After being treated to watching the best soundcheck ever, Adam Jackson and Ellie Koepke got to sit down and chat with one-man-band singer-songwriter and musical mastermind Jack Garratt at the Hare and Hounds.
How would you describe your sound?
I’ve always tried to avoid that question, because if someone was listening to my music who hadn’t heard it before, and only read something that said “He sounds a bit like…” – automatically the person then tries to find that in the music that I’ve written. I’d rather not limit the experience of listening to any kind of music by a biased opinion when they haven’t even heard it yet. Then they won’t have an honest, instinctive reaction to it. For me to give a genre would make it unfair on the audience who are listening to it for the first time.
What music are you currently loving?
There’s a lot! I’ve put a playlist together which plays between Billy Black’s set and mine. A lot of Hiatus Kiayote – although I’m under strict instructions (from myself) to not listen to their new album, because I’m writing a lot at the moment and I know for a fact that if I listen to that record, I will just try and rewrite the entire album. Not because I want to make it better, just because I want to write everything that they do ‘cause I’m such a huge fan of their stuff.
Your music is quite unpredictable too, like Hiatus Kiayote’s.
Yeah! In the chorus for ‘The Love You’re Given’ when the drums kick in and everything drops, it gives this glitch effect. You never have a place to ‘sit’ – the drums are the place where you’re supposed to go “Ok this is my beat”, whereas usually with my music it’s the case that the fluttering synth patterns that are the beat. I try and keep my drums as not on-the-beat as possible.
Do you find at gigs that people fall for beats you miss out?
It happens in ‘Worry’ a lot – because the recording is not on the beat at all. I do it with the melody as well – the things I sing live are totally different. For the first time ever in Oxford we had a full-on 400 people sing-along, BUT it was hilarious because it totally freaked me out! It’s not that they’re singing the wrong melody, but they’re singing the wrong melody! I’m used to another one now. I did it with ‘Chemical’ as well –it’s so much fun. Building up that song and getting everyone ready for the chorus, when it doesn’t come, then suddenly I do it and everyone goes “ahhhh!” – it’s a lot of fun to play with the audience.
How difficult has it been to make the transition from recording to live shows?
They’re two completely different things to me. I do plan for them to be completely different mediums. People will say afterwards “Not a big fan of the recordings, but holy shit live it was incredible” – which is, for me, a good thing. When I play live, that’s where I really love to do what I do. The recordings are more difficult because it’s a lot harder to get emotion in a song, without forcing it out because you’re singing a sad song that day, and it’s gonna be immortalised in those 3 and a half minutes. As soon as you watch the live video and go back to the recordings, it kind of makes sense. So much of music nowadays is presented in this way that the audience doesn’t have to appreciate the effort that goes into the creation of it. So, I’ve always openly said I write and produce my own music. I’m immensely proud of that, because I’ve worked for a long time to get to a place where I can do that. I’m continuing to grow, and continuing to better myself. When people see the show and see that I’m doing all this stuff myself, they can go back and listen with another level of appreciation. You hear the emotion that wasn’t there the first time round because you’ve seen the emotion the performance had.
If you had to have only one instrument from your set, what would you pick?
I don’t even have to think about it, it would be guitar. Without a shadow of a doubt. I’m a blues guitarist, first and foremost, that’s how I learned to do music. I’m not an electronic artist – I’m doing it at the moment because it’s the best way for me to use myself to introduce a new way of looking at pop music. If next year, huge acoustic music with big symphony orchestrations were suddenly the popular thing, I’d find a way to use that and turn it on its head and fit inside that world. The songs I’m writing at the moment, I’m just producing in a way that I know people will be able to connect with because it’s a way I connect with. But that will change and grow and continue to adapt. So the one thing I always keep with me, at all times, is a guitar and a piano, because that’s where it all comes from. That’s how all the musicians I grew up listening to wrote their music. I try and keep close to home as much as I can, so that’s why I try and use the guitar in a live set. And it’s a hell of a thing as well when you think you’re going to see an electronic act and he breaks into a guitar solo at one point.
What happened to ‘Nickel and Dime’? Your style is quite different now.
A lot of people question those big transitions because it can look like selling yourself short for the sake of success. Straight up, I used to do acoustic blues music because I loved it and a lot was happening at the time – there was a lot of James Morrison and John Mayer was still relevant – it made sense to do acoustic blues music. I then realised I wasn’t happy doing that and I was kinda shit at it. Anyone could have written ‘Nickel and Dime’, it’s such an easy song. And I love that song – it’s a good sing-a-long, Tom Waits’y but in a poppy kind of way, and I love all those things! But it’s really easy. The lyrics don’t make a lot of sense, because I’m not very good at writing lyrics and I wasn’t very good at writing lyrics back then. It’s a straight up blues song that steals moments from lots of my favourite blues songs at the time, and I turned it into a 7-minute sing-a-long thing. I’m immensely proud of the things I did back then, because that experience was really beneficial to me, and helped me mature in my songwriting.
If you take out everything about ‘Chemical’ and just listen to the opening melody, it’s a straight up blues riff. ‘Lonesome Valley’ is just blues gospel. That’s all I like writing – nice, well structured, good melodies, but with some interesting production and challenging chords.
Is there any part of you that just wants to play in a blues band?
I used to – I literally used to play in a blues band. I was in a band with a friend of mine called Burning Beard for a while, we were a hard-core blues rock band for about a year. I ended up leaving on really good terms because I wanted to go and pursue my own career.
I used to run a blues night at Ronnie Scott’s for a while – we were called the Filth Street Blues Band. They do that on the first Tuesday of every month down in London. I’m waiting to go back and play it ‘cause I miss that thing so much. I used to play in a blues trio when I was a kid… So yeah I’ve always been able to exercise it and have fun and play shit but I dunno, maybe that’s one of the things I’ll do in the future – a straight up blues record, go all Tom Waits on everyone for a little bit.
What made you decide you wanted to do all this stuff on your own?
I just naturally fell into it. I’d always been producing my own stuff but never seriously. I just taught myself to do it, bought myself a laptop, got Logic, and just sat down and forced myself to learn how to produce a piece of music! The sounds have always been in my head, so the challenge is always to take them out of my head and put them through my fingers, and that is producing. There was no decision to do it on my own. The only decision that was made was in a meeting before Remnants came out, and names were floating round about people I could work with in the studio and I was kind of quiet in the corner thinking, I don’t agree with any of these names, this is weird. I sat there and went “Can I do it?” and everyone kinda went “Yeah, I guess!” and I did it! The only thing on that record I didn’t do all on my own was ‘Worry’ with Crassix Gold? And that’s because we wrote that song together and he’s a fantastic producer, so I went over to Copenhagen and finished that with him. The rest of it is just the demos, really, with a better mix. There was never a moment of “No I’m gonna do this all by myself, fuck everyone!” It was “I don’t need anyone else unless I need them.” It’s the same for live, I don’t need people up on that stage just so I can say “I have a band” – it has to be necessary. I’ll do it when it does become necessary and when it does make sense.
Big summer – lots of shows, lots of tours. I’m going off and doing the Mumford and Sons run for a little while which is gonna be fun. Just finding time to record and write – I’ve got my laptop with me at all times so I can do some stuff on the road and just trying to keep myself excited and creative. The shows are really fun at the moment – it’s nice to go up and take my mind off everything else for a little while, play in front of people. I think we’ve sold out tonight, which is unbelievable. People are coming to the shows and that’s crazy, and easily one of the most gratifying and humble experiences. I’ve never been to these places before! I will do anything I can to make sure they have the best time possible. So that’s what’s coming up next, I’m gonna dedicate this year to making sure other people are having a really good time.
No! I’m doing it by essentially masturbating in front of all of them. I made that joke on the Communion Stage at SXSW in a Church, and it was dead quiet…