The Shirtless Violinist. The name seems to sum it up very nicely for Matthew Olshefski. The music he makes inspires almost as much as his flat stomach and defined abs. While there are several music videos out there, Mr. Olshefski is preparing for the release of his first official album! The concert and album release party will be held at Seattle’s Old World Tasting Room with a percentage of each ticket sold benefiting The Lambert House, a safe space for LGBTQ youths in Seattle.
Concert and Album Release Party at Old World Tasting Room in SODO October 18th, 2019. Get tickets and info here. Support local artists, businesses and LGBTQ youth (Lambert House) all at the same time.
Eric Andrews-Katz: What was it that made you decide to take up the violin?
Mathew Olshefski: I started the violin at age 3. I don’t remember not playing the violin. To answer that question, I asked my parents about that. The story goes that another family had kids a few years older than me, and they were playing the violin. My parents were impressed, so my Mom found a teacher that would work with a three-year-old and there I was.
Andrews-Katz: Do you play any other instruments?
Olshefski: I only play the violin. I can play the ‘viola’ a little, because it is similar, and doesn’t take too many different skills. I wish I could learn others, but violin has taken so much time to learn and keep up, that I don’t have time in the day.
Andrews-Katz: What is the difference between violin and fiddle?
Olshefski: Good question. Nothing. It’s how it’s played. Simply, the style and type of music being played marks the difference. Some fiddlers might have adjustments made to their violins and help them play that type of music better, but essentially, it’s the same instrument.
Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest musical influences?
Olshefski: I grew up listening to a lot of classical music. Our home was seeped in it. I heard all the great orchestras and violin soloists. It was the fabric of my home. I remember, in particular, there were a few violinists that stood out to me as I got holder: Itzhak Pearlman. I’ve always loved the way he plays so beautifully. Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zuckerman are others.
Andrews-Katz: How did you come up with the persona of “The Shirtless Violinist”?
Olshefski: When I met Paul, my now fiancé, it was three years ago. We were dating and on one of our first dates Paul asked me what my dreams of music were. ‘What would you like to do with it’? I wanted to make beautiful music and videos and share them with the world. I’d seen “Piano Guys” doing it, and I love the classical world but sometimes it can get a little stuffy. It can be beautiful music, but not ‘outside the box’. He responded: ‘that’s funny. My dream has always been to make music videos’. He studied movies and wanted to be a director behind the scenes. Between the two of us we did it and we have fun. I recorded the music on my laptop, and he filmed the first video on his phone. We were filming it while on a road trip. He joked about me performing without my shirt on ‘to get more views’. I didn’t think he was serious, and I wasn’t comfortable with that as I grew up in a modest/religious household. Paul kept on pushing me, so I eventually gave in. Since then we had to keep the shirt off for continuity. I’ve always filmed in remote places because I’m shy and not extremely comfortable with being shirtless all the time. That first video got over 20,000 hits, so we decided to do another video. Then another one, and another… That number of people has grown to more than 100,000 people from around the world.
Andrews-Katz: Obviously you have a workout schedule. How often do you work out?
Olshefski: I quickly learned that working out would be the hardest part of this endeavor. I’ve often bemoaned the fact because he (Paul) has now ‘ruined my life’. I’m at the gym three hours a day, six days a week. The first hour is abs, then a half hour of cardio, and then an hour and a half of weight training. It’s the most difficult part because I love to eat.
Andrews-Katz: How many hours a day do you play the violin?
Olshefski: That varies greatly. That’s because I’ve been playing since the age of three and that skill has been built up over the decades, while exercising has been in the past seven years not overly serious. Trying to stay ‘looking good’ for the camera has been only in the last two years. Practicing three hours a day easily, if I have a concert coming up. If there is not much going on immediately, I can take a little time off.
Andrews-Katz: You have a new album coming out. What is it called? When does it get released? How can people buy it?
Olshefski: Before making this album I only really recorded singles. I recorded a video to go with them and have put all the singles together into Volume One and Volume Two. (Volume Three will be coming out soon) I wanted to put out an album with a beautiful sound to it. I started “Disney Strings” (the new album) with a Kickstarter campaign. It was successful and we were 133% funded. We hired an engineer and a guitarist, because the sound of solo guitar and violin are so very beautiful together. I picked my favorite Disney songs and we are currently mixing them. Then it gets mastered, and we can move on to production. The plan is to have it available for the October 18th release concert.
Andrews-Katz: You will be playing at Seattle’s Old World Tasting Room. What can you tell us about the upcoming concert?
Olshefski: The big event is October 18th. My first concert release. I have people who have supported this from across the country, flying in for this event. From Virginia, Toronto, LA and many other places. It’s going to be a real celebration. I can’t discuss the albums track list yet; it’s a big secret. It’s going to cover a wide span of time from ‘classic’ Disney to ‘recent’ Disney. I picked the songs that I absolutely love.
Andrews-Katz: You’ve mentioned the worst part about being “The Shirtless Violinist” (the strict diet) but what is the best part?
Olshefski: There are three things. 1: Introducing a new audience to the violin. Reaching out to people who would never give the violin a second glance. One of my fans said, “I came for the abs and stayed for the music”. I love that quote. 2: Being able to represent our community. We released the first video “Beauty & the Beast” (Paul was in it with me). More than 70 countries wrote about it and watched it. I realized that we are producing content with our stories, and it’s speaking to people around the world. It’s been an amazing experience to represent our community. 3: The messages I’ve received from so many people. The music has spoken to them; it gives them hope, or the music love story videos touch them. Some countries don’t have LGBT rights or it’s against the law still, and just the idea that these music videos can reach into these areas, and that these people can see it and have hope by being connected into a bigger community outside where they live.
The Shirtless Violinist will be playing his first official concert at Seattle’s Old World Tasting Room on October 18th. A percentage of ticket sales will be going to The Lambert House, a safe space for LGBTQ youths in Seattle. Get tickets and info here. Support local artists, businesses and LGBTQ youth (Lambert House) all at the same time.