Eloquence is a virtue that you don’t really come to appreciate until you speak to Jack Garratt. The English multi-instrumentalist and electronic music producer joins us via a slightly dodgy telephone line while in Chicago, but even the signal drop doesn’t take away the passion that he holds for his music.
It’s been over two months since the drop of Garratt’s debut record Phase, an album that has taken him across the world, allowed him to work with the likes of Craig David, Anderson Paak and Son Lux and also picked up the Critic’s Choice Award at the 2016 Brit Awards.
But all of this recent success doesn’t take away the constant creative buzz that Jack Garratt holds. Having been making music for over a decade, Garratt has developed a productive habit, no more apparent than in the last two months when he says he’s been laying down new sounds almost everyday.
Set to hit the Splendour In The Grass stage in just over two months time, from his tone of voice Garratt genuinely can’t wait to get to our shores. But as he says, the journey isn’t all that desirable.
Music Feeds: So you’re coming over for Splendour in The Grass this year, but you don’t seem to be stopping until at least November! How do you feel about the amount of travel you have been doing? Do you enjoy it?
Jack Garrat: The travel is ok, actually. The only thing that gets to me is the flying. I’m not very good at flying actually I’m terrible at it. It’s all planned, and all of the relevant people know and I obviously know that I’m coming over to Australia very soon to finally do some shows, and I’m really looking forward to it.
I know the album has reached quite a few people out there and I’ve had people from Australia get in contact with me asking me when I’m coming over. But I’m also terrified about the whole ‘dying in a metal coffin in the sky’ bit. That’s the thing that kind of throws me off.
So are you an artist that tends to use travel time as inspiration for your song writing? Or do you spend the majority of your flying time freaking out about death?
If I’m honest, that’s most of my time in the day anyway. But on a plane not so much, I try to use that time to kind of accept what’s happening and, I guess, distance myself from the world and everyone on it. But if I’m on a bus and touring, I’m usually free for most of the day, or my work day starts at 5:00PM when I go into sound check and then I might have a couple of interviews to do and then I have a show to do at 12:00AM or something.
So I usually have a laptop with me most of the time, and I usually have a keyboard that I try to take into the dressing room and try and set up a small little studio so I can keep myself active. I like to keep my mind working even though I’m not actively writing the next album, but I am writing new material all of the time.
Talking to a lot of musicians, they seem to be thinking about the next record almost instantly after releasing the current one. Even though you say you’re not actively writing for the next one, Is this the case for you?
If you think about it, the album’s cut off point was only put there so people could begin to listen to it. If it was up to me, and I think any other artist, you could always go back to art and adapt it, change it, even maybe update it with whatever emotion that has carried you into that day. Art is there to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, but the intention of the artist is to make something provocative and something that is worth people’s time in some kind of way.
If I could I would go back to all of my songs and keep tinkering with them and adapting them, but those songs kind of don’t belong to me anymore because other people have listened them to. So yeah if it was up to me, then I’d keep adapting and changing the album but I had to stop at some point. So that creativity doesn’t just stop because the album is ‘finished’, which I think is kind of what you’re talking about.
A lot of musicians once they have given such an intensive amount of time to their creativity, it’s not like you just stop giving that creativity just because your mind has told you that you should stop now. Your body just instinctively does it.
Yeah exactly, or as has been shown in recent times you could follow Kanye West’s path of giving it to the world, then tweaking and changing it before our eyes…
Yeah there is that option. But I guess there is a difference between intending to continue creativity or just not knowing if you like something or not and I’m honestly not 100% sure what ‘The Life of Pablo’ is out of those two [laughs]
I think we’re on the same page with that one. Speaking of the album, your debut ‘Phase’ has been out for around 2 months now. Have your perceptions about it changed since it was unleashed into the world?
Since it’s been released I definitely do feel differently about those songs than I did back in September when I was finishing the recordings for a lot of them. The thing is, and it’s the same for a lot of artists making music right now, I had started the songs myself and I was there throughout the entire journey of the songs getting finished, whether that was completely on my own or with another writer or someone else. I then also produced the album, mixed most of it and was there for the mastering of it as well. So every process for the album, I was there for in some kind of way.
Though that is happening more and more for artists that are trying to take control of their creativity and trying to make sure that they are being represented in the most honest way possible, it’s still kind of a new way of making music. It’s still kind of weird for an artist to be there for every step of the journey. But that does take a huge emotional toll, and a physical toll as well, because the more you hear something the more you get used to it therefore the more you want to change it because you want to make it different. So for me it was like after two days of listening to something I wanted to change it because I was like “oh that’s boring,”.
But it’s not that I feel that way about the album, because as I said it’s not mine anymore. It now belongs to the people who have been so lovely as to listen to it. So yeah, I listen back to it now but only to compare where I am now to where I was in that short amount of time, which was only six months ago. So it is different, but it’s a part of me. It’s a memory of me.
Yeah and from that memory of you I think what a lot of people really enjoy about your record is that you can hear so many different elements from your love of soul and blues to pop and obviously electronic. How do you go about combining all of these elements?
It’s interesting that you bring that up, I was kind of thinking about this today. I honestly am not sure.
Unless it was like your job as a producer or something who was hired to come in and make things sound a specific way, then yeah. Like there are some songs that get produced everyday for particular markets, but that’s more so in the more ‘poppy’ side of the pop world, where you can hear that they have been influenced by a particular song. Like there was a One Direction song that I remember hearing and I thought “that sounds just like Baba O’Riley’ [by The Who]. It was exactly the same.
That’s not to say that it is a bad thing because it’s good to take that kind of inspiration, but I think there is a difference between being genuinely inspired by something and then just stealing for the sake of good record sales or because that formula has been tried and tested.
But inspiration is supposed to be instinctive; you’re not supposed to know where it comes from. I was thinking about it today because I was working on some new stuff, and I was thinking about Prince a lot. Not just listening to his production and his music, but also hearing the way people spoke about him. I read an article that Questlove wrote about him as a producer and the way that he honoured his peers by doing the exact opposite of what they would do. It’s not as if he sat down and went “oh I’m going to do everything different to James Brown because I love James Brown so much,” that’s just the inspiration he took, I doubt he actively made that decision. He just did Prince.
But that’s what I try to do, I try to encourage myself to just forget about what I’ve done before and what I might to do in the future and just enjoy being creative in the moment.
In saying that, you have discussed in a number of interviews that pop music is quite multi-faceted and has also developed a lot over the last few years. Do you have any thoughts on how you think pop music will progress over the next few years?
Oh, putting me on the spot here. I don’t know to be honest but I do think about it a lot though.I get thrown names at me all of the time from people who are trying to describe the music that I make. The best way that certain journalists or others do that is through comparing it to other music that they’re already aware of. That just seems to happen.
But there is a reason I think why I get thrown so many different names. I get everything from the more obvious ones of like Justin Timberlake, but then I’d also get Bon Iver a lot, or even just little moments where people would be like “oh you sound a little bit like Stevie Wonder in this bit,” or even the soulful side of Jamie Lidell’s production. I get all of that. But what I don’t get is, or I guess what I haven’t personally understood, are names like Imagine Dragons or Ed Sheeran being thrown at me. But I think there is a reason why that happens; I think people are desperate to try and genre artists that are not actually caring about genres anymore.
Like we’re in the last age of people that cling onto the idea that pigeonholing is a good thing and all of the young. I think what’s really interesting is that these names and genres of artists who have established themselves as songwriters and producers, they are being thrown onto a young and vibrant generation of music makers who actually don’t care about being pigeonholed. They’re not even arrogantly trying not to be pigeonholed its just our generation of musicians are inspired by musicians of 20-30 years ago who didn’t have many to look up to. You know, like Prince didn’t have Prince to look up to, but I as a multi-instrumentalist do. It’s that kind of thing.
So I think pop music is really interesting right now because it’s trying to be new. It’s trying to be different and exciting and I think it’s genuinely succeeding in that right now. Whether it will actually continue to do that for the next five to ten years I don’t know. But also pop music is very sombre right now and I think of the new wave of pop music as being so serious.
But it’s so artistically driven, such as Lemonade that Beyoncé just dropped. It’s an incredibly powerful, serious and artistically driven foot to put down from the woman that gave us Crazy In Love.
It’s amazing from someone that has had such a long-term career. Butt hat is also something that you mentioned, that you had been making music for around 10 years but a lot of people feel that you have had a meteoric rise or a quick rise to fame…
Yeah but I think they’re right in a way. If someone doesn’t hear about me, and then suddenly they do, all that they have to do is Google my name and then they find out all of this information about me. So to a lot of people, it does kind of seem like an overnight thing.
But like you said, I happily talk about the fact that I’ve been trying to write music for over ten years. Well actually I haven’t been trying, I just have made music I can’t seem to stop myself [laughs]. But that’s the thing; It’s only to certain people. But they’re new fans and that’s great. As long as the family keeps getting bigger then I’m happy.
Speaking of Google, I found out that the first single that you bought was the Teletubbies single ‘Say Eh Oh!’…
[laughs] Yeah absolutely! It’s a fantastic piece of composition and music making.
Please tell me you still own it?
No I’m actually not sure where it is. I got that as a kid as a CD, and the B-Side of it was ‘Mary Mary Quite Contrary’ I think. But the funny thing about that is that I actually ended up working with the guy who wrote that song. A guy called Andrew Mccrorie Shand, he wrote all of music for a lot of children’s TV in the UK like The Teletubbies. He also did Brum and Rosie and Jim, but actually I’m not sure if any of those made it out to Australia! (CD)
Jack Garratt Australian Tour 2016
Wednesday, 20th July
170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets: Secret Sounds
Thursday, 21st July
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Secret Sounds
Splendour In The Grass 2016
Friday, 22nd July – Sunday, 24th July
North Byron Parklands, Byron Bay