Q&A with Matthew Mitchell
“I let fear hold me back. The one lesson I would have for anyone is to be fearless and try, because all that can happen is that you fail. Before, I never understood that failing at something was a lesson, because I was scared, but knowledge comes from failures or mistakes just as much as it comes from successes.” These are the words of Matthew Mitchell, a 31-year-old brand development and creative director with ideas that are out of this world. “Aquarius is the most creative sign,” he boasts to The Gleaner, adding that “persons who fall under the sign are known to think outside the box”.
Mitchell, best known by the stage name ‘Machu Ezra’, has been demonstrating innovation and resourcefulness for years, first as a recording artiste with a distinct style of fusing retro musical selections, like that of ‘90s R&B and dancehall with a modern flair, and now from behind the scenes. He recently played the role of creative director on the set of on-the-rise artiste Amanyea’s Top Girl music video, among others. No surprise either, he is also one of the masterminds working behind the scenes on numerous eye-catching advertising campaigns, adding something extra to the scripts and putting the lyrics together for jingles.
A graduate of Meadowbrook High and the University of Technology, with a degree in hospitality and tourism management, Mitchell said that following the internship period at two different hotels, “I thought to myself, ‘Never again’,” and he never looked back at a career in the field. Therein lies his second advice. “Approach with caution and have a plan B,” he said. Mitchell can breathe easy, knowing that success has been garnered along the path he chose, his plan B, so to speak. Here’s what the creative had to say in his quick Q&A session.
How did you get into brand development, marketing, and even working behind the scenes as a creative director on video shoots?
It initially started from me initially doing music – with Machu Ezra – identifying my own brand and determining how I wanted to position myself in the industry. I knew I wanted to be different and bring something cool and fresh to the Jamaican market, and some level of creativity was recognised from that. After music, I started working at Mystique Integrated Services Limited and was able to utilise my creativity in developing marketing campaigns for brands, from Campari to Scotiabank. It has forced me to flex my creative muscles in different playing fields, as well as learn corporate strategy, while still making it fun in answering the brand’s message being pushed. The experience with my personal brand and with corporate companies has added to my résumé, and I find more artistes reaching out to me to work on their music videos.
What’s happening with your music career?
It’s literally been on pause. I have a direction of what I want to do, and it is happening, slowly but surely. I’ve been writing with fellow artistes, though not many.
When you’re not working, what can we find you doing?
Honestly, most times I am trying to learn other things. I am into fashion. Right now, I am trying to understand the merchandising side of the fashion industry, and it’s become easier to get educated with access to information online. Otherwise, you can find me tuned into Netflix … I am a Netflix junkie. Going out was never my forte, but I used to like going out because I could dress up, and corona doesn’t allow me to do that much these days. And then there’s eating food … I like to try new foods.
Most interesting place(s) you’ve travelled to, or if you could choose anywhere to live other than Jamaica, where would that be?
The Amalfi Coast was interesting. It was beautiful. I also enjoyed Spain because it reminded me of Jamaica in a way, the people were warm; and if I had to choose, I could live there. However, I am a brand advocate for Jamaica, and I think our island has literally everything you need … sun, sea and sand, and our culture is unmatched.
As a man who spends so much time working, how do you find time to date, or are you taken?
I have been in a relationship for four years. [We actually work together.]
How do you balance work and personal life?
I think it’s all about knowing when to shut off and knowing when to give each other space. Space is important, especially when you work together, but in the sense that as partners, there is an understanding that one of us can say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen you today, so you can go breeze’, or ‘We still need to go out and do something together that’s not work’. Also, communication is the key to every relationship, but in that type of setting, it plays a big role. If you are clear with what you want to do, what you are saying and what you mean … once you’re clear with your partner or people in general, there is no room for error.
What books are sitting on your shelf that you have yet to open but would recommend to someone?
I’ve been meaning to read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which my mother has been telling me to read for the longest time, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. The last book is actually on my friend’s shelf, but it’s on my reading list. I know many persons will judge me for not reading these books as yet. I’m getting around to it.