Muse frontman Matt Bellamy always intended for 2020 to be a quiet year away from the public eye. His band wrapped up their extensive Simulation Theory world tour in October 2019 ,and he needed time to decompress; spend time with his wife, model Elle Evans; and prepare for the birth of their first child. So the COVID-19 lockdown hasn’t been too big of an inconvenience, and it’s actually given him the time to focus on music, like his new solo song “Tomorrow’s World.”
He phoned up Rolling Stone to talk about his lockdown life, preparing for his second child, how the new Ricky Gervais Netflix show After Life inspired his new song, and what the future holds for Muse.
How’s your lockdown going?
It’s been unusual, I believe for everyone. I’ve become a primary-school teacher to my son. Second-grade algebra is harder than I expected. In terms of my work life with Muse, I’ve taken a year off anyway. It’s a year off touring and a year off recording. The disruption hasn’t been that bad.
My wife is having a baby in a few weeks as well. Going through that part of it is a bit tricky because when the lockdown first kicked off, those first few weeks at the end of March, everyone was looking a bit like, “Where is this going?” It was a bit nerve-racking trying to figure out how to visit the OBGYN and all that kind of stuff. That was a little bit unsettling, but I’m in L.A. and lucky to have a bit of sunshine.
How is the rest of your family?
I was worried about my mum. She was in the U.K., and she lives alone and she’s obviously older as well. We were very lucky that just before the flight lockdown happened, I managed to get her on a flight out to be with us out here. I wasn’t sure where it was going at that point, so I was very happy when she got here. When she arrived, I put her in a separate bedroom and kept her a little bit separate from the rest of us for about 10 days. Then she got integrated in with us.
That was a big relief as well. At the time I was like, “I really don’t want my mum to be on her own in a home in England,” especially with the way things were looking at that point.
Other tricky elements were that I have a son from a previous relationship. I’m dealing with joint custody and all that stuff. That was tricky as well because obviously both households have to have an agreement about what level of lockdown we have. Luckily, we agreed on a lot of those things and were able to keep our son between the houses.
It’s a tricky thing to navigate, but obviously I’m on the luckier side of this. My work life hasn’t been that badly affected because I had the year off anyway.
Will you be able to be in the room when your wife gives birth? I know some hospitals are being restrictive about that.
At the moment, we’re going to do most of the laboring at home. Then we have a hospital that’s very close by. Luckily, at that hospital they allow the husband to go in with the wife. But a month ago, even fathers couldn’t go in. It was around that time we were like, “This is worrying.” At the moment, things are a bit less panicky in terms of what goes on at hospitals.
It’s crazy to think of how quickly the world changed.
Looking back, just six or seven months ago we were onstage playing to 50,000 or 70,000 people at different shows. It just seems like a different world.
If you wanted to now, you couldn’t play to a club of 100 people. It would be illegal.
It’s very, very odd. I’m really interested to know what’s going to happen to the live-music industry. It’s a really worrying time. Even if there is a vaccine, you can’t imagine it rolling out to the masses that quickly. I wonder what the long-term effects will be on people, psychologically, in terms of how they feel about going back to concerts. There might be a time where things open back up, but people don’t want to go back. They may lose the trust or comfort that big gatherings are actually safe.
What inspired you to write your new song “Tomorrow’s World,” and how did you record it?
I recorded in a little studio near my home. I wrote the chords for it a little while ago, but I never had a lyric for it. To me, it was more like a soundtrack composition for a soundtrack that didn’t exist. Then I started playing around on the piano in lockdown and these words just came out. It just seemed to be quite fitting for how I feel at the moment.
It’s wanting to feel this sort of optimism for what this could be. What are the positive sides of this? The positive sides are that I’ve managed to have a lot more time with my family, a lot more time with my son, a lot more time with my wife and the baby-to-be.
And I have just more time to enjoy the simple things in life. I know it hasn’t been like that for everybody, but for me that has been an eye-opening experience. I look back at the last 20 years of my life and I’m thinking that I’ve been on the go with recording, touring, traveling. Even when we weren’t touring or making an album, I used to always find an excuse to fly back to London for a few days or fly here and there or whatever. I was all over the place.
This has forced me to really look at what it feels like to live at a slower pace and enjoy home life and enjoy real quality time with kids. I’m all over schooling now. I know exactly what my son is learning and what is going on with him. All that stuff really feels like an eye-opening experience to me, and I think that song reflects that.
Towards the end of the song, I veer into the idea that the world itself is something that maybe we should be a bit more … that we should reduce the pace, slow things down a little.
Did anything else inspire you?
I watch that Ricky Gervais show called After Life. I binge-watched that whole thing a couple of months ago. I think that’s a brilliant show. I think it, in some ways, it inspired this idea.
There’s one line in the second season that really stuck out to me. It was about when you’re in love, nothing else really does matter. That’s a kind of cheesy thing to say, but it’s true. Those moments when you really nurture other people around you and if you’re lucky enough to love someone or have a partner that you really do like, you have this realization that the pace of life or the competition of life to try and make more money, traffic jams and chaos and all this kind of stuff, doesn’t really matter that much.
In other words, human beings don’t really need that much to be happy. We certainly don’t need that much to survive. A bit of good food and bit of fresh air and a bit of exercise is a good start. And love, if you can get that.
To me, this song tries to capture what it feels like to be hit with that if you haven’t felt that way for a long time. We don’t need much. All of us as individuals, and I think the whole planet itself could really benefit from that mentality. There are lots of tragedies and lots of terrible things happening out there, but there is something happening which we could learn from.
Are you tempted to do more songs like this and possibly cut a whole solo album?
I don’t have any real aspirations for something like an album. But for me, having a home studio in the modern age means you don’t really need a record label or any kind of marketing. I can just record a song like this and stick it up, and there it is. I don’t need to tour or promote it. I don’t need to deal with loads of marketing people and label people.
Part of this song was a learning curve on that side of it. With the music business, there are all sorts of marketing people and social media people that are trying to think of ways to be heard above the bubble. I’m there just mucking about on the piano going, “I don’t really care.”
I just stuck it out. There’s no marketing. There’s no label. There’s nothing. It was a nice experience just realizing, “You know what? I can just make music. Maybe you can hear it, and that’s maybe enough for me.”
I probably will put more songs out like this, but I don’t have any game plan. I’ll put out a track here or there and enjoy the freedom of being able to put out songs without people hassling you.
What are the future plans for Muse? Do you have a time line for the next album?
It depends on what happens in the world, but at the moment we’re planning on getting together, ideally in the place we all came together, Devon in Southwest England, and sort of get back to our original ways. And even get back to the way we originally used to make music by meeting a couple of times a week to rehearse.
The idea was to do that in 2021. If that goes well, get an album or a bunch of songs together and potentially hit the road again in 2022.