Jack Savoretti at Cornbury Music Festival
"The only good thing to come out of the death of record stores was the death of genres"
You started out writing poetry, so how did the move to music occur?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer but I wasn’t very good at it, and then I wanted to be a musician but wasn’t very good at that either, so I had to combine the two things together, and when I did that I figured out something that I’d never thought about before, that there was this whole new world of songwriting which is a combination of the two art forms.
Around the age of 16 I discovered Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, these people for whom the song comes first, and so I found that there were these two art forms that I was fairly average at and I was able to put them together and find a way of expressing myself.
For you, what are the creative differences between writing poetry and music?
When it comes to songwriting you have the help of the music. It’s a weird thing when you find out that certain melodies give words more meaning. I think melody can help you express things that it’s harder to express with poetry. You can create the mood so even if it doesn’t define what you’re trying to say, it helps provide an atmosphere that you can adapt to, if that makes any sense.
I wanted to talk about your new album, Written In Scars. I thought the album was less straightforward in its lyrical content than your previous material, and includes more personal struggle. Does the inspiration for this come from your own experiences, or have you been inspired by others?
It all comes from my reaction, so whether it’s my experiences or those of others it’s all things that have happened to me or around me. That’s why I called it Written In Scars, because that’s particularly applicable to this album. I think every song I’ve ever written and every album I’ve ever made have all been personal, but then you take inspiration from elsewhere to get your message across.
We’ve had an interesting career you know, some would say clichéd, some would say unlucky or hard and some would say incredibly fortunate or lucky so there’s many ways of looking at it when you’re in this industry. The one thing I wanted to write about was the continuation of the “grip” of the experience, getting your ass kicked but making sure you stand up afterwards and get ready for the next one. We’ve had our butts kicked but we’re proud because we’re still here. It’s not necessarily a triumphant album but it’s a celebration, almost.
You mentioned your earlier influences like Dylan and Kristofferson, but is there anyone that’s more current that you’ve been impressed or inspired by?
Yeah, before making this album I discovered an album by Broken Bells, which is a group made up of the lead singer of The Shins and Danger Mouse, who’s probably one of the biggest pop producers and is the man behind Gnarls Barkley and so on. They tapped into this amazing way of proving that just because you’re a singer-songwriter, doesn’t mean that every album has to sound like a guy and a guitar. You can take it somewhere else. I’ve always been a very anti-genre musician, I hate genres and I hate being put into a box of “Are you this? Are you that? Are you country, are you rock?” I don’t really like that. I think the only good thing to come out of the death of record stores was the death of genres; you don’t need to direct people where to go in a shop to buy music.
It’s only journalists like me that ever talked about genres in that way anyway, musicians never seemed to care.
I think even that’s fading away. Even from a journalistic point of view, I think people are writing about music differently. People don’t identify with genres that much anymore. When we were growing up it was so important to think “Are you a goth? Are you hip-hop? Are you punk rock?” In record stores, all the good stuff was at the back, all the reggae, jazz and blues, and all the pop stuff was right in the front row.
I think now, because of the internet, people can choose what they like at the touch of a button, and if you hear something you like then you can pick up your phone and you’ve got it and you can own it. I think that because of that, musicians are working together more and when musicians do that, genres go out the window. Going back to the question, what I loved about the Broken Bells album was that it was a folk artist working with an electro producer and it made amazing songs. That’s what we tried to do with this album; we tried to not get tied down to the “singer-songwriter” label.
You mentioned how the internet has broken down genres. Do you think the internet is a positive force for creativity because it’s so easy to collaborate? Or is it that because it’s so easy for anyone to get a Soundcloud account and start promoting their music, there’s so much more mediocre music that you have to wade through to get to the gold?
Initially, I think you’re absolutely right, it is a bit of a bummer because it clogs up the industry and as you said, you have to wade through it to get to the gold. On the other hand, I think it’s making people appreciate the gold again, whereas in the 90s when we were growing up we began to take it for granted. Only now are we starting to miss finding stuff, because in the last 5 or 10 years we’ve had the misfortune of being told as a public what to listen to, and that’s created a certain industry, but it’s also created a whole other space for people that want to discover stuff themselves, and I think that’s good.
You’re playing at Cornbury Festival this year, which everyone in the office is really looking forward to, so what can we expect from your performance this year?
I’m looking forward to it too! We played the festival a couple of years ago and it was great fun. When we found out that there was a Byron burger restaurant backstage we were the happiest you’ve ever seen any of us! I never really know how to explain what we’re going to do, but we always try to leave everything on the stage and make it fun, and a lot of the reason why I wrote the new album the way I did was because I knew we were going to be playing it a lot live and I wanted the energy to always be there. You want to make sure that the songs make you want to play. “Play” is a crucial word; it’s not work or anything like that, it’s playing, and we try to make sure that everybody has a good time when we do our show. Cornbury’s a great stage to do that on because even though it’s a festival, it retains an intimate quality, which we definitely feed off with the music we do. It’s a great place to play.
How do festivals compare to your headline gigs where the crowd has bought a ticket to see you specifically? Does the reaction differ when you have a bigger mix of people?
I love it. I always compare it to a supporting event; for many years, I’ve been the support to big acts where I’m just a random guy with a guitar that comes on and entertains for a bit before they come on, and as much as I find that absolutely terrifying, it gets quite addictive because it’s such a challenge.
The reason you make music to begin with is because you want to play it to people who haven’t heard it, and you want to bring something to them.
When you play a headline tour you’re essentially playing to family and friends: you play to people who know your stuff, sometimes better than I do, so there’s a lot to be said for playing your songs to a fresh crowd and trying to catch them with the music you’re doing. When you feel that happening, that’s the buzz. When you lose a room, that sucks, but when you feel a group of people in a field suddenly connect, that’s the reason we do what we do.
What plans do you have for the future? What else can we expect from Jack Savoretti?
You can expect anything I guess! Anything can happen.
We’re going to be doing a UK tour in October with dates in London, Sheffield, Glasgow, all over the UK and Europe.
This is going to be our first headline tour in Europe, which is going to be great, and we’re just going to keep pushing this record as long as it keeps up, and then we’ll come back in the new year with a new record. That’s how we like to do it, just keep them coming!
- Jack Rayner