she did release Emigre, Matthews was 30 and had spent more than a decade working in the music industry. In this post-Willow Smith musical landscape, an artist waiting until the age of 30 to release their debut is almost unheard of.

“Or 12, even! It’s a whole different world now, I suppose. Especially in music. I’d had record deal offers since I was 17, but I was too busy travelling and enjoying life to think about what I wanted to say. I wasn’t really ready.”
But does she have any regrets? Australia’s music audience is only so large, and Matthews has had to approach her career in more inventive ways, appearing as a singing mentor on Channel 7’s It Takes Two.

“I’ve never understood people who say they have no regrets in life. How is that even possible? It’s all about choices, and sometimes you feel you make the wrong one,” Matthews said.

“But the choice to move to Australia: it’s my home. Sometimes when I tour with internationally successful Canadian artists, people like Sarah Mclachlan, I think ‘I wonder what would’ve happened if…’ But there’s no point. Who knows what could’ve happened – I could’ve had seven kids and been working in a juice shop!”

No doubt some of the most vocal audience members at her State Theatre show will be Matthews’ many gay and lesbian fans — a section of her audience with whom she feels a deep affinity, acknowledging that her biggest hit, the sparse 1992 ballad The Day You Went Away, became an anthem for many gay friends grieving the loss of loved ones during the initial wave of the AIDS crisis.

“I’ve always felt like an outsider to society. I don’t have kids, I’ve never married, I don’t drink – I’m a freak!” she laughed.

“I’m not saying that gay and lesbian people are outcasts by any stretch, but there’s something they can perhaps relate to in me.”

info: Wendy Matthews, State Theatre, Friday November 26. Tickets through Ticketmaster.

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