Cerys Matthews may have originally entered our lives as the wild child lead singer of Catatonia, the Welsh flag bearer for Cool Cymru but that persona is long abandoned. Today you are still likely to find her behind a microphone but rather than singing she’s busy presenting on both the television and the radio, receiving awards for service to the music industry and Welsh culture, writing books or organizing music festivals. The wild girl of west Wales has grown up – and she has the MBE to prove it!
Cerys has 3 kids, Red Owen Abbot 7 Glynys Pearl y Felin Riddle 13, Johnny Tupelo Jones Riddle 12. Mam Cymru managed to catch up with a busy Cerys on her way to pick up her son Red from school. Proudly hands on, she was able to have a chat with us ( in between calling out ‘aros fa na’ (stay there) and ‘dere ma’ (come here) to her youngest) as they made their way home.
We started our interview asking if she always does the school run?!
My life revolves around the school day and I love that. I love the structure that it gives, it was certainly not something that goes along with being in the arts and touring. I see my main job now as being here mentally and physically for the kids to help them develop into happy and independent members of the community.
Being a performer and touring a lot and trying to juggle all that with your family life must be challenging?
As a parent, I think that you are always looking to do the job as well as you can, but it’s never going to be perfect. When I was a young single mum to a 1 ½ and 3-year-old travelling long haul with loads of layovers it had no structure- I was exhausted. My friend told me that if you can get the kids to bed at 7 you can then have the rest of the night to yourself. That was my eureka moment. It seems so simple but it was revolutionary in terms of how we managed. I have always parented by instinct. I always look for ways to improve or learn but I am confident that I am the best mum that I can be.
How do you keep your children grounded when their mother is Cerys Matthews?!
This is easy. Some of the most unattractive attributes in a child go along with being over indulged and not understanding ‘NO’ or ‘YOU CAN’T’. Things that my children are well versed in. Also, no matter what you do as a career you’ll never be cool with your kids, and that’s how it should be.
You work with your husband and manager Steve Abott both organizing The Good Life Experience and on a daily basis, what tips do you have for others who are considering doing the same thing?
You have to enjoy the same things. I know that it isn’t radical or revolutionary but it is important. When you are just starting off in life and in relationships this little piece of advice doesn’t always factor. Other things take over or get in the way! If you like the same things it’s going to help tremendously when you have to spend hours together. I try and impart this onto my children along with not to start dating until you’re 30, never marry, and if you do, make sure that you LIKE the person, never mind about love or lust.
For those of our readers who may not be aware of The Good Life Experience could you give us a rundown in your own words? https://www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk/
Well the clue is a bit in the title. It’s about having experiences and trying out new things. Hanging out with interesting and likeminded people, whether they are artists, authors, fermenters or foragers. Life seems to revolve around us all amassing things that we don’t need and that are bad for the planet. We are all about being hands on and collecting memories, about witnessing craftsmanship and embracing patience. We want to introduce you to axe makers from Manhattan and denim makers from Shoreditch. The festival is a place where you can get singing with a choir, rub shoulders with world renowned chefs, learn how to carve a bowl or go wild swimming. Oh yeah, there is also a wide array of craft gin makers and really good music!
The Festival is held on the Gladstone’s Hawarden Estate in Flintshire. Was it a conscious decision to use Wales as the venue?
The Gladstone’s are friends of ours and we got talking about how much we all love festivals both as punters and performers. What we didn’t like was that it felt that festivals were getting to big and far too commercial. We knew there was space for a festival where children could be children. Where they could run around having the times of their lives and that the emphasis was on feeding your brain rather than just going wild in a field. A place to leave feeling inspired rather than exhausted. The Gladstone’s do have an amazing space in a stunning part of the world so it was really a no brainer. We are just collectively overjoyed that we can perhaps give families the chance to spend a few hours away from computers and be physical and make memories. Getting to use Wales as the stage is just an incredible bonus.
Do you raise your children bilingually?
I speak to them in Welsh so that they are bilingual. I am a firm believer that if they can learn another language without knowing that they are it saves them from the struggle that it can sometimes be when they are older. It’s also easier to learn another if you can already function in two. It can be difficult though as the language of our house is English.
My husband is learning Welsh, he has been on a course at Nant Gwrtheryn http://www.nantgwrtheyrn.org/cy and used the online resource Say Something in Welsh virtual Welsh lessons but it is the time old problem that the challenge is to use it daily and often. Not always easy in our hectic lives in London!
Do you feel that that the Welsh culture is an intrinsic part of your identity?
Yes, it’s a key to unlocking things. Songs, literature, hymns, the Mabinogion, and Saunders Lewis. Without the language, we wouldn’t be able to understand all of the different perspectives. What I don’t want to do though is diminish the non-Welsh speaking Welsh who are just as Welsh as I am. To me it’s a balance of straddling both these tribes. What is particularly interesting to me today, with regards to my Welsh heritage and that of future generations, is the current situation in rural Welsh communities. Where I am from in Pembrokeshire the language is dying because people are leaving to find employment. It’s a real concern.
A bit of a nod to Desert Island Discs but can you think of one song that sums you up, that really represents the person you are today?
Louis Armstrong What a wonderful world. It doesn’t sum me up but it does sum up my feelings for this wonderful miracle of life
What would be your perfect day?
My Sunday radio show. I love my listeners. I love that I can play my favourite records for people with similar musical taste – and then I would go home and have a roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings with my husband and kids.
With that, it was time to say hwyl fawr (goodbye), Cerys had a little boy bouncing around waiting to tell his Mam all about his day. Heulwen and I were left with was just how down to earth, how intelligent and focused she is.
I also have to add that despite no longer being the lead singer in a rock and roll band and no matter what her kids think, she is bloody cool.
Diolch yn fawr Cerys!
By Ashleigh Edwards, Mam Cymru.