It’s fair to say that Jack Garratt has had a pretty good 12 months. The Buckinghamshire-born multi-instrumentalist scooped this years Critic’s Choice BRIT award and shortly after nabbed the top spot on BBC’s Sound of 2016 poll. It’s no stretch to say that he is this year’s most talked about new artist, and has come a long way from sneaking out of his house as an underage teenager to play open mic nights in pubs. As far as teenage rebellion goes he could have done a lot worse, plus it’s paying some serious dividends now.
With his album release this month it’s a safe bet to say that that Jack had better get used to the fame game sharpish. But before his ego inflates to Kanye West size proportions we sit down for a chat with music’s newest electro wunderkind.
I don’t really remember having a day where it was like “oh, okay so now I’m a musician”. That music creation has just always been in me I guess, and I needed a way to utilise it and turn it into a strength rather than a hobby. I guess my journey into the music industry has been something that’s been growing for the last 10 years, but it only became serious when I moved to London about four or five years ago and lived week by week trying to make money as a musician.
It was a huge compliment, and it was incredible to be on that list, it was an honour. To celebrate coming first in it though as if it was a competition is to look at it in the wrong way, as those lists and roundups are meant to excite people about music for the year ahead, not single out individuals but bring together a group that are going to be doing good things. The Sound Of List did that with everyone they picked this year, from Mura Masa to Blossoms to Loyle Carner and all the others, it’s just really exciting music, and I think it’s particularly exciting this year because everyone was in a similar place of just being discovered and just getting their foot in the door.
Ooh that’s a hard one, as there’s been so many. I’m lucky that a lot of my shows have been very busy, because it’s obviously good to play a show that people are actually at! I don’t really have any that stick out as better than others, but all my London shows have been great. I did two shows at The Village Undeground last year and that was a real experience – we had lasers, huge lighting rigs and I had a lot of fun curating that night and bringing it all together. London shows are always difficult, because you feel you have to prove something to a home crowd, but the second night was spectacular because the pressure was off in a way.
I try to keep a lot of my songs ambiguous lyrically, so people can read into them in a way that seems right for them. Rather than stating facts or telling stories I try to encourage emotions out of the people listening. Because of that I don’t talk too much about what my songs mean, as I don’t want people listening to my music with preconceptions. All my songs have a strong connection to something that’s happened in my life though, particularly “The Love You’re Given” which is quite dark and melancholy. Basically everything has its own meaning, and my job is to make sure people have their own feelings about my songs.
I think there are challenges of being a musician today no matter what age you are. People who report on music occasionally like to discourage major record labels, and say there’s a problem with them and they dominate the music industry, and as someone who has been both an independent act and on a major label that’s not been the case. It’s not the industry I’ve seen anyway. I think nowadays there is a level playing field, in the way that anyone can put their music up online. Obviously there are places where that is more difficult, and that’s hard for independent musicians, but you can give your music to the world at any time. Everyone is utilising this in the best way they can, and everyone’s having to be more creative. One of the great things about being a young musician in this generation though is more people understand how difficult it is, and how much of yourself you have to give, and how emotionally exhausting this whole process is. I don’t agree with competition in music, it completely defeats the point of it if you turn it into a competitive sport, but musicians and singers and producers are just collaborating and loving each other’s work, and that’s really exciting, and even though there’s so much music out there, nothing is being diluted. There’s still an emphasis on loving what you do, and I think that’s more apparent right now than it ever has been before.
I think there needs to be a dramatic shift, and that music sharing online is still young in a way, almost as if it’s becoming self aware but also acting out like a toddler. I think that’s something to be looked at. It’s an incredible idea but not there yet, ultimately music needs to be shared but it’s not being done right at the moment. There’s a lot of people complaining about not getting paid enough, but that’s not the way to do it, you should instead encourage a great idea to change things so it’s better and fairer for everyone. I think that will happen eventually, as people will stop creating stuff if they’re not getting paid for it, it’s like if you opened a cafe and no one bought your coffee, you’d stop doing it. I think things will either stop, change, or live music will become more important. To be honest I’m young and new to this, but ultimately people should just take pride in what they make and what they do, and I hope that doesn’t change.