“I’ve made music that I really care about, that I think says something” – Interview with Jack Garratt

Jack Garratt is just days into his first tour in over three years – on a short run of dates set to take him across the UK and Europe. Tonight he’s in Leeds, performing an intimate gig as part of his ‘Work In Progress’ tour – an opportunity for fans to hear new music for the first time since the release of his debut record, ‘Phase’.

He may have only played two dates so far – but this tour hasn’t gone without issues. He tells me how he and his crew had “a couple of days of some strange technical stuff going on”, which led him to performing an acoustic set on his first night in Manchester, swapping his immersive live rig for a simple guitar and piano set-up.

We hear applause in the background, as his crew carry out the soundcheck. “That’s a good sound”, he tells me. “An applause from the crew is usually a good sound cause it’s been a really tough two days.” The relief is clear. Garratt and his crew “miraculously” managed to make last nights’ Edinburgh show work, and he’s hoping for the same again in Leeds. However, he tells me, “it wouldn’t be a Jack Garratt gig if something didn’t go wrong.”

Photo taken by Jake Wangner

His second album, ‘Love, Death, and Dancing’, will be released at the end of May. Touring before its release was a conscious choice from Garratt, “The way I saw it was, with the first record I was able to go out on the road for a couple of years before I even had the album together,”, he explains, “I was touring really heavily – playing songs, writing songs, showing them to people before I was recording them, and putting them up online. So I knew the songs were at least listenable because I’d toured them for a bit.”

It’s scarier this time round though. “No-ones heard anything,” he says, “the only people who have heard things, are my family, my management, my label, and me. And they’re all supposed to like it.”

“You don’t know if other people are gonna like it until they’ve actually heard it,” he states. And judging by the reaction tonight in Leeds – people do like it. Garratt storms through a near 90-minute set, chatting in-between about each track. When he gets to his final song, one man asks to hear seven more – an undoubted sign that the second record is highly anticipated.

His debut record, ‘Phase’, was released just over four years ago. Garratt tells me how much that time of his life meant to him, but that “the songs bring very strange levels of nostalgia out of me.” “I think the first album, I didn’t really know what I was saying so I kind of hid behind a lot of unnecessary metaphors,” he says.

The second record is different though; “What’s been really nice this time, is the music I’ve made, I genuinely love”, he discusses, “these songs I have really worked hard on, I tried to not hide behind anything.”

I ask him if he’s felt more honest on this album. “The only way I was gonna make music that I really loved, was if I knew it couldn’t be scrutinised – so I’ve made music that I really care about, that I think says something”, he explains.

“The only thing I know anything about is me, so I’ve just written an album about myself”, states Garratt, noting that “every single song touches upon a really similar message.” He talks of how he spent two years trying to figure out what happened at the end of the first album, after receiving an immense amount of acclaim and awards that he didn’t feel he deserved. “I had to write through that, and write about that”, he says. “It’s my imposter syndrome, and my self-analytical way of criticising myself – how I think I might just be like this forever, but that I’m okay with that.”

Garratt received the BRITs Critic’s Choice Award at the start of 2016, along with also winning both BBC’s Sound of 2016, and Introducing Artist of the Year in 2015. He found this level of acclaim put an “insane amount of pressure” on him though, “- an amount of pressure that you cannot plan or prepare for.”

We discuss Billie Eilish, and the difficulty of predicting success within the music industry. “There’s not a secret formula in the music industry that means sure fire no matter what things are gonna work”, says Garratt, – “when you look at [Billie Eilish] now, you’d think of course yeah people love this – but absolutely not! There’s nothing to suggest that even someone like her, who is now the biggest artist in the world – there is nothing to say you could predict that she would reach that sort of astronomical level.”

Self-taught on most of his instruments, Garratt talks of one teacher in high school, Miss Stevens, who encouraged the creative side of him. “She fucking changed my life forever”, he states. “She encouraged me to be different; she encouraged me to follow my ears, because my ears are very good – they’re better than the rest of me”, he laughs.

Talking about bending rules when making music, he finds that “‘no you can’t do that’ is never a good enough answer. Just because the set doesn’t work doesn’t mean you cancel the whole show. ‘No you can’t’ doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.”

Photo taken by Jake Wangner

Garratt talks of the crushing feeling of being rejected from university – and how that made him question what he wanted to do. “At that age, it’s so fucking hard to know what you wanna do”, he states, adding that he was left feeling heartbroken – “it shattered my confidence, and my belief in what I wanted to do.”

For this tour, Garratt’s live set-up still remains similar – but this time round, he wants to sell his songs, rather than his playing capabilities. “I hope this time people are gonna say the performance was impressive, the songs are impressive, not the physical act of me doing lots of things at once”, he says, “I didn’t want to just sit down with a piano or guitar  – I still wanted it to be me. It’s fucking scary to play – but the reaction so far has been phenomenal.”

In the next few months, he’s set to revisit Australia for the Splendour in the Grass festival – meanwhile his second record, ‘Love, Death and Dancing’ will be released May 29th.

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