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Interview: Jack Garratt

Jack Garratt

London multi-instrumentalist and producer Jack Garratt has had the world at his feet since releasing his stunning debut album ‘Phase’. We had a chat with the incredible musician about creating from behind the camera, deep lyrics, and his paralysing fear of flying.

The Surprise Yourself music video just released a few days ago, congratulations! Are you happy with the finished product?

Yeah, incredibly happy. That project and that concept was all created by a guy called Tom Clarkson who’s been a friend of mine since I was a kid. We’ve worked together before on the video for Chemical and on the video for Worry, he’s a visual creative partner of mine. I’ve got a couple of people whose eyes I trust a lot and he’s one of them. That whole thing is kind of his baby. He pitched the idea to me and I absolutely loved it and I felt like the most powerful way to present that was actually to try and disassociate myself physically and personally from it as much as possible. This song is supposed to encourage a message of hope, prosperity, and looking ahead, and I felt like the best way we could execute that was just allowing Tom to just [do his thing].

The thing that Tom does better than anyone I’ve ever met or seen is he just understands human emotion, and I think the video’s incredible because it just focusses on these individual characters, these people who exist on the world, who are terrified by things in the way that we all are. The song and the video just gave them an opportunity to try something, to try and see if they could encourage themselves to look forward, and I’m so proud of it.

I would be too if it was mine! You’ve put out a few music videos now, do you prefer to use actors in the clips or to act in the video yourself like in Breathe Life?

I kind of like taking myself out of it! I still sit behind the camera as much as I can or sit in the editing room if I can…I still make sure that I’m present for all creative decisions and I keep myself aware of what’s happening because I want to and I like to. I like the fact that the videos can be that creative, that I don’t have to be in front of the camera to still be in the videos as it were. I prefer being part of the creative side of it rather than being there on the shoot or being in front of the camera. I’m not sure why that is.

The way I’ve always seen it is I write the music and produce it and mix it, I do all of that stuff, and surely, once it’s finished, the song is there to give someone else the opportunity to be creative with it, you know? I’ve been as creative with it as I can. I made it, now it’s up to someone else to further that creativity from the ears on to another tangible sense, so that you can actually see the song in some kind of way…I don’t know, I much prefer being on the creative side of it, I guess.

Wow, I’ve never thought of it like that, that’s really interesting! ‘Phase’ is pretty much all you – as you said, it’s  self-written, self-recorded, and self-produced. Did you always have a clear idea of what you wanted it to sound like?

No, I didn’t. I also still don’t think I know exactly what it sounds like (laughs). I just try to make an album, I guess. I [don’t] even try and do that, I just try to make music. None of the songs that are on the album are there because it needed more time or it needed filling out or anything like that. Every song is on the album because it should be. There are songs that could have gone on the album that I ended up taking off because it didn’t fit, it didn’t make sense around all the other songs. Nothing is there to pass the time, everything is there to wake you up because every song has been written individually. Every song has been created in a moment where my only goal, thought, or creative purpose that day was that song. There was never a time where I was like, “Oh God, I’ve got to finish this song I don’t like” (laughs). It was nothing like that…yeah, I’m incredibly proud of it, but…I don’t know. It’s a weird one, it doesn’t feel like I did it – like, even though I know I did it, it doesn’t quite feel real (laughs).

Do you have a favourite track from the album?

I have a couple! There’s a song, I think it’s the third song on the album, called Far Cry…yeah, that’s definitely a personal favourite. I can’t quite put my finger on why exactly. It’s kind of one of the more obvious songs on the album for me that I really connected with. When I wrote it, and then when I produced it and everything, I [genuinely] understood the song as I was writing it. I just kind of got it, it seemed to make sense to me. It was the same with The Love You’re Given. [That’s] another favourite of mine, just because – and this really, really rarely happens and I don’t think it is a sign of genius or anything like that – but when I wrote The Love You’re Given, I sat down and the first thing I sung was the first verse.

The lyrics and the melody – everything, it was the first thing that came out of my mouth. It didn’t take any rewriting or any editing at all. The first thing that came out of my mouth is what’s on the record, and that very rarely happens! But to be a part of that moment and to literally feel like a vessel for an idea that existed outside of your head and just passed through you, that’s such a great feeling as a creative person.

With The Love You’re Given, how does that incredible high note work?

(Laughs) Though I do sing that bit live sometimes if the moment’s right, that’s actually a sample, that’s not me! It’s a sample of a woman called Lisa Fisher, a singer from America who I’m a huge fan of, but yeah, that’s a sample. I can hit that note, [but] it hurts (laughs).

That makes sense! I heard it and I was thinking, “Dear God, how high does your range go?”

Yeah, it’ll be me like Robert Plant in 20 years, I’ll be playing that song, I’ll just be doing it two tones down or something, like an edit (laughs).

Your breakthrough single Weathered is my favourite song of yours what was it that sparked the inspiration for those lyrics?

That song’s actually one of the oldest ones on the album! The two oldest songs on the album are Surprise Yourself and Weathered, and they both kind of came with the same amount of luggage when I was revisiting them, you know…I wrote both of them about three years ago, so when I thought about putting them on the album, the first test that I had to go through was  modernising [them] as pieces of production. The song has stayed exactly the same, [so] the only challenge was updating its original demo from three and a half years ago. Lyrically, regarding Weathered, I was just kind of going through a weird time, thinking about finality and what that means, in the same way that lots of people, when they become adults, go from being teenagers to very quickly being in their mid-20s.

You have that kind of overwhelming sensation of finality, and some people are excited by that and some people are desperately terrified, and I was definitely [one of] the latter (laughs) of those two groups, and I just kind of took to writing about it. I found myself thinking [about] being so afraid of it and not understanding why, and not even knowing what you’re afraid of. The song isn’t necessarily strictly about the end of one thing, it’s just about things ending and the inevitability of that, and, you know, [in the grand scheme of things] the lyrics kind of talk more about how weird it is to be scared of something you aren’t in control of and how terrifying it is to not be in control.

We can’t wait to see you at Splendour in the Grass 2016. What are you most looking forward to about your visit to Australia?

I’m looking forward to landing at the airport because I’m terrified of flying. The way that my mind works is I can’t even envision myself in Australia yet because the one thing that I need to do to get there terrifies me so much. Like, I can’t even imagine…my mind won’t let me imagine what Australia’s like, or what it might be like. I’m so excited to come to a place where I know people have been enjoying the music I’ve been making, but I can’t think about anything more detailed than that because of the whole ‘dying in a metallic coffin in the sky’ bit. So we’ll see.

You’ll just have to Surprise Yourself – face your fears, surprise yourself, get over here.

There we go! There we go. Good one (laughs).

Those who were lucky enough to score a ticket to Splendour in the Grass can catch Jack Garratt performing at the festival, or at the Sydney and Melbourne sideshows. 

Check out our ‘Phase’ album review HERE – Get full details on the Splendour line-up HERE

Jack Garratt 2016 Tour Dates 

170 Russell, Melbourne
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay Parklands [SOLD OUT]

Get Tickets HERE

Written by Jess Martyn