During my first listen of ‘My Hands’ there was just something about Jack Gray’s smooth vocals that instantly stuck out. Maybe it was the way they were layered over the playful and experimental pop production or how there was a slight emotional twist intertwined with the upbeat nature. But whatever it was, there’s no denying that it made the song a memorable pre-summer anthem. After the release of his summer soaked debut single he backed it up with the relatable ‘Drunk Talk’ before stripping things back on ‘Take Our Time’ and getting angsty on ‘Down Side Of Up’. Continuing to build a strong discography, Gray has released his debut EP ‘Nights Like This’ which is a reflective collection of his dark thoughts and realisations.
Bringing these songs to life in his live show, he has been learning how to hold an audiences attention by opening for the likes of Dean Lewis and E^ST. But these shows were only really warm up gigs for his upcoming debut headline shows which have already sold out in Sydney and Brisbane, with Melbourne soon to follow suit.
In the lead up to the release of ‘Nights Like This’, I sat down with Jack Gray on a sunny afternoon next to the Sydney Harbour to chat about the memorable moments that shaped this EP, the difference between playing solo and full band shows and reflected on the support his local community have shown. Check out the chat HERE;
TB: Your debut EP ‘Nights Like This’ is quite reflective. So reflecting back on the crazy last year of your life what stands out as one of the most crazy or memorable moments?
JG: I’ve honestly had such an amazing time over the past year and a half. But one of the most memorable moments from it all would be just making music with my boys in the studio and in my bedroom. We have had some of the best laughs and just make great music together. And to be honest that’s all I want to do these days, just sit in the studio and make music with my friends. I’ve been so happy creating music with them and looking past this EP the music we are creating is super fun and upbeat. Whereas this EP is quite sad and reflective. I want to focus on good vibes and look to a better view like this one in front of me *points to the Sydney Harbour*. It’s really happy, cool, have fun, chill vibes.
TB: It seemed that ‘Fools’ even started to head in this direction for you…
JG: Yeah, definitely! It still had a darker tone to it lyrically but I really want to create this quirky feel to my music.
TB: Whilst you’ve been working on this EP and touring Europe and Australia, what has been sonically inspiring you? Has any influences shifted into your sound cause of the cultural experiences you’ve had?
JG: Watching Dean Lewis’ set evolve and learning off him even whilst as he’s learning himself has been so great because he’s really like a big brother to me. He taken me under his wing and been a really good influence to me.
TB: Coming from a “rural” area like Mackay, do you find there is a bit more of a self pressure to succeed with the opportunities that are occurring right now?
JG: My small town was pretty good even though there was a lot of drama. Most of the reflective stuff on the EP is referring back to my time in Mackay and growing up there. I even touch on the rough times the town had with the song ‘Bullet’. I don’t really feel the pressure, it was a really good place to grow up and it’s a good place to go back to visit and touch base. But I don’t really find there to be a pressure.
TB: Your songs are very vulnerable. And sometimes the emotions run very high on this EP. So what would you say is the most vulnerable moment for you as a songwriter?
JG: ‘Bullet’ is a very vulnerable track but I guess I’m not really talking about my story there as I’m talking about other people’s experiences. ‘Fools’ is very vulnerable personally. I talk about how I have no money, I have no friends and I’m a fool for loving this girl. Although it sounds quite quirky and upbeat, it’s still a very vulnerable track. My favourite lyric from it is probably; “Now I’ve got no friends, how’d this happen again? I need you to stop fucking with them”. To me that’s a pretty vulnerable lyric.
Oh actually ‘Drunk Talk’ follows a similar vain, so it’s quite vulnerable too. We all say stupid shit when we’re drunk.
TB: The last year has seen you playing a lot of shows whilst going out on tour with the likes of Dean Lewis and E^ST. Support act roles aren’t aways the easiest, so what has been one thing you’ve learnt about yourself as an artist from playing these shows?
JG: I’m pretty patient. I don’t want to sound like a dickhead right now, but I am. Everyone I’ve toured with have been so great and accommodating but sometimes shit doesn’t go your way and as a support act you have to cop a bit of that. Sometimes you will get the venue and won’t be able to soundcheck with your inner ears and all you get is a fifteen minute line check to make sure your instruments turn on. So you have to play your set with an unmixed sound in your head which is not fun.
It’s been a great learning curve. I’ve learnt to be patient and I’ve learnt that I’m not super fussy or high strong. I understand why these things happen.
TB: Throughout all this touring you’ve done a mixture of solo and full band shows and I’ve luckily seen you do both of these stylings. So for you how do you find your performance and confidence differs between these very different and contrasting sets?
JG: That’s a really good question! The two sets I’ve done are so different and I guess that’s always going to be a point of difference with my music, I’m going to do what I wanna do. If I want to make a James Blake styled soundscape song then I will do that, if I want a punk rock song then I will do that or if I wanna do a groovy, quirky indie record then I will do that too.
So in a live aspect it’s been really cool being able to pull off a solo and full band show. But it’s also really fucking hard *laughs* because learning songs is like muscle memory. Playing ‘Fools’ on acoustic guitar is different to the way I play it on electric guitar so I find myself constantly messing up and having to think of what version I’m playing.
One thing I’ve learnt in this industry is that you need to rehearse and that’s what I’m doing now. For the last couple of Australian tours I have put in no rehearsal time but now I’ve learnt how important it is and I’m really focusing on it.
TB: Are you excited to get back on the road in July?
JG: Dude I am so excited! Mainly because these are my first headline shows. And whilst they may be small venues, I am trying to stay humble *laughs*, but it’s going to be so much fun because we are going to bring the energy. I’ts going to be so much fun! I’m excited to do things my way, to have the lighting my way and to have the sound my way. It’s a very different thing to headline instead of support which I still don’t even know about yet but I’m excited to find out.
TB: Last time we spoke you said the one emotion that you want people to walk away from your live set feeling is inspired. Has that goal changed or shifted for you?
JG: Totally! I was so worried about what I had said for a second *laughs* but I whole heartedly still stand by that. Every show that I’ve ever been to that I’ve loved, I’ve walked away going “fuck that was a good show, I want to go home and work on my songs”. It makes you feel inspired! So I want to do that for other people, I want to be good enough that people are like “I want to do something like that one day”.
TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.
JG:I’m so bad at these but lets do it *laughs*
TB: My pre show pump up song is…
JG: ‘Love If We Made It’ by The 1975
TB: The emoji that best describes my EP is…
JG: The red face where his tongue is sticking out. That’s a vibe man!
TB: My dream collaboration would be…
JG: Myself and Tame Impala.
TB: Most mornings I…
JG: Have a coffee!
TB: The sexiest language is…
JG: French! I can’t talk it but I walk around listening to it and it’s so sexy.
Jack Gray’s debut EP ‘Nights Like This’ is out now!
Nights Like This Australian Tour
Thursday 27 June – Oxford Art Factory Gallery Bar, Sydney *SOLD OUT*
Friday 28 June – Grace Darling, Melbourne *Selling Fast*
Saturday 29 June – Greaser, Brisbane *SOLD OUT*