INTERVIEW: Jack Garratt

“I refuse to believe that my emotions are problems that need fixing. They’re just not. My sadness is an amazing part of who I am, and I want to encourage it, but I don’t want it to be in control” Jack Garratt insightfully confesses during the final moments of our exploration into the sonical world he’s created for his highly anticipated sophomore record ‘Love, Death & Dancing’. 

The British singer, songwriter and producer circulated a lot of hype with his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Phase’ which saw him winning two prestigious UK music awards in the same year. However with a world tour following, he quickly burnt himself out and fell down a rabbit hole of depression. 

Unsure of what the next chapter would look like for him, he started creating music that was unapologetically honest and transparent with the emotions he was facing at the time. The final product is an experimentally charged record that is emotional, euphoric and just has you wanting to dance. 

Sitting down over Zoom, I chatted in-depthly with Jack Garratt about the battle with anxiety and depression which shaped the candid and vulnerable foundations of ‘Love, Death & Dancing’. Exploring his understanding of the importance of being self aware, he opened up about the expectations that his debut record ‘Phase’ set, which weighed heavily on him. Check it out BELOW; 

THOMAS BLEACH: What was something you learnt about yourself as an artist from the creative and touring process of ‘Phase’ that set the foundations for your sophomore record ‘Love, Death & Dancing’? 

JACK GARRATT: Quite honestly, the amount of unintentional long term harm I did to myself on the first album is something I’ve learnt from quite heavily. When I was putting this album together, I started doing it because I was trying to write something that was in spite of that time and that moment in my career. And that’s not the right way to make anything, at least not for me anyways. I’ve never made good art out of spite, but I’ve always made good art because I was in touch with emotions. 

The touring, writing and creation of the first album on a public facing level was fine, but on a private level it was laced with a tinge of despair and confusion. I didn’t know who I was at the time. It was honestly just a formidable time in general. I was a young man turning into an artist who was getting some traction through releasing songs online, and then I won some awards that immediately defined me as a type of artist that I didn’t think I was. 

I won the British Critics Choice Award and the Sound Of 2016 poll, and there have only been four people who have won both of those in the same year, and they are Adele, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding and myself. And I wouldn’t normally put myself in a category with those three people. Like, there is a quite obvious difference in household popularity between me and them. 

So these awards should’ve been something that I celebrated, but instead they became shadows that followed me everywhere. I still have them, they are in my living room, and I look at them every day whether I consciously know I am doing it or not. But I’ve approached this album as a reclaiming of the time that I lost to just serving the awards and instead celebrate myself by being honest about myself. It wasn’t something that I was able to do on the first record, but it is something that I’m able to do now. 

TB: You’re someone who is very self-critical, so have you found that during this isolation period that you’ve been over evaluating this upcoming record and wanting to make last minute changes at all?

JG: Until somebody else takes it from my cold hands, then I will be continually trying to make changes to something I am working on. I’m not really good at putting a full stop at the end of a sentence. 

But this time around, I actually knew the best thing I could do was have the foresight to know when I was done. I went to America to make the majority of the record with one of my best friends James Flannigan and a producer called Jacknife Lee. From going back and forth to the US and the UK, I ended up creating the sonical world that this album lives in. 

But once we finished about a year ago I took all of the music we had done and I brought it home to my little studio and that’s where I stitched the album together. And that’s always a dangerous place for me because that’s the fun part as that’s where I get to add all the last minute ideas. It’s where I also start questioning whether I have the confidence to add new instruments to a mix that already sounds really good or if I should leave it and started overthinking it all. It was a really weird couple of weeks but a very necessary one. It was the difference between a demo version of a song and the finalised version that everyone gets to hear on the album. 

TB: The album heavily reflects on day-to-day depressions and anxieties. What would you say is the most vulnerable moment on the album for you personally?

JG: I’m not sure if there is a “most vulnerable” moment as they are all vulnerable in their own lights. They all talk about very different things and there aren’t any two songs that reference the same issue.

For example, ‘Get In My Way’ is a misguided arrogant song with bravado about my not caring about what journalists think of me. But then the latter half of the song is me over and over obsessively repeating an affirmation that it will convince me that I don’t care what people think of me because I really fucking care what people think of me. So there are moments like that on the album that present one idea and then flip it. 

Then you have ‘She Will Lay My Body On The Stone’ which is a very intimate song about my relationship with my wife and my conflicting relationship with death. That’s an obviously very honest side of the record, and is probably the most explicitly vulnerable because of its lyrical content. 

But then there are songs like ‘Only The Bravest’ which I wrote for a friend who was going through a really horrid and emotionally abusive relationship. I try not to write from the perspective of other people because I don’t have the right to do that. So I wrote that one from my perspective of watching him go through that situation. And it’s honestly one of my favourite songs on the album because I tried to write it as reminder of just how special this friend of mine is to me.

TB: The goal you set yourself was to create an album for people who like to dance but don’t necessarily want to go out on a Saturday night. So, what is an album that makes you want to dance and feel free?

JG: I was just listening to ‘Discovery’ by Daft Punk the other day because I hadn’t listened to it in a long time, and that is from front to back a 9/10 record. I don’t like 10/10 because I don’t believe in perfection, which is a conversation I should be having with my therapist and not a journalist *laughs*. It is a phenomenal album sonically and emotionally and just makes me want to dance which I love. 

I was also listening to ‘Hotter Than July’ by Stevie Wonder recently which is one of my absolute favourite Stevie Wonder records, and that’s got some absolute smash hits on it. Both ‘Discovery’ and ‘Hotter Than July’ lose themselves in the last three songs in my opinion, but other than that they both have moments of perfection. 

I just love music that makes me want to dance. Just because I don’t like going out on a saturday doesn’t mean I need to starve myself of a good four on the floor. 

TB: The singles ‘Better’ and ‘Time’ both have radio edit’s available on the releases. How do you artistically feel about these edits and what they lose from the song?

JG: I hate radio edits, but I know that they are necessary and I’m not an idiot, so I play the game *laughs*. I understand the reason for them, and at the end of the day all art is subjective.

‘Time’ as a track is nearly 6 minutes long, so no radio station is going to play that, so I knew I needed to offer something a little more commercially friendly. After all, one of my major goals for this album is for people to hear it. I genuinely believe that from all the genres and inspirations I pull from that there is something for everyone on this album.

When it comes to radio edits I still have a criteria for them, and I do all of my own edits personally, I don’t let anyone else do them. I’ve had labels attempt to do my radio edits for me and I’ve refused to listen to them because that’s just not what I’m here to do. I want to oversee all the detail because it’s got my name on it, and I care about my art. 

Personally I would always choose an album edit, but to put it in perspective I worked with Katy Perry on her album ‘Witness’…

TB: Can I just say that ‘Power’ was an absolute banger!

JG: It’s the best song on the album and it should’ve been a single *laughs*. Nah I’m kidding… but I would say that to her face *laughs*. But since then I’ve been able to have quite a nice relationship with Katy, and I actually sent her volume 1 of ‘Love, Death & Dancing’ when it came out, and she sent me a text saying “by the way listened to the new music, it’s great, I prefer the radio edit”. And I literally just sent her a message back saying “always the business woman” *laughs*. But she is, that’s honestly how she thinks and that’s her genuine reaction to it. 

That radio edit will be some people’s favourite even though it’s the exact same song, it’s just how some people like to ingest their music. As much as I don’t like doing it, I do believe that everyone has the right to listen to the music I make, and I want as many people to hear as possible. 

TB: You’ve previously spoken about spiralling with your thoughts after you released ‘Phase’. So what have you done to work on your self doubt that when you release this record that you don’t fall back into the same thoughts you had previously about your art? 

JG: I’ve encouraged myself to be more in touch with myself, and that’s a very easy response to have to a question like that, but it’s a very difficult thing to do in practice. I, as a part of my job sake, need to be emotionally available. The challenge is always to never let one of my emotions start to overtake my decision making and influence my other emotions. 

To be honest I just want to hold onto the lessons I’ve learnt, that’s kind of all I can expect myself to do. A big lesson I’ve recently learnt is that emotions don’t just happen in one’s and zero’s. My emotional state isn’t binary. It’s not one thing or the other, it’s a weird fusion of everything. My favourite thing in the world to feel is happy/sad or sad/happy. To have these two purely self-indulgent emotions exist at the same time can make me feel so alive. 

I’m starting to get better at looking at my behaviour and seeing patterns to where I might begin to spiral. The worst thing that happened to me on the first album was that I was too deep into a spiral before I realised I was in it to then start preventive measures to not spiral. 

I came off a tour that had absolutely ruined me physically and emotionally and realised that I was depressed. This time around I’ve experienced highs and lows with my depression while I was away and I’ve learned how to read myself, and take notice of what triggers me, and what signs my body gives me.  

For example, two days ago I noticed one. I had a day off and had a huge panic attack in the morning because I only had one day off, which again is something I need to speak to my therapist about, but I had a stomach ache all day and by the time the evening came I just watched YouTube videos that I had no interest in. That evening when I was going to bed a little voice in my head went “be careful. It’s fine but take note of what happened”. And then the next day it happened again, and that night the voice came back and was like “okay, it’s fine, but be careful”. So then the next day I was very aware of it and was trying things to lift myself out of this spiral before it started to get worse.

The fix is never going to be “never be sad, always be happy” because I refuse to believe that my emotions are problems that need fixing. They’re just not. My sadness is an amazing part of who I am, and I want to encourage it, but I don’t want it to be in control. 

‘Love, Death & Dancing’ is out now!