It is the stuff school girl daydreams are made of- being the inspiration for a musician to write a love song.

But Loughton singer Matthew Shepherd is keeping the lovely lady who inspired much of his debut album Top of the Tree a secret- for now.

A barrister's clerk by day, Matthew recorded the songs in his spare time at The Hermit Recording Studios in Brentwood and launched them at a sold out gig at The Loughton Club a few weeks ago.

Now he is preparing to perform them on stage at prestigious London venues such as Proud Camden (August 9) and The Garage in Highbury (August 19) and will be taking to the main stage at this year's Woodfest, at the National Trust's beautiful Essex site Hatfield Forest.

We caught up with Matthew to find out more...

Who are you and where are you from?

Matthew Shepherd, 20 years old and I am from Loughton, Essex.

Where did you grow up/go to school?

I grew up in Loughton, and studied GCSE’s & A Levels at Davenant Foundation School.

How did you get into music?

I’ve grown up going to a lot of gigs – as soon as I was allowed to get in to venues I would go with my Dad! I bought a cheap guitar from Argos when I was 14 and learnt a few chords – six months down the line I started to write songs. I found that it was a way in which I could express myself most honestly. I’d pick up the guitar and it would make me feel better.

When did you start performing?

I first started performing in choirs at Davenant. The teachers started to give me solos and encouraged me to take up singing lessons at school (I owe a lot to the school!). As I got more confident I started to join various school bands – even had the opportunity to perform on two music tours to Italy.

What do you sound like?

I wouldn’t necessarily liken myself to another artist (although I have been compared to the likes of Katie Melua and Passenger), but I would say that my music is mellow – It’s music for when you want to relax. I like my music to have a balance of being clear with a message, sentiment or feeling, but also leaving a little bit of it vague and mysterious – I don’t want to give it all away!

Who or what has influenced your music?

Life experiences, girls – falling in/mainly out of love!

Many great musicians have influenced my music. My idol is an American singer/songwriter called Joshua Radin – like him, I try to create songs so that even if it means something deeply to me, it can mean the same to someone else, or even something different.

What was your first gig like?

It was a very nerve-racking experience! I had never performed live in a ‘gig’ surrounding before – it was quite a different experience from being in a school hall! Over the past two years of gigging, I have learnt to deal with nerves. But even now I always get nervous before I go onstage – I think that it’s a good thing though, it sometimes brings out the best in you. If anything, I think something’s probably wrong with you if you don’t even get a little bit nervous before going onstage – that’s when you start to not care about what you’re doing anymore – that’s the day when I would stop performing.

Are you signed to a label?

I’m an unsigned artist, but my album was brought out through the help of Magic Bean Music.

When and where did you record Top of the Tree?

The album was recorded at The Hermit Recording Studios, Brentwood, Essex by Dave Greene, who engineered and produced the album. My very good friend Greg Huff (Also from Davenant School, now studying at the Royal College of Music) plays trombone, electric and acoustic guitars on the tracks, as well as co-producing some of the songs.

What inspired the name?

Top of the Tree is one of the newer songs that I have written. When we started recording I still hadn’t thought of what to call it just yet. But when I heard the first mixes of the song I thought 'That’s it! This is the song'. I think it’s the song that sums me up and where I feel that my music is headed right now.

Tell me about some of the tracks on the album and what inspired them.

The majority of the songs on the album relate to falling in and out of love. I suppose they're about a girl really – I don’t think she even knows some of these songs are about her. I think that’s the beauty of my music – it’s all completely honest. The only thing that I never give is names and I would never want to. Apart from that I pour myself into my music. Sometimes I have to write songs to get them out of me – It’s almost like having a diary – my music is my diary. Songs like Is this love, Roots, Baby it’s you show that side of me. But obviously, like how it is in life, there are happy moments of love too – songs like Close to you and Sunny on the Southbank.

Favourite gig to date?

Tough question!! Hmmm perhaps my gig at the iconic world famous Troubadour Club in London this summer. It has played host to some top-class musicians- Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Paolo Nutini to name a few. It was such a privilege to play there and perhaps a moment to remind me that I’ve come so far. Saying that, my sold out album launch gig was pretty special too!

What can people expect from your gig at Woodfest?

They can expect me to turn up! (hahaha) I’ll be playing on the Main Stage from 12.45pm to 1.15pm. I’ll be performing songs from the album as well as my own take on some current well-known songs.

What‘s the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you on stage?

I performed a traditional folk song The Parting Glass (which features on the album) which is usually sung at funerals. Little did I know that there had been a wake going on downstairs in another hall and the family had gone up to listen to the live music to cheer themselves up, inadvertently bringing them to tears – I should have really noticed that they were all in black! Quite an awkward moment for me! Luckily they came up to me after the gig and thanked me for playing the song so everything worked out well in the end!

Do you practice your stage poses in the mirror?

Unfortunately I do not have the time, so I’m forced to ‘wing it’ in front of the poor unassuming audience!

Do you have a day job?

Yes, I am a barrister’s clerk in London, but music is my passion.

What’s the dream?

To be able to play onstage every night to an audience, no matter how big or small. However, I don’t want to rush into it all. I prefer to take a more of a grassroots, organic, slow and steady build to where I want my music to get to. After all, the longer it takes to build, the longer it will take to tear down.

Where can people hear your music?

You can buy my debut album Top of the Tree on iTunes or from my website

where you can also see full gig listings.

Woodfest takes place from September 4 to 6 at Hatfield Forest, Takeley, Bishop's Stortford, Essex, CM22 6NE

Details: 01279 870678,,