Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Nicholson and Michelle Hodnett.
Matthew and Michelle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hello good people. I was born Matthew Liam Nicholson into a small Australian town called Geelong, or as it came to be called in Australia – “G-troit” (we were all Stooges, MC5 fans) being known for its generations of high quality rock’n’roll, including more recently the great King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. I led guitar bands around the country as a teen in the 90s indie rock heydey (before there were infinite sub-genres). I went on to develop and head the experimental rock groups Function Ensemble and Outshine Family throughout the naughties, while living in many places and toured all over the world with them and released three albums.
Connection to Spirit is of primary importance and relevance in my life, cultivating understanding of What is Beyond since childhood, I’ve tried to strike balance in my life between rigorous spiritual practice and keeping musical endeavors rocking and rolling happily along. Much of my adult life has been spent in circumstances of meditative retreat, practicing and studying religious traditions and systems, studying higher manifestations of spirit in humans, time with Masters, developing my lifelong learning in esoteric non-dualist studies. All of this informs and inspires the art I make. I’ve also spent a lot of time with numerous virtuosic Indian musicians and a wide range of sound healers and musicians from different cultures – all of whom I’ve learned from and have informed my work.
After having lived in Melbourne, London, Nor Cal, Chicago, Fiji and Hawaii, I ended up coming to LA just over four years ago to care for a sick friend with advanced lymphoma, who was a most dear brother, profound poet, yogi, psychic seer and wild man – who left his battered body a month after my arrival, so in a state of heartbroken wonder, was soon convinced by my LA friends to stay. Having been involved with scoring art installations throughout the 2000s, and then scoring many short films throughout the 2010s, it was a logical career move to try swimming with the big fish (and elude the Australian fishbowl) and have since been making auspicious moves with both with my score work/composition and songwriting/production. Oh, and I fell totally in love with LA and it’s vast eccentricity and creative energy.
In 2016, I met a magic little creature named Michelle (Hodnett) and before long we teamed up, making LA all the more hospitable a home megalopolis. Michelle is one of those anomalous creatures in this town, an actual LA native, who without trying embodies numerous amusing features of Southern California that I like. She is a well-established hair and makeup artist working in the fashion and advertising world, a long-time yoga practitioner and avid researcher of the human energy bodies and the elements of nature that transform and influence them – especially sound.
More recently, and I’ll add by my gentle encouragement, she has become a skilled bass player and growing talented musician. I could see the musicality in her and knew that I needed to water that little seed so she could see and feel the magic of musical creation. One of the great joys of music is seeing latent aspects of people come alive when they learn to play, especially if that is someone you care about very much.
It took some serious coaxing but I got her up on stage with me and after a series of West Coast live shows as a duo in 2018, performing versions of my songs, Michelle was slightly less terrified of performing and was able to be drawn into my ongoing ambient sound experimentation. Sound art, as in, experimental and improvisational music, has been an important part of my musical development, but it was actually her suggestion that I explore the emerging world of sound baths here in LA.
We sensed a real cultural value in the emerging sound bath scene here in Los Angeles, an immersive avenue that resonated with us, enabling us to gather community of like-minded, loving, sensitive humans and give them our gifts. After floating the idea of performing the (both therapeutic and musically artistic) possibilities we’re playing with to with some close friends and professionals, it became clear that we were on the right track. My management encouraged me to develop this and has been very helpful and supportive. Another one of these supporters, our wonderful artist friend Chris Wylie had a vision of our performing in the dance studio behind his art studio Hyperion Arts in Silverlake. We checked it out, found it to have the perfect ambience and accessibility and booked it. We began by inviting friends and family, sold out our first few shows and the word has spread.
We’re now looking at an expansive 2020 for Nicholson & Belle with appearances at festivals, happenings, parties, conferences and private occasions. We intend to keep it organic and flexible, never the same show twice. We have an album coming out in early 2020 we’re very proud of – “Sound Bath In Nine Movements”, which will be the first in an ongoing series of ambient works.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We weren’t aware there were any smooth roads on this planet! Truly, we have been very lucky that despite the ongoing creative survival struggle, our progress as Nicholson & Belle has felt organic, natural and creatively free. We have had such support and love from our community and friends who believe in the unique beauty and purpose of what we are doing. We love what we do, celebrating the magic and mystery of sound and see its effects on participants, so keep that love, clarity and relational aspect out front, in this world of (yawn) branding and social media short attention span superficiality. It’s always hard establishing something from the ground up, but we’re happy to reflect on how much we’ve done this year and excited for 2020.
Please tell us more about your work. What do you guys do? What do you specialize in? What sets you apart from competition?
Nicholson & Belle is our name, a hybrid of our names with the little play on words. I am composer and music director, and whilst performing use processed acoustic guitar swells/tones, synthesizers, recordings, loops, field recordings. Michelle plays bass, crystal and Tibetan singing bowls, tuning forks and wind chimes and leads some breath work and meditation at some our shows. We’re honored to regularly work with a range of special guests and specific experts. Most recently our dear friend Scotus Dunshee has been playing didgeridoo upon the bodies/fields of participants and providing vocal intonations. We’re stoked to have the legendary avant jazz composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson playing exquisite strings on our upcoming album
Nicholson & Belle is a mercurial sprout, the first iteration of an expansive ongoing collaborative work in performative healing ambient music. We provide an experience for participants that is both therapeutically powerful and aesthetically sophisticated and beautiful. We perform deeply calming meditative, lush, expansive, harmonically rich yet tonally pure, sound explorations. Explorations because we bring people into a space in which they relaxed and open, often reporting having had experiences of other realms, past or future, other dimensions of experience. Our compositions take you through a balancing, aligning non-linear cycle stimulating each bodily chakra or energy center. We believe that sound healing can be musically beautiful as well as therapeutically effective.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Our modus operandi is music, community, authenticity & healing. Success for us is simply sharing our gifts with as many people as possible, creating a circuit of conductivity in our giving and receiving. If we can help people get more deeply in touch with feeling the Divine Consciousness that pervades our art (and sustains all appearances!) and make a decent living doing so – that is success. It’s the emergence of conscious artistic community that we’re participating in and naturally developing. Success is taking such delight in the creative process that it becomes supported and obstacles to the expansion of such art vanish.
We have a relatively ambitious ambient album series beginning to come into being, the LP “Sound Bath In Nine Movements” set for early 2020 release. So another way we register success is the accomplishment of a significant body of works that speak for themselves – we’re on that path. I have another studio album of my songs coming out early 2020 that I have worked on for many years, so it’s going to be a very interesting creative year or sharing what we’ve been incubating for years.
We hope for Nicholson and Belle to be enjoyed as a unique force of beauty, sublimity & deep originality – out in a beautiful field, set aside from the noise and tackiness of the spiritual supermarket. We celebrate the profound mysteries of sound and resonance, using targeted frequencies for specific healing, emotional and subtle body purification – the future culture of sound healing is emerging – everything is literally frequency and our intention is that it also be beautiful, tasteful, intelligent, artistically relevant and aesthetically innovative!
- We sell tickets for our sound beds at our public sound baths for $30 online and $40 at the door.
- Sunday sound baths at the Catalina House, Los Feliz Hills, near Griffith Park Observatory – Jan 5, Jan 19, Feb 2, Feb 16
- We perform private tailored experiences for $500 and up – conferences, retreats, anywhere you’d like people to drop into a deeper space together.
- We’re soon to release our debut album as Nicholson & Belle – “Sound Bath In Nine Movements”. We’ll be announcing details shortly.
- Website: www.
- Phone: 3106999723
- Email: nicholsonandbelle@
- Instagram: @nicholsonandbelle
- Facebook: https://www.
- Twitter: nicholsonnbelle
- Other: www.
Annie Edmonds, Victoria Smith