by Alex Mansfield
As a quick introduction for people who don’t know you that well: you are a multi-instrumentalist who plays synths, drums, guitar and sings and you do it all simultaneously, using loop pedals. What in God’s name made you want to play your music in this way? [Laughs] I kind of didn’t know any other way to do it. It was the only way that seemed obvious to me as a musician and an artist, trying to make the best music I can. Growing up at home I was encouraged to take the initiative to pick up all these different instruments and writing all these different songs in different genres and I was never told not to so I just kept doing it.
You have a lot of aspects to your sound with soul, electronic and even rock from time to time. If there was one word or way to describe your music, not necessarily a genre, what would you use? Well I think that it’s more up to you than it would be up to me to decide that. I’m trying to spend a lot of time away from trying to pigeon hole myself into a genre. I think it doesn’t help the cause of what I am really trying to do which is to shine a new light on pop music because there are many different lights that shine on pop music. It’s important for me not to call it pop music or soul or blues or electronic or R&B or anything like that. It’s purely just creative and music and fun. I wouldn’t boil it down into one word.
That is more than fair enough. At the moment you are in America and you have toured there before with Mumford & Sons. Is this your first headline tour in America? I’ve done a couple of tours out here before but this is one of the biggest ones I have ever done just like the one I’m about to come back in the UK to do.
And since you’ve been out there you’ve recently got a letter from President Obama! What was that like? Yeah that was pretty crazy. I didn’t know what to expect. About two or three months ago I was contacted by someone in The White House who was just a fan of my music. You find that in this industry that there is a lot of bartering that happens. I have had people from The White House want to see my show in return for a tour around The White House and stuff like that which is unbelievable and an amazing opportunity! I took the chance to do something crazy and sent my album back with a note on the front, thanking him as a member of this planet for at least an effort of trying to bring people together. Not suggesting that anyone is perfect or suggesting that the President in particular has had a perfect streak of being 100% fantastic, unedited never changing human, because we are all imperfect. Then I received this letter about four months later thanking me for my message. I don’t even know if he heard it but I do know that his daughter Malia is a fan. I saw her at a show I did recently and that was interesting.
It’s been an incredible two years for you with so many events from the countless awards to the release of your album in February which reached number three in the charts. With all of these huge events happening in such a short space of time, has all the success settled in? Erm… I mean it depends on how I want to look at those experiences. And I can say with all honesty, hand on heart that its always weird whenever big things like that happen, but it also depends on how you define big moments because if a big moment is just winning an award then maybe I should have my priorities looked at and maybe straighten them out a little bit more. For me, the big moment isn’t the award. It’s not the big grand “celebrity” things that happen - those are weird and they freak me out. The big moments are when I take a step back and appreciate how lucky and fortunate I am to have worked hard and gotten to this place. Like, I’d never been to Las Vegas before and I am here for a festival today and I have no idea if anyone is going to turn up, but my art and my input to music has got me to this place physically.
Moving onto the music itself, I absolute adore your debut album, Phase. For me there are so many classics that didn’t make their way onto the final LP like Water, Remnants and Falling. What influenced you to put certain songs over others onto the final cut of the album? Ultimately, what I was dealing with, was a body of work, like an exhibition of the work I have made over the four years I have been writing music. My styles have adapted and changed and trying to make a concise effective exhibition of my music was kind of challenging and a difficult thing to do. The deluxe version was a nice opportunity, where you walk through an exhibition of your favourite artist, who has brought together all these pieces of work that fit next to each other, and tell a story of some kind but not obviously enough that its guiding you through that story, but subtle enough that it takes you by the hand and kneads you through these pieces of art. But imagine that at the end of that, that there’s another little room that is an eclectic mix of other things that aren’t quite in the same vibe or style as the actual exhibit yet you can still indulge yourself in something different. That is what I took the deluxe as an opportunity to do, to give people who enjoy my music a chance to get to know me as an artist and a creative outlet.
One of the most unique songs you have is I Know All What I Do. For me, it is one of the rawest and honest moments on the album. For that song in particular you have talked about not knowing the effect it would have on your audience. What do you think about its response having finally released the album? I am incredibly overwhelmed by the response of the entire record. I didn’t know what to expect or know if people would connect to the album in the way they have. I really hate it when people say: “If you don’t enjoy this piece of art that I enjoy it’s because you don’t understand it like I do”, as if art has some kind of knowledge behind it, then if you don’t have access to that knowledge you enjoyment of it is limited. I was instead worried about whether people would hear the album in the way that I heard it and I Know All What I Do is one of those songs when I had a moment where it just came out of me in a short space of time and one of the only songs that I produced and put a bed of music underneath it. People have really taken to it and all I can ask of as an artist is that people find enjoyment and an emotional enjoyment out of the music that I write.
Recently you have released some new music with Boy You Should Know Better which is a very glitch electronic song. Is that a direction you want to explore more rather than for example the guitar work you’ve done on other songs? Well the guitar only creeps up on a couple of songs and I find it interesting that so many people identify the glitch-hop theme in that one. I span as many genres as I can and I definitely have two more obvious sounds. Surprise Yourself, Weathered and Falling are big anthemic acoustic feeling songs and the other side of me is the Chemical, Far Cry and The Love You’re Given. I think it feels quite similar to that latter group but maybe I can’t hear my music the same way as other people can.
For the foreseeable future do you think you will keep up with the one man band production you employ or do you want to bring more people in? I think that’s where I am staying right now and I don’t think I’m going to get a band in, I’m fine with where I am and I hope my listeners are too.
Jack Garratt will be performing at Plymouth Pavilions on Saturday 26th November.