If you do one thing before you die, make sure you catch Jack Garratt live. The man is, without any shadow of a doubt, a star. Boasting talents as (deep breath) singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Garratt has consistently knocked our – and the world’s – socks off with output like The Love You’re Given, Chemical, and most recently Weathered.
On stage, he’s a force that we’ve never experienced before, balancing dubstep womps with choirboy falsetto that has an audience in a pin-drop thrall. And, joy of joys, it’s all balanced with a healthy dose of self-effacing humour from a man who we’ve discovered is both switched-on and erudite.
Having toured with the likes of Ben Howard, he’s now on the road with Mumford & Sons (don’t hold this against him). We managed to catch Jack on the phone before one of his live dates for a quick chinwag with the future star. Well, if you can call it a chinwag for someone whose chin is perpetually hidden behind the most majestic beard since Zeus.
Hello, Jack. Where in the world are you right now?
I’m in Edmonton, in a hotel. Literally across the road from the arena that I’m supporting Mumford at tonight. Quite a foreboding landscape to look at!
We understand you’re a bit jet-lagged – normally we’d offer a massage but we can’t do that here because a) you’re on the phone, and b) this is where restraining orders come from.
It’s very kind of you offer though. Thank you very much.
Are you based over on the other side of the Pond now? And are you recording a lot of your album in the States?
I’m based here as much as anyone venturing into this career is, in other words I’ve dumped some stuff with someone! I’m still recording a lot of what I’m doing in the UK, but currently because I’m travelling and touring so much I’m doing as much as I can on the road. It’s a blessing more than anything because I’m a bedroom producer, so all I need is my computer. I started writing a new song the other day when I had a nine-hour trip which was really good!
That must save you a lot of studio time and cash monies…
Yeah, I travel with my laptop and my microphone, so it saves the hassle of trying to find a studio. So I can do it in my car, I can do it in a hotel room.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve recorded a song?
I’ve not yet recorded anything just yet. The weirdest thing was when I started this new song. I was in the back of a van. You drive for so long when you get out to America. I’m very uncomfortable when I fly, so driving is something I enjoy. They’re amazing but they’re intense and draining but they can be a bit cabin-feverish, so I just get my laptop out.
That sounds like our idea of hell, spending nine hours in a car. Or going on a cruise. But anyway, we wanna go back to when we saw you at your last tour date in London at Village Underground earlier this year. Firstly, that massive big fuck-off laser…
(laughs) That was a surprise for everyone, including myself!
But that night, we could tell that you were quite emotional. What was going through your head?
We’d just finished that couple of weeks on the road, it was the first proper UK tour that I’d done. That particular show was memorable and emotional for me was because of the venue. It was a milestone. There are certain things as a musician that, not that you have to do them, but if you are doing them you feel like you’re on the right track. So doing two sold out shows at the Village Underground, we exceeded what that milestone should be as we were only supposed to do one. Two shows back-to-back was unbelievable. Everything about that night summed up what the last year and a half was about.
I’m not one to get lost in those milestones, but when they come about they’re gratifying and lovely but they’re always humbling. And this is another milestone here – I’m supporting a band that I’ve known about for years at an arena in a country I’ve never performed in before. It’s always as emotional as when you saw me.
I love to collaborate, but inevitably you will have to meet someone in the middle and compromise your own wants
Well we very much enjoyed it. One of the things that came out of it for us was that it was just you on stage. Not like the Mumfords who have a full set-up, just you doing everything. Does it ever get a bit “fuck, it’s just me out here”?
Yeah, it does. I work on my own a lot when I’m recording. Not out of choice, but I’ve always done it like that. The live shows seem to follow suit and be something I can be in total control of. For me more than anything, I love to collaborate but inevitably you will have to meet someone in the middle and compromise your own wants for the sake of somebody else’s opinion. But when it comes to my show, I like to know that I can throw my gear our and I can be the one to compromise with myself. Because of that I do some crazy shit! That’s something I revel in.
Also what I’m doing – I think – is different to what anyone else is doing out there, which I think is a by-product of putting this set together. All these things came together, and people seem to enjoy it. I love that because when I stand on stage, my only job is to make sure people enjoy the music that I’m making.
Were you never tempted to have a band of your own?
I did try doing the same set-up for six months and then went to a room with a drummer for a while. We went into a room for a couple of weeks and it was him who said “this doesn’t work”. The idea of expanding was to better the performance I was already giving, we had a chat about why it wasn’t really working, and it just wasn’t the same. I’ve always wanted a band, but I play a lot of different instruments and so far I currently don’t need one.
It’s an interesting point because hanging out with the Mumford boys, they’ve expanded with a horn section and everything. If I do get in a band, I’d want five different ‘me’ on stage. Like copy and paste my set-up and have everyone do the same thing…
So not much of a control freak are you, Jack?
(laughs) Oh God no, not at all, I don’t know where you got that idea from! It is difficult. I’m not a control freak with other people, only with myself. If I don’t have a band, I can only piss myself off. I can’t stand confrontation and I like being nice to people. If I can do that on my own, there’s only me to be told off.
Sure. If something fucks up, the only person you want to blame is yourself. Is that a lonely life though?
Yeah. (pauses) Yeah it is, but I have a great team of people around me but it’s very small.
The reason I didn’t go down the talent show route is that I saw a side I didn’t think the music industry should BE like
Now, we told ourselves there would be only one of two cliché questions we would allow ourselves. We won’t ask you about your beard because we’re very jealous of it, but we are going to ask about Junior Eurovision – how come you didn’t go fall for the talent show trap?
The reason I didn’t go down the talent show route is that I saw a side that I didn’t think the music industry should be like. When I saw the other side of the industry, I threw myself into that – artistic freedom and not being dictated on who you want to become. From that moment I’ve been trying to find out who I am and offer that to other people through the music. Which would have been a lot more difficult to do had I been on that side of it. And you see people on the other side trying to make that transition – they’re very talented but it’s a very different transition to make.
And finally – how does it feel to be getting so much attention from places like Beats1 all on your own? Are you starting to feel some extra pressure now?
Attention is a very strange concept. It comes hand-in-hand with the idea of fame and celebrity. I don’t understand any of those things. I’m not actively looking to expose myself to them. But the point that you make about attention, it does make it an inevitability. As it stands I’m just revelling in the fact that there are people out there who are loving what I’m doing. I didn’t really know what Beats1 was when it started, but it’s a pleasure and privilege to be involved. It’s the same with the Radio 1 attention because all I want to do is spread my music, and all I can do is put my hands up and say thank you very much.
Weathered by Jack Garratt can be ordered here.