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British artist-producer Jack Garratt could not have wished for a better introduction. The sharp young newcomer started 2015 as highly touted as he now looks to be concluding it, and with the announcement of his self-written, self-performed, self-recorded, and largely self-produced debut album now readied, that heat looks set to reach fever pitch ahead of its February release.
Drawing the dots between significant moments, and landmark events of this fledgling career would already become a headache – the young Buckinghamshire artist has achieved more than he has any right to, from bringing the house down at Radio 1’s Future Festival back in January, selling out each and every UK and US show he’s played to ever expansive rooms, through to being crowned BBC Introducing’s Artist of the Year at their annual televised awards ceremony this December. The scrapbook is bursting and that’s just volume one. Not bad for a guy who tends to do it all by himself. Maybe the humble ‘bedroom producer’ tag needs an update.
“It’s a bloody minefield!” grins the larger-than-life Jack Garratt, stroking that fine ginger beard of his in contemplation.
“I loathe the idea that if I suggest that I produce my own songs then people presume I’m sat hunched over my laptop weeping into my own self-doubt. Life is too short for all that. I opened the door to a couple of excellent producers for Phase on a couple of songs, and it was a really exciting experience. We got a lot done.”
Truth be told, Jack wasn’t even sure music was a legitimate pursuit, and was already training to become a primary school music teacher when he dropped it all for those drums sticks, pads and keys. It’s been a move none shrewder.
His first release, the limited edition Remnants EP (self-released through Bubinga Records in early 2014 and featuring the first incarnation of Phase highlight, ‘Worry’) was an invigorating, almost spiritual listen. It married those distinct elements of electronica with classic guitar-fronted songwriting, finding their skeletal shape from repeat listens to Channel Orange by Frank Ocean.
“One Christmas, everyone kept telling me to listen to Frank Ocean, but that only made me not want to listen to him. Eventually I did, and holy shit, it virtually re-shaped what I wanted to do completely.”
Conversely, another record that refused to budge from the stereo was Jack White’s Blunderbuss.
“I would say that Blunderbuss and Channel Orange are the primary reasons that I do what I do now. I loved the raw, bluesy riffs and crunch of Jack White, but also that smoothness and ambience of Channel Orange. Why should they be incompatible? They shouldn’t, so here we are.”
Born and raised in a Buckinghamshire village in the South of England, Jack’s parents were musical and he learned to play instruments early, something he’s never really stopped doing. His initial acoustic shows were largely open-mic, but the vision was to take the new sound and shows somewhere else completely. Everything you hear, both on stage and off it, is performed by Jack. The intimacy of the blues and Jack’s scintillatingly raw vocal can be juxtaposed with a bassline that rattles the foundations of the building. He keeps you on your toes, and your hands in the air.
That Jack broadly produces all his own music is testament to the influence of leftfield production. He cites Flying Lotus, Son Lux and Jai Paul as primary examples of taking something and twisting it into something obtuse, fresh, and interesting.
“Those guys are just operating on a completely different plane. I love how disarming their productions can sound.”
Jack’s second EP, Synesthesiac (released early Summer 2015 through Island Records), was indeed a quantum leap on from Remnants. The Love You’re Given, which features here on Phase, is a smouldering, tranquil beauty that explodes in a haze of colour like a firework. Chemical, another track that dazzles on the record, is a gnarly beast that tangles multi-tracked handclaps with a beats-laden dancefloor-hookline. You couldn’t place it, but you knew it was destined for far bigger venues, which indeed Jack is already making light work of.
A first single, Weathered (one of the many ‘moments’ that pepper the live set), and the current second single Breathe Life, show Jack confidently laying out his cards on the table. They are huge, infectious pieces of work, the sound of a young musician finding his feet and showing his strengths. They are songs that sit neatly on the radio playlists, and songs with an innate sense to impress. Phase is a record that is, indeed, littered with them, without any need to truly compromise what sparked all the initial interest. The propulsive Fire, and the torchlight anthem in waiting, Surprise Yourself, are merely two of the handful of songs here that are yet to be documented in those impressive live shows.
Having sold-out a UK tour this Autumn, which included a very special night at Shepherds Bush Empire, and the recent announcement of a headline show at London’s Brixton Academy for April 2016, this is an incredibly impressive feat for a young artist with only a handful of songs out there in the internet ether. You suspect it must, therefore, feel pretty good to be Jack Garratt right now.
“At the moment every day brings something new, something exciting. It’s blowing my mind. I really love it.”