MATTHEW Colwell’s life has been a series of blessings in disguise.
The Melbourne rapper, better known as 360, believes this of every horrible or negative experience he has had.
“When I was 19, I never thought I’d be a rapper, I always thought I’d be a basketball player,” the 32-year-old said.
“Then I got a degenerative disease in my eyes called keratoconus, which is terrible – it messes up your vision.
“So I was playing basketball thinking that was going to be my profession then my vision started going blurry and I had to have a cornea transplant.
“I went blind in my right eye – obviously I couldn’t play basketball anymore – and at the time it was crushing but it was probably the best thing that has ever happened to me in the long run because if it wasn’t for that, I would never have focused on music.
“As devastating as it was, it was 100 per cent a blessing in disguise because I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
The same can be said for a “really bad” go kart accident he had where he “almost died” and was in ICU for a week.
“It was horrible and it was a delicate time where I was going to release my second album,” he said.
“We had to take some more time and I ended up writing other songs for the album and made it better and it ended up being the perfect time to come out so I feel like that was probably what I needed.”
And then in 2015, Colwell thought he’d lost it all after he was found passed out on a hotel room floor just hours before he was meant to be on stage.
Everyone, including his fans, now knew about his addictions to both illegal and legal drugs, including a codeine habit that saw him taking 90 tablets a day.
But now sober, he knows the warning signs.
“I used to just hold everything in and try and battle through it myself but now if something looks like it’s going to take me the wrong way then I know to seek help,” he said.
“Those years of touring and partying were so much fun and I wouldn’t have changed any of it even though it did end pretty badly.
“I got to live that life I used to dream about but now I like this a lot now – it’s totally different.
“Being sober and performing without any substances in me, I’m a lot more present so I take in everything rather than just being wild and loose and being a bit out there on stage.
“So I think every single thing that happens that is such a horrible experience at the time, in time you’ll benefit from it in one way or another.”
“You can tell yourself ‘look a lot is going to come from this, you’ve just got to give it time and get through it’.”
And Colwell knows the hits will keep coming with the diagnosis of keratoconus now in his left eye.
“(Doctors) had said it’s there but there was no idea of when it will actually start kicking in and eroding and it’s just started now which is a bit of a shame,” he said.
“It’s a bit disappointing but it is what it is.
“I’m sure by the time it gets bad, technology will have some sort of image thing where I’ll be able to put in some bionic eye or something which would be cool.
“And if my sight was taken away, as much as that would suck I’m sure my other senses would be heightened in other ways so it could be so much worse.
“Imagine if it was my voice or my hearing? I’d be absolutely devastated.”
Though Colwell concedes his “success might not be on the same level as it used to be”, he is still selling out shows.
“I honestly thought I’d lost that,” he said.
“I thought that was all gone and I’d ruined my chances of having that music life.
“It’s such a terrible feeling to feel like you’ve been given the opportunity from the universe to live a life that is the dream life, that you always wanted to live, and feel like you’ve thrown it all away.
“I felt like I’d messed everything up and then for it to come back again, it’s just an amazing feeling.
“I’ve been blessed to have a second chance and I appreciate it so much.”
Colwell felt like he was “started everything over again” with his fourth album Vintage Modern.
“But with a head start given I have had a fan base,” he admits.
“It has felt like I’ve started at square one in a lot of ways but it’s been a really good experience to grow and evolve.
“I don’t take anything for granted anymore as far as success goes – I appreciate it a lot more.”
He said it was “a lot different” to his other albums.
“This time I made a conscious decision to take myself out of my comfort zone as far as the writing goes and not write everything from personal perspective like I usually would,” he said.
“Usually I would write about certain things I’ve gone through myself so I really wanted this album to be more an outwards-looking album rathe than inwards so it’s a lot more social commentary and a lot more story telling rather than just talking about my own stuff.”
An example of this is Tiny Angel, which was inspired by the tragic stillbirth experience of his close friend.
“If that was something that happened to me, I would be able to write that in no time.
“But something like that, it took me months to write that song.
“I had to learn everything about pregnancy and what happens when there’s a stillborn so I had to talk to a lot of people and midwives and figure out everything so I was actually telling the story correctly and making sure I got it right.
“I haven’t done a lot stuff like Tiny Angel where I’m telling a story from someone else’s perspective but it’s something I really want to try and do a lot more.”
And his fans must feel the same way because even after Colwell’s time away from the spotlight, Vintage Modern debuted at number one on the ARIA Australian album chart.
And now he’s back on the radar, Colwell has big plans for what’s next.
“I’ve got a lot of music that I haven’t put out so I just need to figure out which route to take,” he said.
“Whether I want to put an album out or whether I want to do an EP or a mix tape.
“I’ve been working on an album with Pez so whether to do that as well.
“I’ve also got a whole project where I’m just singing which I really love.
“I’m really, really excited about that album because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve never really had the balls to do it because I just thought I would alienate people.
“I thought people would be like ‘why is he doing this – he’s a rapper?’.
“But then certain people have inspired me just to do what I really want to do.
“I don’t think people would ever expect that to come from me – it’s definitely so different.”
Colwell is currently taking Vintage Modern on the road for a 28-date regional tour of Australia, hitting the stage with long-time friend and collaborator Pez at Metropolis Fremantle on September 21.
What: Vintage Modern Regional Tour
When: September 21
Where: Metropolis Fremantle (18+)