A Conversation with Matthew Olshefski-The Shirtless Violinist

(Photo courtesy of Matthew Olsheski)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is a pleasure to welcome Matthew Olsheski, “The Shirtless Violinist,” to Jake’s Take.

As the Shirtless Violinist, Matthew showcases his impeccable musical talent to use on his never-ending quest to make classical music sexy. He brought his journey to YouTube, where he wowed fans with his excellent and creative videos.  From performing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” inside a church to his inspiring covers of Ed Sheeran and Beyonce’s “Perfect Duet” and “Bring Me Home,” which were gay love stories.

Matthew continues to inspire his fanbase, the Fiddle Family, with his amazing videos. His videos also caught the attention of the viral video newsmagazine, Right This Minute, and several NBC affiliates.  In this edition of A Conversation, Matthew opened up about his arrangement process and revealed a challenge that he faced from YouTube.

Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in music? How did that passion evolve into the desire of pursuing a career in the recording industry?

Matthew Olshefski: I started playing the violin at the age of 3, and I have never stopped. Music has always been a part of my life, whether performing in orchestras or teaching violin to my many students! I never considered pursuing a career as a recording artist until I started releasing shirtless music videos on YouTube. When the popularity of my videos grew, I realized there were people who wanted to stream and download my music. That is when I learned how to distribute my music as an independent recording artist.

Jacob Elyachar: One of the things that make you stand out against your peers is that you perform shirtless. How did you come to that decision?

Matthew Olshefski: Two and a half years ago I told my boyfriend, Paul, that I wanted to make a music video and post it on YouTube. I had seen The Piano Guys and 2Cellos doing this, and I was really inspired. Paul thought it was a great idea as well – but he suggested we film the music video shirtless to give it an edge (and another reason to click on it!) After the unexpected success of that first video, we realized we had stuck on something unique and memorable. So, naturally, we made more!

Jacob Elyachar: Let’s talk about your arrangement process. You have posted a plethora of videos onto YouTube that range from Top 40 favorites such as “Despacito” & “Titanium” to movie hits such as “Part of Your World” and “Never Enough.” How long does it take you to create these arrangements?

Matthew Olsheski: It varies from song to song. I have had songs professionally arranged for me – which is always nice! But it does not happen very often. For songs like my “Stranger Things” cover, which includes many layers of violin, I spent several hours writing the music. When I collaborate with another musician like a pianist or guitarist – we will work together on a final arrangement. I love collaborating more than anything!


(Photo courtesy of Matthew Olsheski)

Jacob Elyachar: What are some of the challenges that you faced breaking into the music industry? How did you overcome those challenges?

Matthew Olsheski: One of the biggest challenges I have faced is being a musician who incorporates gay themes in much of my work and videos. There is still a lot of hate and intolerance in the world, and anti-gay groups have flagged my music videos. Also, YouTube severely limits the monetization of LGBT content on their platform, which has made it challenging for my brand to grow. Despite these challenges, I will not stop incorporating these elements because I believe it is important for my community to rise above bigotry.

Jacob Elyachar: Currently, you are recording your sophomore album: Shirtless Violinist, Vol. 2. What are some of the similarities and differences between both albums?

Matthew Olsheski: I have been fortunate to be working with the same sound engineer, Bill Simpkins, on both albums. Bill and I have become friends through this two-year endeavor, and I love his commitment to capturing a quality sound. It may not be surprised to learn that the violin is incredibly challenging to record due to its range and volume – but Bill does an amazing job. I would say the most significant difference between these albums is that these new songs were recorded during a time when Bill was even more familiar with my instrument.

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring musicians who want to pursue a career in the music industry, what advice would you share with them?

Matthew Olsheski: I would say “dive in the deep end” – do not wait for that perfect day to come along when you think the time is right and everything will be “perfect.” You will never be perfect, so just dive in and do it now! The next piece of advice is the same I give to my violin students: Work on it every single day and when you feel like giving up…. Work harder.

For more information about Matthew, visit his website! You can also check out the Shirtless Violinist on social media by visiting your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube channels.

You can also become a member of the Shirtless Violinist’s Fiddle Family by visiting his Patreon page.

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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar