Mathew van Vooght is getting tea from Cravings Coffee in North Delta when the barista notices him.
I follow you on Instagram, she tells him. She thinks her brother played baseball with him years ago. Van Vooght can’t remember — his memory isn’t very good for things like that, he says. But he thanks her and sits down.
It’s a taste of small-town stardom in the local café, but the up-and-coming pop singer, who performs under the name Mathew V, will take it.
After all, Cravings plays 103.5 QMFM, a radio station that picked up van Vooght’s debut single “Tell Me Smooth,” released in September of this year.
“I’ve been getting lots of local Instagrams and Snapchats of people listening to it, which is cool,” van Vooght, 21, said.
“Hearing it on the radio … [and] things like that have been super cool reminders that I’m on the right track.”
In the three years since van Vooght graduated from Sands Secondary, he’s made exponential leaps on his path to becoming Canada’s next pop star. He moved to London, England to attend the European Institute of Contemporary Music, but promptly dropped out three months later. He came back home after a year of making music in England, and got a gig through a friend of a friend as an opener for a concert at Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret.
That was in April 2016. There was almost no one there, van Vooght said, just his brother and his parents. He played for half an hour with a guitarist, “not really thinking about anything,” he said. “I just really sang with my whole heart.”
Van Vooght can’t remember who the headliner was — “I don’t even think I stayed, to be honest, I think I left” — but he does remember Joseph Blood, a representative for 604 Records who attended the concert.
Six months later, van Vooght signed with 604, which bills itself as Canada’s greatest indie label.
In the past year, he’s released Sounds, an EP he worked on it London, and two singles: “Tell Me Smooth,” which currently sits 30th on Billboard’s Canada Hot AC National Airplay chart, and “Always Be My Baby,” a cover of Mariah Carey’s 1995 hit.
Van Vooght has three more singles coming out in advance of his first record with 604, which doesn’t have an official release date yet but will likely come out in March.
“It has to feel right when it’s finished,” he said about his music. “I could write what I technically think, on paper, is the perfect song. But when I’m singing it, if it doesn’t feel authentic to me, it’s hard to really push that and sell that with my whole self.”
Authentic inspiration can come at the unlikeliest of times, like when he’s walking to his studio and he gets an idea for a lyric, or when he’s shopping for produce at Superstore and a hint of a melody comes into his head.
“I’ll pull out my phone and hide it under my jacket, and start singing into my jacket while I’m looking at fruit,” he said.
The songs for his upcoming album are recorded, but the “subtle chaos” of the music industry doesn’t stop for the North Delta native. Nor does he want it to.
He’s on his email every day, he said, and is often at the 604 office checking up on his work. He’s travelling to Toronto two weeks out of the month, and taking the 319 bus to Scott Road Station to work on his music in Vancouver. And this is why he enjoys living in North Delta with his parents.
“I’m proud of where I come from and what I’ve been able to do in the last year by staying in Delta,” he said.
“This is where I grew up. This is where I went to school. This is where, if I have a few hours and I need to calm down, I can go for a quiet walk through a suburban neighbourhood that I know.”
For van Vooght, this is something of an accomplishment. But it’s also the beginning.
“I feel as of right now the first 100 metres of a marathon have been checked off, so there’s still a long ways to go,” he said.
“But I’m feeling ready. I feel like I’ve trained.”