INTERVIEW: "The Shirtless Violinist" Talks How He Got Started, Making A Difference Through
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Matthew Olshefski "The Shirtless Violinist"
Matthew Olshefski known as "The Shirtless Violinist" is making a difference in the world of music with both the violin, and his brilliant music videos. However, his music videos had a catch-- not only did he play the violin to some of the most well known classics, but he did it all shirtless! After sharing his dream with his boyfriend Paul he gave Matthew an idea: “I think your video will get more attention if you take off your shirt!” From there on out Matthew was known as "The Shirtless Violinist."
Olshefski has used this platform to inspire and help the LGBTQ community in his own unique way. Both he and Paul had started to receive daily messages of support and gratitude after posting "Gay Disney Fairytale" twist on Beauty and the Beast. “Come for the abs, stay for the music." That’s a direct quote from one of his fans, and he has heard variations on that phrase over and over during his shirtless adventures.
Olshefski talks exclusively with RyeTheNewsGuy.com about how he got started, the mission, how's he's inspiring the LGBT community, his favorite song to perform, what he is up to next and more! As of August 2019 "The Shirtless Violinist" has posted 30+ music videos with over 8 million views.
His music is available on all streaming platforms, and he's recently released his second full album titled "Shirtless Violinist Vol. II." Keep up with "The Shirtless Violinist" by visiting his website and following him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. I'm so thrilled I got to share his story with all of you!
How did you get started playing the violin?
I started playing the violin when I was just three years old! At the time, we lived near a family who had their kids enrolled in violin lessons. My parents thought that was a great idea so they signed me up, too! Who knew something a simple as that would change my life? But it did!
What was it about the violin that attracted you to start playing? It has a really special effect on people, have you noticed that too?
I was too young to know any better; I probably thought playing the violin was a normal part of life that everyone else had to do. Just like brushing my teeth and getting dressed in the morning! But I completely agree; the violin is a beautiful instrument that has a very special effect on people. I think that’s because it often resembles the human voice. It can be deeply sad, and also incredibly uplifting! It has an impressive emotional range.
Can you tell me how you got started with the idea of “The Shirtless Violinist?” I understand that you met your now boyfriend Paul who was a big inspiration?
I met Paul 3 and a half years ago and we shared our dreams with each other on one of our early dates. I told Paul that I wanted to make beautiful music videos and share them on YouTube; Paul told me he wanted to direct and edit videos. So we combined our interests and decided to make a music video cover of the Katy Perry song “Rise”. But just before we started filming, Paul suggested I play the song shirtless “because it will get more views!” We had no idea it would really catch on… we were just having a good time!
You’ve certainly taken off from being just “ The Shirtless Violinist,” you have albums, merchandise, calendars, photo shoots. You’re a brand! Did you have any idea that this would become so popular?
No, Paul and I never dreamed it would become so popular! When we filmed that first music video over three years ago, we were just making it for ourselves. We hoped some people would see it - but never imagined it would get the attention it did. I guess Paul was right about going shirtless! After the first video was written about on a couple blogs, we decided to make another one. That one —a Justin Bieber cover— got even more attention so we just kept making them. Pretty soon it became a full time job! But I couldn’t have done any of it without the help of my Fan Club on Patreon.com/ShirtlessViolinist. My fans crowdfund every music video we’ve made! It’s really amazing.
Matthew Olshefski "The Shirtless Violinist"
What’s been your favorite cover you’ve done and why?
My favorite cover would have to be “Married Life” from my brand new album “Disney Strings”. It’s a beautiful song from the movie “Up” and it has extra-special meaning because Paul and I are getting married on December 15th! Soon, “Married Life’ will be a reality for us both. There are a few other favorite covers, also from my brand new album. I put my whole heart into this record, and I’m very proud of it.
I notice you have done a lot of Disney covers. What is about the music of Disney classics that inspires you?
I feel like the Disney covers have been in response to the fans. My fans really love Disney, and every time we make a Disney music video, it quickly becomes my most popular. A couple years ago, Paul and I started “reinventing” Disney stories as LGBT music videos. These have been extremely well-received and have become an important part of the content we produce.
How important was it to make sure your videos and music, touched, inspired and gave back to the LGBT community?
This was not our goal in the beginning. Originally, as I said, we just wanted to make a fun and beautiful music video. But after we posted our gay Beauty and the Beast music video, we realized we touched on something special. People responded with such positivity and with such gratitude - we were genuinely surprised! We decided to make another video with LGBT themes, then another and another. These have become our most popular videos, and we receive daily messages from people around the world thanking us for telling gay love stories. LGBT representation has become a very important part of the content we create. I feel very fortunate to be doing this!
Will you be going on tour at all in the near future?
I have no plans for a tour right now, but I would love to do one. I perform live around the country, but it’s typically for one-night-only events. I recently hosted an album release concert in my hometown of Seattle for “Disney Strings” and it was so much fun! I hope to do more things like that. Maybe the tour will follow!
Matthew Olshefski "The Shirtless Violinist"
You’ve created a Pateron account where fans can crowd-fun your videos. How did that come about?
Early on, we made music videos with our own money but quickly realized we couldn’t afford to keep doing it! We wanted to hire cinematographers and singers and actors and find better venues. All of which costs money, so we turned to Patreon.com/ShirtlessViolinist to crowdfund the videos. To our amazement, many people signed up and this is the reason we were able to keep going!
Do you feel a huge pressure to constantly keep up your appearance and physique to stay “The Shirtless Violinist?” How do you combat that pressure?
Yes and no. Even before we started this project, I was always going to the gym and staying fit… but I was always able to tell myself “I can let loose and no one will care!” I don’t necessarily have that same luxury anymore. If I let loose and stop going to the gym for a few weeks, I can’t perform live or make music videos with my shirt off. There is a pressure to stay in great shape year-round, but I don’t let it overwhelm me.
How can we continue to promote body positivity in the LGBTQ community? How can we combat that pressure to that is constantly shed on the community as well?
I try to shed as much light on this subject as possible through my social media channels. I will often remind people that I work extremely hard to look the way I do; and that I don’t always look this way! By being transparent about the level of discipline and the amount of time and energy I devote to my fitness, I feel I am demystifying this notion that having a six pack is easy and normal! It’s NOT normal to have a six-pack!
What’s next for you Matthew?
I am getting married to Paul on December 15th and we are going to enjoy our first holiday season together as a married couple. We are both so excited. After that, I am devoting all of my efforts to my next album! I will be turning to Kickstarter once again to fund this project and I think it’s going to be amazing. I am currently working on the “test track” and although I’m not ready to reveal the theme of the album, I will say this: It’s stunning!
Finally, What is the best advice you can give to aspiring musicians about becoming successful?
My advice is very simple: Dive in the deep end! If you want to be successful, you have to take risks and do things that you don’t even feel qualified to be doing. If you are not working outside your comfort zone, you are not likely to succeed. Also, give yourself permission to make something AWFUL. People will laugh and ridicule your work and you have to be perfectly okay with that. You cannot let it stop you. Just keep moving forward and you’ll eventually become successful. The only people who fail are the ones who give up too soon.