Jack Garratt has effectively proven to the world that he is a jack of all trades (pun sincerely unintended), but more impressively—a master of it all. The British multi-instrumentalist is currently on tour promoting his debut album, Phase (2016), which features the hit song “Worry”, originally introduced in his first EP, Remnants (2014). After a phone conversation with Jack, I arrived at a few conclusions, which helped me better understand his artistic motivations, objectives as a performer, and personal philosophies.
“I don’t have the magic words that explain the music that I make because it’s difficult to explain…it’s everything. It’s music. It’s limitless”
I don’t know what to call Jack’s music, and neither does he: that’s the point. Citing muses David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon, Jack Garratt also refuses to categorically delimit his own sound. He instead emphasizes the importance of creating music that feels right and honest—a creative venture that knows no boundaries, transcending genres and reductionist music dictionary labels. Curious as to whether or not other artists are ever actually told to pigeonhole themselves, he was never explicitly told to do so, and so he simply never did. Jack claims he “was never good at sticking to one thing”, a characteristic made even more apparent by his stage performance, in which he alone sings and plays the piano, drums, and guitar. Growing up, he has always possessed an inexplicable knack for doing it all. From self-writing to self-producing and self-performing, Jack is a distinguished, professional musical multi-tasker.
“There is a distinguishable—hard to distinguish—difference between arrogance and self-confidence”
Phase is the most honest representation of who Jack Garratt is. Confident in what he has produced and grateful for the label to which he is signed, Jack is still reluctant to call his debut album as belonging to solely him—or to the label for that matter. He genuinely—albeit, incongruently—decrees that the record “is mine, but also not mine”. I sense an authentic degree of modesty laced in his voice when he discusses Phase as it starkly contrasts the old stuff he used to write and perform in the past. To him, his old music was comparatively more disingenuous: aiming to please audiences at the expense of his own personal and artistic integrity. He has since learned to be proud of what he puts out, and so Phase was born.
So what draws the blurry line between arrogance and self-confidence? Jack reminds himself that “it could all disappear as quickly as it seemed to come together. Being a musician is something I’ve been working on since I was a kid, I’ve only been professionally doing it, I guess, [for] the past few years”. Jack Garratt is proud of what he has produced and pinpoints the same feeling in the performances of other artists for whom he greatly respects. Referencing Chance the Rapper’s performance on Ellen, Jack praises Chance’s performance and overall artistry as absolutely honest and individual, and never “in spite of the music industry” or “in spite of a label”. Jack glorifies Chance’s performance etiquette and self-written songs to indicate how important it is for a person to simply “be proud of what you do”, no matter what that thing is. At 24, Jack Garratt has already achieved that feeling via a truly “honest and representative” album he can confidently call his first—a feeling with which he hopes everyone becomes acquainted in his or her own respect.
“What I remember when I walk out on stage is I am there to give the people a moment. I want them to leave as exhausted as I am when I walk off that stage otherwise I’m not giving everything I can”
Jack Garratt recognizes the audience as the “leader of the show”. The one-man-band even goes as far as to call himself “the least important person” in a given venue. Laughing off the ostensible irony to this statement, he imagines “if I went in thinking I was the most important person, then it would be equally as much of a shit show if I didn’t show up at all”. And so it was after this declaration that I came to learn that one of Jack’s most integral keys to success—professionally and otherwise—is humility. Humility serves as a performance enhancer, in that Jack remembers for whom he is there to entertain, and then does just that all too well and with everything he’s got. He treats a show like a unique opportunity to cultivate any experience he wants. Where his songs and records are immortalized the way in which they were finalized in the studio, each show is an outstandingly matchless event after which he hopes the audience will be just as tired and satisfied as is he.
To get to know Jack Garratt a little better, listen to his self-representative debut album Phase, or witness him doing it all for yourself on Wednesday, September 21st at the Mezzanine in San Francisco where—I promise—he will treat you like the most important person in the room.
Interview and Content by Myra Farooqi