Jack Garratt is incessantly jolting during his set. The 24-year-old bearded multi-instrumentalist’s face is almost aching; paining for every minim on his keyboard, every chord on his guitar and every pad on the pedal of his drum. An artist who feels so much as he takes the stage, there is no rhyme to his musical reason; the only common denominator to Garratt’s formula is he lets you feel his trembling falsetto in every track before a sudden eruption of sound, of power. It’s here, you can’t turn him off. I read somewhere that someone had described this performance as “a firecracker that just wont go out” and that’s exactly what he is; a trick birthday candle, a peaking heart-rate monitor, witnessing a high-octane car chase along a really long highway.
It’s intentional though, he tells me. “As an artist, in the moment, you try and immortalise the culture that you exist in in that very point in time and you add your own impression on it,” he says. Sometimes though it would seem even he becomes overpowered by his own emotional strength in performance; his recent Splendour In The Grass set saw him cover Craig David’s 2000 single Seven Days and Justin Timberlake’s 2002 hit Senorita before ending in real life tears.
Credit: Michael E. Wolf/ Claudia Sutiono
The interesting thing about Garratt is he doesn’t go for that reaction in you. He used to though. Starting out, the kid from Buckingham Shire, England, would perform songs for the crowd reaction to the music, irrespective of how he felt about it. He did it, as he says, “more for attention than for the love of what I was doing”. Today though, after releasing his album Phase, he says he was finally putting out honest music and the kind he really, really cared about. “I made that album with the best intentions I could have made that with, which was to make something that was truly me,” he says. The evidence, he says, is in his friends.
“I have truly wonderful friends and they have been coming to support me for a really, really long time. It’s now switched into a place where they like to come, they like to enjoy the music rather than having to come to support a friend.”
Being preordained as the next loud sound in British pop does come with it’s certain pressures. This year, Garratt took home the influential Sound of 2016 award and even won the 2016 Critic’s Choice Award at the Brit Awards. (The UK Telegraph will tell you this award is chosen by industry tastemakers who feel a talent is worthy of a major marketing push into a near-guaranteed successful spotlight.) Those before him – Adele, Florence & The Machine, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith and James Bay – are all previous recipients of this exact award and a reminder of the places Garratt could take this whole music thing.
Credit: Michael E. Wolf
“There was a lot of pressure while producing Phase after winning that award. It was definitely a shadow that existed over me. And I could feel it, I could feel the presence of something breathing down my neck,” he says. “But I think more than anything that pressure was coming from journalists continually asking me that same question, reminding me every day of the pressure.”
“No, no, Jess. It makes a lot of sense to ask that question in retrospect. I have to keep bettering myself and challenging myself. The pressure comes form me. I would have felt a lot of pressure having won those awards. But I’m not in it for that.”
Garratt is wildly engaging. Mentioning my name throughout the interview so as it’s more of an informal chat about music, his innate fear of flying and other profound things like his definition of his Chemical lyrics (he’s not singing about love by the way). Articulate, inquisitive and very chatty, Garratt nearly purposed these skills on a career in teaching. “I was going to go to university and study teaching and I worked at a school for a year as a teaching assistant,” he says. “It felt like a safer option.”
“But music kept calling me and it kept bleeding out of me. I kept writing songs, I couldn’t stop myself from being a musician.”
And thank the music gods he didn’t make it to a real classroom. Because now we can witness the magic that is Jack Garratt on stage in all his fire-cracking ways.
Part 2 coming soon to GRAZIA Sounds.
Phase is out now. You can buy it and stream it here.
Performer: Jack Garratt
Artist label: Universal Music
Production: GRAZIA Australia
Video: Michael E. Wolf
Sound Engineer: Gareth Stuckey
Editor: Claudia Sutiono
Venue: Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay