Cerys Matthews

From her Catatonia days to her current role as 6 Music's most cultured musical curator, Cerys Matthews has been providing the soundtrack to our lives ever since we first got our hands on a copy of Road Rage. So as you can imagine, we were more than a little bit pleased when she invited us to take Yuyo's yerba mate to her festival The Good Life Experience, taking place in Wales this September. We sat down to find out more about the idea behind starting her own festival, and what inspired her musical escape from the ordinary.

Hi Cerys, Great Escapers is all about us getting to know people who have escaped the ordinary in their lives and careers, what inspires and moves them. We all know you from your musical career and as a DJ, but more recently you've started curating your own festival, The Good Life Experience, which you very kindly suggested we could bring our yerba mate to! Can you tell us what led to that, and the ethos behind it?

CM: I wanted to create a value for money festival where everything was hand curated, one which covered food, literature, music, craft, exploration AND the great outdoors...away from hype and heavy rotation, a place to feed your brain, get your hands dirty and be inspired and surprised; a festival where all ages could feel a sense of wonder at the world around them, and hang out with like minded people... or just chill for a weekend in the rolling hills of Flintshire (it's held on former prime minister's William Gladstone’s estate, 8 mins from Chester).


Tell us about one of the most jaw-dropping things / landscapes / views you’ve ever seen?

CM: I spent time hitching around the Outer Hebrides when I was 18. I’ve never forgotten the views. White shell beaches, turquoise waters, fields of yellow buttercups, white daisies, lazy looking long red haired Angus cattle. And barely any one to see for miles. This summer we went to Xi’an on on overnight train from Beijing. The waiting room for the train was jaw dropping. So many people, so much heat, so many noodle pots. My favourite local view is in Pembrokeshire, standing on a cliff looking West over the Irish sea, blowing a gale, all salt and earth.


Yerba mate is a social drink, traditionally consumed in a group of people who talk, laugh and share ideas while passing the mate in a circle. Who would you like to be in your dream mate circle?

CM: Gertrude Bell, Queen of Arabia; Empress Dowager Cixi; Amelia Earhart; Charlie Patton; Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan.


Are you a risk taker, or do you like it to play it safe?

CM: I guess I’m a risk taker, though it’s never felt that way. I’ve never hankered for material things, fashionable clothes or fast cars, and I’ve been very, very lucky, or very, very stubborn. If you want/believe in something enough, and you keep working at it, I think it wears everyone else down, including fate…


Would you say you are led by your head or your heart?

CM: I’ve never been sure there’s a difference, I’ve only heard one voice, there’s never been inside conflict for things that I’m drawn to do.


Who do you think truly escapes the ordinary / or has escaped the ordinary? It could be an artist or performer, a political leader, someone you know…

CM: People that buck the trend, don’t accept the conventional if that doesn’t work for them, those who persisted in the face of struggle and showed the way... Gandhi, Memphis Minnie, Jimmy Carter, history's inventors and collectors... and today? I'll nominate Hibo Wardere who is leading the fight to eradicate the child abuse that is FGM.


And finally, what’s your perfect great escape?

CM: A bicycle ride to a shaded dip in a hill. Sun out, a real fire, fresh vegetables, bread, some oil, garlic, a bottle of red Bordeaux and Sidney Bechet on vintage speakers. A moss pillow.