Festivalphoto: Your debut album, Many Fish To Fry, is due out at the beginning of April. Can you tell us a bit about the album?
Jake: First albums are a bit like the first question of an interview or the first time you meet someone. You don’t know each other yet and just want to introduce yourself and hopefully make a connection. If you get a little space and encouragement you splurge out every corner of your brain with each other, and that’s kind of what I’ve done with Many Fish To Fry. I’m pleased it’s made so many connections cos it’s allowed me to meet so many people, do so many gigs and generally make the world feel a little smaller for me. That was probably the biggest reason I wanted to make it in the first place so.... result.
Festivalphoto: Was making the album a long process?
Jake: The more time you have the more you question everything you do. Before you know it you’ve spent a whole day recording a snare drum and there’s no atmosphere on it. Or you realise it’s 6 months later and everyone’s changed their mind on how the song should sound.
Perhaps luckily we didn’t have the luxury of tarting around for months in big studios, we just had the best musicians I’ve ever known, all acting on the instincts they’ve been honing their whole lives. That was an important lesson for me I think.
So although we took a little time doing overdubs, the heart and soul of the tracks was us playing together, and was finished in 6 days.
Festivalphoto: Are there any live dates planned to coincide with the album launch or for later in the year?
Jake: Wherever you live I’d really hope there’s a gig you can get to in May. There are a few towns missing from the list, but me and the band will be playing almost every night around the UK for a month. I can’t wait.
I’m also going to spend April touring around doing open mic nights cos I’ve not played many gigs yet this year and I want to get road-hardened in time for those big headline gigs we’ve got in May. Once you’ve done a load in a row you feel like a warrior ready for anything.
I’m also keen to find out what everyone’s up to at open mics cos I haven’t done them in ages. Always good to meet new songwriters. I’ll ask the best ones if they’re up for opening the gigs on the May tour.
Festivalphoto: You have an unusual style of guitar playing (playing it on your lap) - how did this come about?
Jake: I’d reached a crossroads in my life where I thought about throwing all my old songs away and completely start again. Experimenting with guitar techniques suddenly felt like the future to me and it opened my world up 1000% it a totally exhilarating way. Like suddenly anything was possible. People only seemed to write clever compositions with those sounds and not songs with lyrics and everything, so I wanted to explore that.
It doesn’t hold quite the same romance for me as it used to, but ultimately that’s not important. These things are just ways to inspire a song, and songs are what really matters.
Festivalphoto: For the benefit of anyone who hasn't heard your music yet, how would you describe it?
Jake: I used to say I’m a singer-songwriter, until I realised that phrase is almost meaningless, and just sends someone down the wrong mental path. Many Fish To Fry is deeply rooted in emotion and experience, covering every corner of myself I could think of. It’s personal but conversational.
Musically, although the songs started life on an acoustic guitar, we ended up with a huge range of instruments and sounds to help bring out the most in the songs.
To be honest in the time it takes to try to explain it you could have gone onto youtube...
Festivalphoto: What was it like for you to play somewhere like the Hammersmith Apollo supporting Joe Bonamassa?
Jake: If I was any more comfortable I’d have needed a sofa. The sound, audience, the room, everything was just perfect.
I’ve never really been one for nerves, but I had wondered if maybe such a big place would get the better of me. There’s nowhere to hide, and every strength and weakness feels exposed. But that’s what I’ve always loved most about being on stage, so it felt completely natural. More please.
Festivalphoto: Obviously every musician likes to think they'll be successful, but were you surprised to get so much interest from radio stations and the press?
Jake: Totally. It’s a strange idea to write a song in the privacy of your house, then hear it played on the radio. But although I’m honoured to get the plays I’ve had, and we’ve had some good reviews, it’s nothing really in comparison to proper breaking acts. The album’s hardly full of radio singles.
Festivalphoto: Who or what inspired you to first learn to play guitar?
Jake: The first instrument I learned was actually the piano, aged about 8. I would barely break stride coming in from school to sit down at the piano. As quite a shy child I think I saw it as a way to communicate in a way that felt more comfortable to me. I picked up the drums aged 11 (I was quite a strong child), then at 13 I found the guitar and just lost all my shit. I totally found my home.
Actually it was oasis songs that taught me guitar, just cos they were so popular yet so easy to play. If I found a guitar at a house party everyone would just belt them out and it brought people together. Music became so entwined with friends and growing up and the meaning of life that now I can barely distinguish which is which.
Festivalphoto: What bands do you think have influenced your music?
Jake: Ah man I always avoided answering that part of the myspace profile. Aged 10 and younger it was Bob Marley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson. Then Oasis, Blur, Gomez, Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers at school, since then it’s all kinds of people. Talking Heads, old soul singers, FourTet electronica, Quantic Soul Orchestra funk, SBTRKT beats. I dunno. I just sort of waft through, assimilate things and then move on forgetting it ever happened.
Festivalphoto: Which do you prefer and why - CD or legal mp3 downloads?
Jake: I like both, but the real question is what is the future? Probably neither. I’m still waiting for a streaming service that is as easy to use as Spotify and YouTube, but where the numbers stack up a little better for everyone.
Festivalphoto: What was the last album you bought?
Jake: I just downloaded 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields off itunes. It’s a bit like this interview - quite wordy but with some really nice moments.