The ICMP Spotlight aims to support as many students and alumni as possible in their personal careers within the music industry.

Whether you're working on a musical, have joined a cover band, started out as a booking agent/artist manager/music journalist/etc, we want to know all about it and support you with any possible means.

Each month we present a student or graduate music project, making it our #ICMPSpotlight.

Mateus de Sá

Mateus de Sá is an ICMP Masters in Songwriting alumnus who recently released an album about his experience as an immigrant moving to the UK from Brazil as a child. 

'Teethpuller' began life during his studies at ICMP in 2020 and was finally unveiled in November 2023. 

For our latest Spotlight, we caught up with Mateus to learn more about his studies and how the album came about...

How did you find your time at ICMP? 

When I started my MA at ICMP, I had just finished doing a degree at the University of Nottingham.

During my time there, I consistently gravitated towards music, both outside my course (becoming a regular member of the university's Songwriting Society) and within it (the topic of my final dissertation was Japanese music). So, when the course finished, I knew I wanted to dive deeper into music as my next area of study. That's when I found out about ICMP and knew I had to apply. 

The decision was one of the best I've ever made. I loved studying at ICMP. Though I started my course in 2020, the year of COVID lockdowns, I was still able to immerse myself in ICMP's community of creative students and enthusiastic tutors. I met many unique and talented musicians during my studies and learned a great deal about how and why we each make music the way we do."

Could you talk about the course – what was the most important thing you learned? 

I learned many valuable things during my course. For example, I had never studied musical language before my MA and found it fascinating to think about music with this new, almost scientific, approach.

I also learned to listen to music in a more detailed and critical way. In fact, I would say the MA has completely changed how I listen to songs and albums, as I am often thinking about the musical language, lyrical craft, and creative intention behind what I hear on the day-to-day. It has allowed me to be an active listener, evaluating songs with greater scrutiny - but this doesn't mean finding problems with songs: it has also allowed me to find merit and specific elements that I admire in a range of different songs, even ones that I don't particularly like.  

How did your album come about? Could you talk a little about how you came up with the themes and how it was made? 


I started working on 'Teethpuller' while studying at ICMP in October of 2020, and it would eventually become the final project for my MA. I wanted the theme of this final project to be something deeply personal to me and one from which I would never run out of creative inspiration. This is why I picked the themes of 'immigration' and 'home'. 

A week before my eighth birthday, my family and I moved from Brazil to England. This experience proved to be a very defining one in my life. The move, like many people's immigration stories, was very difficult for me - generating feelings of uprootedness, displacement, and a lack of belonging. Ultimately, it is a change that has always left me feeling somewhat 'in the middle', between national cultures, with no fixed geographic sense of 'home'.  

I really wanted to tackle this topic with my project since there is so much inspiration, both musically and lyrically, that sprouts from it. With the help of my tutor Julian Marshall, I worked tirelessly on the album, aiming not only to reflect on the many facets of the immigration experience through my lyrics, but also through the music itself - making use of samples and bringing in influences from the many genres that have inspired me growing up, both in England (such as folk, pop, rap, and electronic) and in Brazil (such as samba, MPB, bossa nova, and Brazilian funk). I also incorporated both English and Portuguese into the album.  

I finished my final project and graduated from ICMP in 2021, but knew I wanted to keep working on it after the course. I continued to do so for a further two years, adding songs, removing songs, and changing other songs entirely. Whenever I felt it was nearly done, I felt an itch to write more about this experience, which brings up so many raw and creative emotions.

Eventually, I managed to narrow down the album to the 12 songs which I feel best encapsulate my immigration experience, from arrival in England to the present day. It was then just a matter of fleshing out every idea as much as possible.  

After three years of hard work, I was so happy to finally release 'Teethpuller' in November 2023.  

Coincidentally, earlier this year, I moved to Brazil. Though this decision was not linked to the album's release, it seems a beautiful coincidence and full-circle moment to have both occur at the same time. 


Do you have any advice for aspiring songwriters? 

I’ll share a piece of advice that helps me in my creative process.  

Eventually, it's okay to put your music out there. As musicians, we can often keep songs in the vault for ages, even after we feel that we've done as much as we can with them. This is often for two reasons - we always think the songs could use a couple more tweaks here and there to be perfect for release, and we are also scared of how the songs will be received upon release.

Unfortunately, these voices are often only mental blocks that prevent us from letting our creative works fly and reach people who might enjoy them. Concerns about perfecting songs and connecting with an audience are valid to a certain extent of course, but if they become excessive, they can feed into an imposter syndrome and make it so that you never actually end up putting your music out there.

At some point, when you know you have done as much as possible with your song and are proud of it, it is good to simply take a deep breath, schedule your release, and sit back - knowing that the rest is out of your control."  

What’s next for you and your music? 

Working on 'Teethpuller' was such a massive undertaking that I would be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat relieved to finally have it released and to be able to take a little bit of a break from the album process, which though extremely fulfilling, is also very tiring.  

My break from making music hasn't lasted long, though. I always find myself drawn back to songwriting as a creative channel and source of comfort, and I have been writing many new songs since 'Teethpuller's release. I do not have a specific release date or schedule for anything yet as I want to give the album more time to breathe, but there are plenty more tracks in the works that I hope to share soon. 

In the meantime, I also have a YouTube channel called 'Unabridged', in which I make video essay-style videos about a range of topics, with a particular focus on music.

I not only aim to stay active with my original music, but also with this more journalistic approach to creation, so expect to see more releases on both of these branches.

Connect with Mateus and his music - Listen to 'Teethpuller' on Spotify below: 

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