‘I think your video will get more attention if you take off your shirt!’
This was the constructive criticism Matthew Olsheski’s boyfriend Paul gave him before he became the YouTube star known as the Shirtless Violinist.
It started as a desire to share his own talent with the violin in beautiful and creative ways. Now Olshski has over 13,000 subscribers on YouTube — and his own identity as a talented, gay, and — yes — very attractive musician.
Clearly, Paul’s advice had some truth to it.
GSN spoke with Olsheski about his love of music and Disney, and the sweet fan responses he receives.
Sharing music and not going back
Olsheski began playing the violin when he was 3.
‘I cannot remember a time without music in my life,’ he says. ‘The violin has become such an integral part of my identity. I know it’s something I will keep with me for as long as I live.’
The videos began when he met Paul.
When he told Paul he wanted to make videos playing the violin, he recalls that Paul’s face lit up. He explains: ‘It turns out Paul’s dream was to be a filmmaker and he was eager to help me make a video.’
At the time, Olsheski was a fitness instructor and that’s when Paul suggested going shirtless.
‘I grew up in a very conservative family, so the idea of taking my shirt off in front of anyone was hilarious,’ he says. But then it took off and there was no going back.
Representing the LGBTQ community in a unique way
Olsheski tells GSN it was never his intention to bring his identity into the project. Instead, he just wanted to share with people the beauty of the violin.
Then it started becoming bigger and bigger.
‘As an openly gay man, I wanted to represent the LGBTQ community in a unique way.’
So he and Paul released their gay twist on the classic Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. The video went viral.
‘Paul and I knew we had struck a chord with our audience, and we started receiving daily messages of gratitude and enthusiasm. That’s when I realized these videos could do a lot more than I originally imagined.’
‘It occurred to us one day that we only got to see heterosexual love stories portrayed on the screen,’ he notes, talking about his and Paul’s love for Disney movies. ‘Oddly, we could still relate to the characters and the feelings of love — even though we didn’t relate to the sexual identities.
‘Not only would it be something special for the LGBTQ community, but we were sure the straight community would be able to relate to the story of love (just as we had done when the roles were reversed!).’
This summer, they have takes on Cinderella and Moana coming out.
The most rewarding part
Olsheski shared a message he received from a fan recently. It read: ‘I am just so happy with your new music video… I lost my partner 4 years ago and this video sums up how we felt for one another. Please keep doing what you are doing because music is the greatest healer.’
He further tells GSN he receives ‘countless messages from fans telling my how one of my videos moved them to tears, warmed their hearts, and even gave them the courage to come out to their families’.
This, to him, is the most rewarding part.
‘I hope my music videos allow people to enjoy this beautiful instrument, whether they already love the violin or are discovering its special powers for the first time. I get a lot of people telling me that these videos have inspired them to start playing an instrument, and that means so much to me.’
He also tells GSN that playing shirtless has inspired people to reconsider their own health with diet and fitness.
An exciting future
Olsheski has come a long way since his first video, shot with a $0 budget on an iPhone.
Now he has a Patreon where fans can help crowdfund his music. ‘With the monthly pledges I receive from fans, I am able to hire camera people, actors, dancers, lighting technicians, and even work with a sound engineer in a recording studio (no more blanket fort for me!).’
His most recent video, a gay love story set to Ed Sheeran’s song Perfect, already has over 11,000 views. Its beauty speaks for itself.
The next step is performing live across the United States.
‘As much as I love making videos that can be shared around the world, nothing compares to the feeling of playing in front of a live audience. The immediacy of the connection between me and the listener – it can’t be matched, and it’s my first love as a performer.’
Check out his YouTube page here.