Matthew Olshefski, AKA the Shirtless Violinist, lives in Seattle with his partner. You may have noticed he is quite the hunk but he is also extremely talented and well spoken. His musical talent really transcends the whole shirtless thing but you know if you’ve got it, flaunt it. He has been studying classical violin since the age of 3. You can hear his talent in every note and video. He has a brand new video out today which happens to be his first collaboration with another instrumentalist (and a shirtless one at that). You can watch it when you scroll down to read our interview. For our fellow Seattlites, he will be performing with Tom Goss and Patrick Masse at the Jewelbox Theatre on May 24th, get info and tickets here.
Check out our interview below and don’t forget the new video:
Earle Dutton (ED): Tell me about going to the UK to record your new videos?
Matthew Olshefski (MO) : It went really well. Last week, we recorded three new videos. Yes, three videos in one day is a record for us. It was exhausting but doable.
ED: I am guessing you don’t have a lot of wardrobe changes though, right?
MO: (Laughter) No, you’re right (laughter). Although, for one of them I have just a little bit. It has a little story line and filmed it my boyfriend who is also my director and editor. That one is coming out next week. We have a really special collaboration coming out today. This is the first time I will be collaborating with another musician, well instrumentalist. I have collaborated with singers. This is exciting.
ED: How did the new collaboration come about?
MO: Well, I was contact by America’ss Got Talent and The Gong Show this year. They were interested in having me come on. Although, what they are looking for is a little more of a circus act than what I do. They said, “Do you know any other shirtless musicians that might be interested?” At that point, while we were still talking about it, I told them I do have a fan that is a pianist. He hasn’t combined the shirtlessness with playing the playing the piano but I thought he might be interested. So, I contacted him and he was interested. We kind of pursued the shows a little bit but what they were really looking for more of a circus or joke act. So, that did not pan out. It did put me in contact with the pretty talented classical pianist, though. He and I collaborate on the video coming out today. So, we have two shirtless musicians. We are covering “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman. (Newest music video below)
ED: How did you decide to become the Shirtless Violinist?
MO: Well, I have played the violin since the age of 3. I can’t remember ever not playing it. One of the things I really enjoyed was seeing classical musicians who did something a little different. I loved the Piano Guys and Two Cellos. These people are making really beautiful music video and were classically trained. They were creative and filmed in amazing locations. They had fun. There was a little humor injected in their videos, as well. I always wanted to do that, but just couldn’t quite make it happen. When I met my partner Paul, I told him about these dreams and found out that one of his dreams was to be a film director. He was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, so he gave up on that dream because he realized he was going blind. That would probably rule out being a director on a film set. He said that he always wanted to try directing and loves editing so we should try one. We picked out a song. We were going on a road trip from Seattle to visit some of his family in the Bay Area. We decided would should film on the way in some of those beautiful locations like the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Shasta and Crater Lake. One day, we were picking out songs and I was in the apartment shirtless while playing the violin and he filmed me playing. He said that it looked so good when we do the videos I had to be shirtless. At that time, I kind of laughed it off. I though how ridiculous, me shirtless, that is the last thing that will happen. I grew up in a real conservative home. I never took my shirt off. Even though, I was a gym addict and just loved going to the gym, I just didn’t take my shirt off. Well, we got down to Crater Lake where we were going to do our first filming and Paul asked me if I was going to take my shirt off. I reluctantly agreed and from then on I had to do it for continuity. That first video really caught on. Several places even wrote about it including Pride.com. I think that was really the reassurance we needed so we moved on from there.
ED: What does your family think of your lack of attire?
MO: They are really supportive. My dad is actually one of my Patreon supporters. All my music videos are crowd funded. It is not something we could do ourselves without the support of some loyal fans. My sister lives in Australia and sent out a joke Christmas card one year (since it is summer in December there) calling it “A Very Shirtless Christmas.” It has been great. The only criticism I have received is from the classical music community, which just isn’t ready for their music to be anything but, a single shot without any cuts, of someone on a concert stage wearing tails.
ED: You have been doing this for a while now. How does it feel to play your music shirtless for the masses?
MO: I have gotten completely used to it. It doesn’t really bother me at all. The end of last month, I was able to go to the UK and film shirtless in one of the great concert halls there. It has been really a great experience to be recognized and have people want to collaborate with me. The concert hall in the UK saw the need to reach out to a bigger crowd than the usual white haired people who usually attend their classical music concerts. They found me on Instagram and asked me to come over there to film a music video in their hall. They wanted to show off the hall and show off my skills. They want to use the music video to reach the LGBT crowd and young people to show them that classical music can be more than just a stuffy, highbrow affair.
ED: Other than being shirtless, what do you think sets you apart musically?
MO: I just think it is the years of dedication to the craft. My first passion was music. The shirtless part, the love of working out and taking care of my body, came later. I think the fact that I really established some solid skills, played with orchestras, chamber groups and ballets. I always played in a tux or tails. So, I think that helped. I think that even if people don’t like the shirtless part of think it is just a gimmick, there are some really solid musical abilities behind it.
ED: So you just collaborated with your first instrumentalist, who else would you like to work with?
MO: There are a bunch of people. Lindsey Sterling is another violinist who has gotten really creative with what she does. It is really outside the box. The Two Cellos would definitely be a dream collaboration. I love their sound. I think Well-Strung would be really fun as well.
ED: Where can your Seattle fans see you next?
MO: Well, the next place they can see me is with Tom Goss. I will be joining him for a number on May 24th. Next Friday, I release another new video which features him on guitar. We will also be filming a live duet at this concert in Seattle.
ED: What song was just the biggest leap for you to make into music for a violin?
MO: Wow that is a good question. I am looking through my catalog now. There have been some but they have never made it (laughter) past the drawing room. I play them at home for a little while and usually pull the plug. You just know when something is not working. Pop songs are the hardest. Choosing a good pop song is hard. They normally don’t have the lyrical quality or the range helps highlight a violin. “Someone Like You” by Adele is just one of those pop sings that sounds really good on a violin. Yet, “Hello” by Adele, which I was thinking of doing, has a much narrower range. It is one of those songs that I haven’t been able to say yes to yet.
ED: In closing, do you have a message for LGBTQ youth or even just young musicians?
MO: Wow! I think I have a message for both. For young musicians; stick with it. It is all about the daily discipline. I like to think about it as little building blocks. Every day you just add one little building block. Stick with it. The discipline pays off in the end and rewards you far beyond the sacrifices you made to be disciplined on a daily basis. To the LGBTQ youth; I want to put out the message to excel at your craft and whatever it is you pursue. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and stand for our community. Our community can be diverse and good at what we do. We don’t have to fit in a mold. Much like, I’ve decided that I didn’t want to fit the mold of a classical musician. I wanted to embrace the LGBTQ community and do something for them. I have taken a lot of fairytale storylines and put a gay twist on them.