Splendour in the Grass-bound artist Jack Garratt is on the home stretch of an American tour when I catch up with him. Having seen the UK artist perform briefly while at SXSW, it didn’t take long for me to realise just how much of an impact he had made with the release of debut album Phase.
A brilliant insight into Garratt’s musical style, Phase has also struck a chord with Australian music fans as well, earning strong triple j support in the lead up to and since its release. For the 24 year old, recent successes and acclaim is great to receive, but it’s not where his current focus lay, necessarily.
“Even though I do a lot of things on my own, it can’t be about me,” he says. “Nothing is about just me. Nothing is about just you. Those things can be more about individuals than they can be about groups, but it’s always the act of the individual that affects the people around them in some kind of way. Your actions have consequences and that’s why people who are accused of being selfish, are usually selfish. It’s an easy thing to spot. A really easy thing to spot.”
“We all are selfish in some kind of way,” he adds. “We see the parts in other people that we notice about ourselves, that we don’t like. Narcissism exists within all of us, it’s just that the artistic world, the music world, seems to shine favouritism on to those who are willing to be more narcissistic than others. I wouldn’t be happy if my ‘fame and fortune’, which I don’t think is ever going to happen to me, came because I was willing to talk about myself more than other people are willing to talk about me or talk about themselves. If I’m going to be known for a thing, I’d want it to be because I care a lot about the music I make and the people who make it possible.”
To watch Garratt perform, you wouldn’t necessarily assume that there’s any type of apprehension or crippling nerves affecting him while onstage; Garratt is charming, funny and an incredibly engaging performer.
He laughs as we throw back to the last few months he’s spent on the road, “The best way that I describe my live show is just a good description for my life at the moment; it needs to look like it’s a great performance but actually, I’m trying so hard to keep it together. That’s the best way to describe it.”
“It’s a weird one!” he admits, thinking of 2016 so far. “It’s going well. Last year was a good year as well; everything is going well, it’s nice to every once and a while, just take a step back and have a little look. But then I have to take a step forward again and keep going.”
With two tours for Phase already in the bag, Garratt opens up about the challenges and highlights of presenting this material to people outside his circle and indeed, outside the UK for the first time.
“Just being able to take it out on to the road has been the highlight.” he says. “Just having the opportunity to go out on the road. The highlight is being able to do it and the cherry on top is going and knowing that people are coming to see the show. I’ve done two tours this year already, I did America for a few weeks and then came back and did the UK and then I’m off to go to Europe for a few weeks as well.”
“The incredible thing is flying out to America knowing that every show sold out, then landing in America and hearing that every show in the UK had sold out. Every show bar two shows, I think, in Europe, has sold out. Hopefully, fingers crossed, they’ll have sold out by the time I go on the road. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to go and share the music that I’ve written, but to know that people are actually coming to the shows is crazy.”
With Australia coming up soon too, Garratt is excited to venture out this way, closing that nasty gap often felt between Australian artists and those on the other side of the globe mainly thanks to distance alone.
“I keep surprising myself,” Garratt laughs. “I keep finding bands where I’m like, ‘Oh my God, these guys are incredible – where are they from?’ and it’s like, ‘They’re from Sydney’ or from somewhere in Australia. It happens all the time. I remember a guy who was a part of the music circle I ran with in West London, I knew him quite well at that time and have seen him every now and then since – Matt Corby. I’m a huge fan of his work, especially the new stuff he’s been releasing, I think it’s been incredible. I’m really excited to hear more about what he’s going to be coming up with over the next few years; I know he’s doing Splendour as well, which I’m really excited about.”
“I remember finding Hiatus Kaiyote a couple of years ago too and just being absolutely blown away by them and the music they were making.” he adds. “Absolutely incredible. The cultural offering that Australia has to offer is ludicrous. It’s incredible. The wealth of talent and the wealth of ability that exists on that big ass island is just overwhelming, but for some reason, the country is still kind of alienated from the rest of the word. It seems difficult, for some reason, for Australian artists to be able to make that jump.”
Now we’re in this type of ‘global’ music community where it’s becoming easier and easier to connect with musicians on opposite ends, where a cultural ‘identity’ is becomes blurred thanks to a diverse range of influences, Garratt still finds some confusion in the tag ‘international flair’.
“People may say that I have ‘international flair’, but I’ve never been anywhere other than like, London.” he laughs. “When I’m in London, that’s not international flair! It’s really weird that that’s a thing, isn’t it? There must be something about the way that UK music works, that it allows that level of creativity to flourish in certain places.”
“I wouldn’t dare say that London is the place you need to be to make it in this business because it fucking isn’t, but sometimes, if you’re in the right place at the right time and you have the right thing to offer, it can be. Maybe that’s what it is. I’m excited to come over though, I’m so excited for it. I know Phase has been appreciated by a lot of people over there, which has been incredible.”
Still, for an artist whose name is possibly one of the largest buzz names this side of 2016, Garratt remains realistic and with his conscience firmly in check. With each up comes a down and as he describes, becoming alone and operating in a certain way in this industry can be an easy hole to fall down.
“I remind myself of it every day.” he says. “I’m not terrified of ‘losing that creative spark’ and I’m not terrified of releasing material that people don’t like. The thing that terrifies me is that, I do this on my own and so I’m terrified of alienating myself from the people who surround me. The bigger picture isn’t me, like I said, the bigger picture is much greater than me; it’s everyone I work with, everyone I meet and everyone here. I will never, ever let myself get ahead of myself, in that sense.
“I did the arrogant thing when I was 12 because I was a kid and that’s when you get it out of your system. The thing that terrifies me is just seeing other musicians who have been through similar things that I’ve been through, whose attitudes seem to be so much more self-fulfilling. I will never do that, because I don’t think I’d ever let myself and the people around me would never let me. It’s a phobia; I have nothing to be afraid of, but I’m terrified of becoming that kind of person. That’s why I remind myself every day that I’m so fortunate, not because I need reminding, but because I think it’s just good to tell myself that.”
The constant reminder that his music is gaining a wider reach now and therefore, he has to be thinking ahead now more than ever, is one that Garratt speaks of almost religiously. It’s a must and it doesn’t come from a cocky or self-aggrandising place.
“I think it’s important for any artist to have that frame of mind,” he says. “No matter what point of career you’re in. I’ve had this same frame of mind ever since I started this, ten years ago. Essentially, it’s always about that bigger picture and the bigger picture always includes more people than just me. I think of all the people I work with and all the people I make the music… not for, but the ones who listen to the music I make. My intention is for them. My art is for…I don’t know! It needs to be good, because it’s for other people.”
Phase is out now.
Jack Garratt will be appearing at Splendour in the Grass this July 22nd – 24th. He will also be performing some sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney, supported by Kacy Hill.
July 20th | 170 Russell, MELBOURNE
July 21st | Metro Theatre, SYDNEY
Photo: Daniel A Harris