Jack Garratt – The Interview
JACK GARRATT talks to us about schmaltzy chords, bringing back the guitar solo and um, being a loser…
Our culture is hung up on labels, definitions, personality and stereotypes. But what the hell does it matter anyway? You can’t stick a genre on Jack Garratt’s creations and his personality doesn’t fit into a box either. But that’s what makes his music so damn awesome.
He’s excitable, animated and dropping the phrase dicking around like bass in a night club. We’re sat outside Strongrooms -dicking around – Jack with a surprisingly neatly trimmed and tame beard, is decked out in a Loony Tunes jockey style coat. It’s bright and brash; a silent statement of not taking himself too seriously. His energy is akin to a litter of super-pepped puppies bounding at my feet wanting walkies.
‘People care too much how they are perceived by their music. I’m honest in my interviews, but I am a totally different person in my music’ After having the pleasure of his company for 30 minutes I’m inclined to agree.
This 23-year-old has a split personality reserved for music-making far from his gregarious, lively non-music-playing mode. His creations come a deep soulful place, poetically maimed by emotions. Jack is very much a man and his music rather than a music-man. But there is a constant in all these contradictions; he’s great company (despite doing interviews all day long), just like his music.
We’re discussing the shift in style from the elegance of his Remnants EP to his latest bass-fuelled track Chemical. He’s a self-confessed ex-writer of ‘shitty acoustic songs’, but learning to dick around – that phrase again – on a piano a few years ago changed everything. How did he arrive at this filthy shift?
‘Why be a beautiful butterfly when you can be a kick-ass chameleon,’ he is so enthusiastic as he speaks he could fall off the bench. Just because history states how a song should be written or what makes a song cheesy, doesn’t mean it has to be so.
‘There’s types of music that now a days are deemed cheesy or silly. And you’re not supposed to do stuff like interesting key changes, schmaltzy chords, guitar solos and jazz in pop. But why the hell not do all of these things?’
Jack has proved that when all of these snubbed musical styles are executed with skill, thought and integrity there’s not even the slightest whiff of cheese. His music is many things, but waxy Edam it ain’t.
‘I’m brining back the guitar solo! People expect it of me now! ’I swear I can see exclamation marks in the air as he speaks.
The jazz breakdown in I Couldn’t Want You Anyway is so seamless, it makes a girl wonder why more people aren’t doing it. But breaking our cultural laws without getting busted is near impossible; it’s just that Jack has a refined skill for smashing them to pieces without making a scrap of mess.
‘Once it’s written and produced, mixed and mastered it’s not mine anymore,’ he states while explaining that his songs can have different meanings to anyone that takes the time to listen. That said, he’d rather be able to choose when his music is synced for TV and ads. There was an episode recently where his music ended up in an ad for show that turned out to be a major flop – neither Jack nor his label were contacted to secure usage rights because the network’s blanket license covered using his track.
‘However, if someone wants to treat the song with respect and use it for a film or a brand that I like then I’m cool. I’m not a brand ambassador, look at me, I’m not that guy.’
So which guy is he? He feels like he’s finally accepted who he is in the past couple of years (that early twenties thing that gets us all if we’re lucky) which probably explains the shift in making music that connects with people rather than passes them by. He runs a few times a week and doesn’t eat junk-food. When he’s in London he hangs out with his fellow musos in West London. He’s switched on. But remarkably, he says there’s not much going on in his head when he performs.
In case you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him live, there’s a lot to behold from a one-man show. After nearly two years of playing his current style, Jack has mastered the art of not thinking and correcting mistakes on auto-pilot in live-shows. A skill much-needed when you play guitar, synth, drums pads, sync loops, aaaaand keys – not to mention sing – all at once. And inside his head while this awe-isnpiring display of octopi-math and rhythm is, well, not a lot!
He has tried sharing the duties with a drummer, and with a whole band, but finding the experience no better or worse, he continues to be a one-man show. This is the kind of low-maintenance artist a label loves!
‘My body knows what to do now. I’ve trained my arms and legs to work separately from my brain so all I’m thinking about it singing. I can’t think about anything or I’m fucked.’
Speaking of being screwed, that’s exactly what wrote the way for Jack’s place in today’s new music spotlight. Losing. Jack entered the Junior Eurovision Song Contest with a ballad and lost. He lost with style though – coming officially last.
‘It was a huge lesson. That life experience was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me revaluate everything.’
Thankfully self-doubt and shattered dreams didn’t consume the 14-year old musician. Being a loser then, is, essentially what landed him a handful of shows at last month’s SXSW and as he says, ‘the minute I don’t appreciate something and I’m called up on it, is the minute I know I’m losing again’
Because of artists like Jack who refuse to play by cultural rules, the UK music scene is a very interesting space to be in 2015.
Jack’s second EP Synesthesiac is due out on April 13th via Island Records. Grab a ticket here to one of his tour dates below.