IF there ever comes a time when Matt Goss decides to give up the music business, he will surely find success as a motivational speaker.
The singer songwriter, who was born in Lewisham Hospital 48 years ago and grew up in and around Peckham and Camberwell, has plenty of wisdom to impart – particularly when it comes to the industry in which he has worked hard in to not only survive but thrive in for the past 30 years.
These days he’s based in America but this month Matt is back on home soil for a small UK tour which includes a date at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Monday of next week.
And despite having a schedule that looks and sounds exhausting, he managed to take time out to visit Lewisham on Friday of last week to speak to creative and performing arts students at Lewisham Southwark College.
The hour-long session was a chance for the 50 or so students to quiz him about his life and career as well as get some top tips for navigating and making it in what is undoubtedly a tough and unforgiving industry.
And he is a good person to ask having plenty of relevant experience. Together with his twin brother Luke and friend Craig Logan, Matt formed Bros in 1986 when he was just 17 – the age many of the students were who came to hear him speak.
The group’s achievements were astonishing, notching up 11 top 40 singles including the seminal song When Will I Be Famous, and three top 20 albums both here in the UK and Europe. Not only that, to date Bros is still the youngest group in history to headline at Wembley.
In 1995, after the band split and went their separate ways Matt began his solo career and headed out across the pond where he was the headline act at the famous Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for more than seven years.
And over the years he has released two singles with the world renowned DJ Paul Oakenfold, his album Push went seven times platinum, he’s performed at the White House and for the Queen, won an Icon Award for his residency at Caesars Palace and has a contacts book that is positively bulging at the seams.
Not only that, he has recently sung with the NHS Choir, who he describes as “angels” and the concerts he and his brother Luke will play at Wembley next August when they reunite as Bros, sold out in a record seven seconds.
Yet despite his fame and fortune Matt is as down to earth as they come, thoughtful, warm, generous with his time and still has his South London accent very much intact.
He’s also full of good humour and clearly inspired the 50-strong gathering at the college in Lewisham Way.
I grabbed a few minutes of this time after the session, in which he spoke about growing up in South London, how important his roots are and telling the students to think big, be focused, single minded and never give up on their dreams.
And although he was only supposed to be there an hour, it ended up much longer as afterwards he hung around chatting to the students, taking selfies with them, signing autographs and encouraging them to keep in touch.
Softly spoken but with an obvious passion he tells me it had been a humbling experience.
“It was fun and I really enjoyed it,” he says warmly. “They were a little reticent to begin with but once they lost their nerves and inhibitions they asked some great questions.
“It was inspiring for me so I hope I was able to offer them a little wisdom and inspiration and helped them in some way.”
Matt clearly enjoyed his time with the students and he was also delighted to be back on home turf.
“South London has changed a lot of course since I was growing up here,” he smiles. “But the spirit is still here. I look out of this window with a sense of wonderment – it’s beautiful and life is amazing and it’s so nice to be back here.
“It’s where I was born and grew up – it will always be home.”
He admits it was an inauspicious place from which to launch such an incredibly successful career but he maintains it’s down to a combination of luck and being single minded, focused and hard working, something he was keen to stress to the young people who came to listen to him.
“It’s important to tell them the truth,” he says. “Yes, we were lucky and I feel truly blessed for the career I have, but I knew what I wanted and I worked hard to get there.
“I left school early to be in the band because that’s what I wanted. We played some real dives before we got signed – you learn a lot more from playing the shit gigs – and there were some really hard times but when we hit the big time, playing Hammersmith Odeon which was my dream, and then Wembley, it was all worth it.
“I’m still working and get so much pleasure out of it but I’ve never forgotten my roots here in South London. It all started from humble beginnings. It wasn’t an easy place to grow up in but I hope I inspired these guys to know that it doesn’t matter where you grow up, as long as you have the drive and determination you can succeed and do anything. Your imagination is limitless and so should your vision be.
“I’m very aware how remarkable my life is and so for me to be here is humbling. I told them it’s a journey, that they have have a good sense of who they are, home in what they are passionate about and good at, and then to persevere and be persistent. They should never give up, always aim high, think big and always when writing songs, write the truth.
“To begin with you go on stage and no one knows who you are but you have to be relentless,” he adds. “Two years after I left school we were on the front cover of Smash Hits and not long after that we were playing four nights at Hammersmith Odeon and then 11 nights at Wembley. When you have the drive you can do anything.
“Equally though you need to have fun,” he adds grinning and eyes twinkling. “You’ve got to be able to dance along the way!
“And it’s important to be inclusive and help people, especially if they help you. Compassion is important so always be there to lift someone up.”
As well as his success in the UK, Matt was able to talk about his achievements state-side – something he does with obvious and understandable pride – and encourage the students to surround themselves with people who would encourage and support them.
“I’m proud to be British, I love being in the UK it was where I was born and grew up and I love so much about it,” he says.
“But we never celebrate success here in the way we should. America is so much more encouraging and success is a good word.
“When I went to America no one knew who I was but I worked hard, aspired to do great things and I made it happen. People over there are very encouraging of ambition and success. It’s a good thing to have ambition and want a better life.
“The people who want you to do well should be the only people you should be around, the family and friends who will encourage and inspire you, not those who say they can’t do something.”
Growing up it was Matt’s beloved mother who provided that encouragement and he admits since she passed away two years ago he initially found it hard to continue working.
“She was my best friend,” he says simply. “She was my motivation and always there encouraging me, believing in me and making me believe I could do anything.
“The loss of my mum was so profound, and devastating, but I asked myself what she would want me to do and that is to keep going. I want to continue to make her proud of me.”
And that is exactly what he’s doing with his UK solo tour this month and the Bros reunion gigs next year at Wembley.
But before he gets back on his tour bus to criss cross the country, he has a few more selfies to take, autographs to sign and fans to say hello to.
“Life is full of wonderment,” he smiles. “I’m in a good place at the moment and really looking forward to the tour and visiting places like Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.
“To come back and play these gigs, have a laugh, see the fans go mental and having fun, play Wembley again as Bros, it’s fantastic.
“The Bros shows will be insane – I want everyone will wear their bomber jackets and DMs and be part of the Bros massive!
“My journey continues and I love it.”
Matt Goss is playing the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Monday, December 12. Visit www.ticketweb.co.uk/artist/matt-goss-tickets/369573 for full listings.