GO­ING THROUGH HIS PHASE

Can Jack G ar rat t’ s de­but live up to the hype? He dis­cusses the high-risk strat­egy in Phase

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

The night be­fore this in­ter­view, Jack Garratt’s ra­dio show aired on Ap­ple Mu­sic’s Beats 1. The prob­lem with a two-hour show, Garratt says, is that you miss out on a lot of stuff.

Still, he got to play Stor­mzy, Justin Tim­ber­lake, An­der­son .Paak, Jamie Lidell, a great new­bie called Seramic, and an oldie called Michael Jack­son. He played Steely Dan’s Kid Charle­magne along with Kanye West’s Cham­pion just to show where Kanye got the sam­ple.

There’s a big, happy grin on Garratt’s face as he sits in a quiet cor­ner of a Ber­lin ho­tel lobby and re­views the show. When the 24-year-old says he loves mu­sic, he’s not kid­ding. He knows the cut and fold of ev­ery­one from Fly­ing Lotus to Ste­vie Won­der. He can join the dots and make the con­nec­tions un­til you’re dizzy from lis­ten­ing to him.

Garratt can also, of course, talk about his own mu­sic, though many oth­ers are al­ready do­ing that for him. Even be­fore

Phase, his de­but al­bum, is re­leased, Garratt is al­ready some­thing of a hit.

He topped the in­flu­en­tial BBC Sound of 2016 list and has won this year’s Brit Crit­ics Choice award. (Pre­vi­ous win­ners in­clude Sam Smith, Adele, Florence & the Ma­chine and El­lie Gould­ing, so no pres­sure). As far as the mu­sic in­dus­try is con­cerned, the dude’s a made man.

Still, the singer-song­writer him­self is not cocky enough to think it’s all go­ing to go ac­cord­ing to plan.

“There’s a huge risk, a huge chance of loss,” he says. “I could re­lease some­thing and the au­di­ence I’ve been con­nect­ing with for the last four years could turn around and go ‘ah, you know, this is not for us’. I could re­lease my al­bum a week af­ter Kanye and it

could just dis­ap­pear. James Blake and Frank Ocean could put out al­bums the same week and you’d have to roll with the punches.”

The man from the vil­lage of Lit­tle Chal­font in Buck­ing­hamshire is cau­tious. But when you’re the one get­ting such at­ten­tion and ku­dos, there’s al­ways plenty lin­ing up to have a pop, some­thing Garratt finds in­ter­est­ing to ob­serve.

“I sup­pose I do give peo­ple a lot of easy am­mu­ni­tion,” he ac­knowl­edges. “Some­thing which was thrown at me is that this suc­cess I’ve had comes from be­ing signed to a ma­jor record la­bel with a huge team of peo­ple around me. There was an ar­ti­cle about this re­cently, and it’s just lies. My core team con­sists of six or seven peo­ple and has done so for the year and a half I’ve been signed and the year and a half be­fore that.

“For peo­ple to sug­gest that it’s been an easy jour­ney for me to get to this po­si­tion means we’re do­ing our job prop­erly. It looks like it’s just hap­pened, but it wasn’t like that. It’s so fuck­ing hard. There have been so many set­backs and fail­ures and heartache.”

To­ry­ter­ri­tory

Then, there are those who have a go at his up­bring­ing in a part of Eng­land usu­ally rep­re­sented by Tory politi­cians.

“The political stand­point of the place where I grew up had no ef­fect what­so­ever on my up­bring­ing,” he says. “It’s not a political stand­point that I am re­motely af­fil­i­ated with or a part of. Peo­ple like to talk about the fact that I ap­pear to be a white, priv­i­leged hip­ster who comes from a Tory part of the coun­try, whereas I couldn’t give a shit about any of those things what­so­ever.”

He de­scribes the kid who grew up in Lit­tle Chal­font as “very con­fi­dent, re­ally ar­ro­gant”, who came from “a re­ally lovely fam­ily in a re­ally lovely part of the coun­try”.

How­ever, in hind­sight, Garratt says there were a lot of self-es­teem prob­lems. “I spent all those ear­lier years of my life de­grad­ing my­self and beat­ing my­self up. I was des­per­ate to be ac­cepted be­cause I had such low ex­pec­ta­tions of my­self that I tried to find those ex­pec­ta­tions in other peo­ple.

“I got to a point when I was 20 that I dropped out of univer­sity be­cause I felt I didn’t have any pur­pose and I wanted to find a fire in me.

“As soon as I moved out and was on my own and had noth­ing, I found it. I was in Lon­don and I found a great sup­port­ive com­mu­nity of peo­ple and have never looked back. The minute I moved to Lon­don, I changed ev­ery­thing about my sound, my ap­pear­ance, my con­fi­dence. I was fat, had ter­ri­ble skin, didn’t look af­ter my­self and had a big curly Afro. I did a 180 and my self-es­teem to­tally changed.”

Like many teenagers with doubts, Garratt feels he couldn’t speak about what was go­ing on in his head.

“Be­ing able to speak openly about those very in­tense, very raw, self-an­a­lyt­i­cal emo­tions at that age is dif­fi­cult. For me, it was dif­fi­cult be­cause it hap­pened at a time when I re­alised I was a bit more ar­ro­gant than I should be.

“The idea of talk­ing about my­self be­cause I needed to be­came some­thing – I didn’t want to do be­cause I only ever talked about my­self be­fore be­cause I wanted to. I spent my en­tire child­hood go­ing ‘look at me, look at me, look at me’, be­fore re­al­is­ing I needed some­one to look at me for more than just what I was show­ing off for.”

Fi­nally,calm

Garratt fi­nally found his feet, writ­ing songs and play­ing mu­sic. “When I moved to Lon­don, I be­gan to make sense of my­self and re­alise that we’re all as fucked up as each other, and ev­ery­thing be­gan to calm down. It doesn’t make it any eas­ier – life still sucks. But, emo­tion­ally, I found an enor­mous amount of calm.”

For his de­but al­bum, Garratt favoured emo­tions when it came to the songs. “The al­bum has taken three years to fin­ish, from me writ­ing the ear­li­est songs to fin­ish­ing the new­est song. I get in­spired by the sounds that evoke an emo­tion from me. That’s what I am drawn to; that’s what turns me on. The best mu­sic is the mu­sic which brings out some­thing of you that you didn’t know was there be­fore, or you did know was there but had avoided.”

Phase is now done and dusted, so there is no go­ing back. Garratt’s happy with how it sounds and how it rep­re­sents him. What comes next is in the lap of the gods, though he has a sim­ple plan.

“I just hope the al­bum comes out as planned, that peo­ple will like it and it won’t be up against the Frank Ocean al­bum.” He smiles. “And I hope I’m still do­ing this in a year’s time – and still get­ting to talk about mu­sic as my job.”

Phase is out now on Is­land Records and is re­viewed on p12

I sup­pose I do give peo­ple a lot of easy am­mu­ni­tion. Some­thing which was thrown at me is that this suc­cess I’ve had comes from be­ing signed to a ma­jor record la­bel with a huge team of peo­ple around me

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