Aqualung (musician)

For other uses, see Aqualung (disambiguation).
Matt Hales
Birth name Matthew Nicholas Hales
Born (1972-01-17) 17 January 1972
Origin Southampton, England
Genres Alternative rock, soul, folk, piano rock, electronic
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician, record producer
Instruments Piano, vocals
Years active 1990–present
Labels Verve Forecast, Columbia, B-Unique
Associated acts Lianne La Havas, Diane Birch, Jason Mraz, Paloma Faith

Matt Hales (born 17 January 1972[1]) is an English songwriter, musician, and record producer who has been performing professionally under the name Aqualung since the early 2000s.[2] Aqualung is best known in the UK for his song "Strange and Beautiful," which was featured on a television advertisement for the new Volkswagen Beetle during the summer of 2002[3] and went on to become a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart later that year.[4] In the United States, Aqualung is also known for the song "Brighter Than Sunshine," which had considerable airplay and was used in the film A Lot Like Love[5] and various television spots. Hales has released six albums as Aqualung, the most recent 10 Futures appeared in 2015.[6]

As a songwriter and record producer, Hales has collaborated with Lianne La Havas,[7] Bat for Lashes, Tom Chaplin, Mika, Daniel Wilson, Kina Grannis, Andreya Triana, The Fray, Leona Lewis, Jason Mraz, Christina Perri, Sara Bareilles,[8] Diane Birch,[9] Paloma Faith,[10] Disclosure, Alex Clare, Birdy, Mikky Ekko and For King & Country[11] and many others.

Hales' work earned him various awards and nominations, including two Ivor Novello nominations. Firstly in 2002 for the Song of the year "Strange & Beautiful" by Aqualung. Secondly in 2012 for Album of the year "Is your love big enough?" by Lianne La Havas. Hales produced the song "Run Wild. Live free. Love strong" by For King & Country, which won a Grammy in 2014 (best album Christian Contemporary) and "Blood" by Lianne La Havas was nominated for a Grammy 2016 (best album Urban Contemporary).

Life and career

Early life

Hales grew up in Southampton, where his parents ran an independent record shop.[12] He aspired to be a musician from an early age, writing songs using the family piano when he was just 4 years old. When he was 16, Hales was awarded a scholarship to study music composition at Winchester College. Within a year, he wrote his first symphony titled "Life Cycle,"[13] and formed his first band, which carried several different names during its lifespan. In the spring of 1990, the band (known at the time as Mecano Pig)[14] produced their debut self-titled album, but broke up soon afterwards. That same year, Hales moved to London to study music at City University,[15] and in 1992 formed a new band with his brother Ben called Gravel Monsters.[16]

RUTH / the 45s

Gravel Monsters became a quartet that featured Matt & Ben Hales, Matt Vincent-Brown, and Stephen Cousins.[17] The band's name was changed to RUTH in 1992,[18] and although it enjoyed a minor hit in 1997 ("I Don't Know")[19] which earned them a loyal fan base, the indie rock quartet failed to find commercial success in their seven years together. Arc Records released RUTH's debut album Harrison in 1999.[20] After the band parted ways with Arc Records in the Summer of 2000, they renamed themselves the 45s[21] and signed a short-term contract with Mercury Records (part of the Universal Music Group). Despite releasing two well-received singles, the label declined to renew the band's contract in March 2002,[22] leading the band to split up. It was at this moment that Matt Hales began to concentrate on a solo project that he would call Aqualung.[23] In 2003 a double CD "Donut (A Collection Of Songs For Fellow Appreciators Of RUTH)" was compiled by the bands's former guitarist Ben Hales and independently released on the Vanity Press label. It featured re-mastered studio, demo and live tracks on one CD and three promo videos on a second CD.[24]


Almost immediately after the 45s split, Aqualung's debut single "Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell on You)" gained popularity when it was used as the soundtrack on a television commercial for the new Volkswagen Beetle. It was released as a single on B-Unique Records in September 2002, and reached No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart. Later that month, B-Unique released the eponymous debut album Aqualung, which according to the sleeve notes was recorded entirely in Hales' hallway. It peaked at No. 15 on the UK Albums Chart, and achieved Gold status before year's end.[25] The album's second single "Good Times Gonna Come" was released on 2 December 2002. It was featured on the British television show Skins,[26] and reached No. 71 on the UK Singles Chart. Several singles followed into the next year, as did Aqualung's second album Still Life, which spawned the single "Brighter Than Sunshine".[27] The song attracted the attention of film and television music supervisors in both Europe and North America, and was featured in the television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the motion picture A Lot Like Love.[28] "Brighter Than Sunshine" enjoyed Top 40 airplay success in the United States,[29] leading Aqualung to a worldwide recording contract with Columbia Records in 2005, and the US release of Strange and Beautiful,[30] a compilation of tracks from his first two UK albums. It reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart,[31] eventually selling more than 250,000 copies in the US. Throughout the mid and late 2000s, Aqualung's music was used in television shows such as Grey's Anatomy, The O.C., CSI: Miami, Gossip Girl, Cold Case, Scrubs, One Tree Hill, Eli Stone, and Brothers and Sisters.[32]

Hales and his touring band spent the next two years performing throughout North America, participating in the Hotel Cafe Tour,[33] which also featured Cary Brothers, Meiko, Greg Laswell, Tom McRae, Joe Purdy, and Jim Bianco.[34] While on the road, Hales would routinely switch up the Aqualung show with different musicians, settings, and approaches. The diverse elements he explored during these tours (including the use of an echo device called the Memory Man) subsequently drove the creative process behind what would become Aqualung's next album, Memory Man.[35] It was released in March 2007, and the liner notes credit Hales with playing the following instruments: piano, Fender Rhodes, glockenspiel, electric guitar, Stairwell Drums, harmonium, Moog bass and vocoder.[36] Hales completed his first UK tour since his debut album was released, and concluded the run at the newly re-opened Tabernacle, Notting Hill.[37]

2008 brought the release of Words and Music, Hales' first album for Verve Forecast Records.[38] It featured acoustic versions of two songs from his debut album Aqualung, as well as new songs written in a similar style. In 2010, Hales moved to Los Angeles, to begin the production of his sixth studio album titled Magnetic North.[39] In reference to the album on his Facebook page, Hales said, "It's hard to describe. It's like 12 kids who you would never guess were in the same family until you hear them speaking." The album's first single "Fingertip" was released on 2 March 2010, and reviews of Magnetic North make reference to the indication of Los Angeles' influence on Hales as a writer, with songs containing words like "California," "Sundowning," and "Hummingbird," which were not used prior to his moving Stateside. In 2013, Hales announced on his Facebook page that he had begun work on a new Aqualung album.[40] Also in 2013, Aqualung is featured on the song "Surrounded" on the album A Song Across Wires by EDM artist BT.

Songwriter and Producer

As early as 2004, Hales began collaborating with other artists as a songwriter and producer. He co-wrote "UR" by Tiësto which featured his lead vocal, and was released as a single and featured on the album Just Be.[41] He worked with Leona Lewis on her album Echo in 2009,[42] and in 2010 he co-wrote songs appearing on albums by Brooke Fraser,[43] Christophe Willem, and Boyzone.[44]

After co-writing and producing the song "Pick Up Your Tricks" by Australian pop rock band Amy Meredith[45] in 2011, Hales wrote and produced "Cold" which featured himself and Lucy Schwartz and appeared on the The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (soundtrack),[46] which sold more than 500,000 copies in the United States.

2012 proved to be the breakout year for Hales in the recording studio. He co-wrote and produced Is Your Love Big Enough? by British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas.[47] It debuted at No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart,[48] was named iTunes UK album of the year,[49] and was nominated at the 2012 Barclaycard Mercury Prize.[50] In addition to this, Hales co-wrote "Everything Is Sound" on Jason Mraz's Grammy nominated album Love Is A Four Letter Word,[51] and worked with Paloma Faith on the single "Just Be" from her album Fall to Grace. He also co-wrote and produced Diane Birch's single "Unfucked", and the single "Same Heart (feat. Tom Chaplin)" by Laura Jansen. Hales has recently spent time in the studio collaborating with Christina Perri, The Fray, Sara Bareilles, Birdie, Alex Clare, Katharine McPhee, Ginny Blackmore, Kina Grannis, Matt Nathanson, among others.[52]



Studio albums

Album details Peak chart position
Aqualung 15 14
Still Life 80 78
Memory Man 88
Words and Music
Magnetic North 46
10 Futures

Compilation albums

Album details Peak chart position
B-Sides Volume 1
  • Released: 2004
  • Label:
  • Format: CD
Remixes Volume 1
  • Released: 2004
  • Label:
  • Format: CD
Strange and Beautiful
  • Released: 22 March 2005
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: CD

Extended plays

Album details
If I Fall/Live at the Scala
Deep Blue
Still Life 1
Exclusive iTunes EP
  • Released: 16 August 2005
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: Digital download
Exclusive iTunes EP 2
  • Released: 17 January 2006
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: Digital download


Year Song Peak chart position Album

2002 "Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell on You)" 7 36 7 Aqualung
"Good Times Gonna Come" 71 79
2003 "Brighter Than Sunshine" 37 53 116 32 Still Life
2004 "Easier to Lie" 60 62
2007 "Cinderella" Memory Man
"Pressure Suit"
2010 "Fingertip" Magnetic North


Year Title
2004 Live 2004
It's Easy to Play the Aqualung Way

Other releases/promos

Year Title
2003 Baby Goodbye
2005 The All or Nothing EP
2006 Live & Rarities: With Apologies to Anyone Who Is Actually Heartbroken


Title Album details
Title Album details
Donut (A Collection Of Songs For Fellow Appreciators Of RUTH)
  • Released: 2003
  • Label: Vanity Press
  • Format: Double CD
  • Catalogue Number: VPLP001

Selected songwriting discography

Year Artist Album Song Co-written with
2015 Waters What's Real "Rebel Yell" Waters
Mika No Place in Heaven "Last Party" Mika, Teemu Brunila
Lianne La Havas Blood "Green & Gold" Lianne La Havas, Jamie Lidell
What You Don't Do Sam Dew
"Tokyo" Lianne La Havas
"Wonderful" Lianne La Havas, Howard Lawrence
"Ghost" Lianne La Havas
"Good Goodbye" Lianne La Havas
2014 For King & Country Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. "Run Wild" Andy Mineo, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Tedd Tjornhom
"To The Dreamers" Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone
"Without You" Timmy Jones, Blake Kanicka, Stephen Lynch, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Benjamin Backus, Mark Campbell
"Already Home" Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone
Brooke Fraser Brutal Romantic "Thunder" Brooke Fraser
Luke Sital-Singh The Fire Inside (Luke Sital-Singh album) "We Don't Belong" Luke Sital-Singh
2013 Lucy Schwartz Timekeeper "Boomerang" Lucy Schwartz
Sara Bareilles The Blessed Unrest "Eden" Sara Bareilles
"Islands" Sara Bareilles
Laura Jansen Elba "The Lighthouse" Laura Jansen
"Queen of Elba" Laura Jansen
"Golden" Laura Jansen
"Little Things (You)" Laura Jansen, David Sneddon, James Bauer-Mein
"Same Heart" Laura Jansen, Kim Oliver
"Around the Sun" Laura Jansen
BT A Song Across Wires "Surrounded" BT
2012 Lianne La Havas Is Your Love Big Enough? "Is Your Love Big Enough?" Lianne La Havas, Willy Mason
"Lost & Found" Lianne La Havas
"Au Cinéma" Lianne La Havas
"No Room For Doubt (featuring Willy Mason)" Lianne La Havas, Willy Mason
"Age" Lianne La Havas
"Everything Everything" Lianne La Havas
"Gone" Lianne La Havas
"They Could Be Wrong" Lianne La Havas
Paloma Faith Fall to Grace "Just Be" Paloma Faith, Greg Wells
Jason Mraz Love Is a Four Letter Word "Everything Is Sound" Jason Mraz, Mike Daly, Martin Terefe, Tyler Phillips
Diane Birch Non-album single "Unfucked" Diane Birch
Good Old War Come Back As Rain "Amazing Eyes" Good Old War
For King & Country Crave "Light It Up" For King & Country
"Pushing on a Pull Door" For King & Country
2011 Ximena Sariñana Ximena Sariñana "Wrong Miracle" Ximena Sariñana
Aqualung & Lucy Schwartz The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (soundtrack) "Cold" Lucy Schwartz
Amy Meredith Non-album single "Pick Up Your Tricks" Amy Meredith
2010 Boyzone Brother "Time" Greg Wells, Kim Oliver
Brooke Fraser Flags "Who Are We Fooling? (featuring Aqualung)" Brooke Fraser
2009 Christophe Willem Caféine "Heartbox" Guy Chambers
2004 Tiësto Just Be "UR" Tiësto

Selected production discography

Year Artist Album Details
2016 Tom Chaplin The Wave Producer, arranger
Bat for Lashes The Bride Producer
2015 Lianne La Havas Blood Producer
Andreya Triana Giants Producer
2014 Kina Grannis Elements Producer
For King & Country Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. Producer
2013 Lucy Schwartz Timekeeper Producer
Laura Jansen Elba Producer
2012 Lianne La Havas Is Your Love Big Enough? Producer, Mixer
Diane Birch "Unfucked" (Non-album single) Producer
For King & Country Crave Producer, Programmer
2011 Amy Meredith "Pick Up Your Tricks" (Non-album single) Producer
2010 Aqualung & Lucy Schwartz The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (soundtrack) Producer
Aqualung Magnetic North Producer
2009 Seabird Rocks into Rivers Producer
2008 Aqualung Words and Music Producer, Mixer, engineer, arranger
2007 Aqualung Memory Man Producer, Programmer
2005 Aqualung Strange and Beautiful Producer, Mixer, engineer, arranger


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External links

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