On His Debut Album, 'Phase,' Jack Garratt Shakes Off Inhibition The BBC called Garratt the "Sound Of The Year" for 2016. He's come a long way from placing last in the Junior Eurovision song contest.
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On His Debut Album, 'Phase,' Jack Garratt Shakes Off Inhibition

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On His Debut Album, 'Phase,' Jack Garratt Shakes Off Inhibition

On His Debut Album, 'Phase,' Jack Garratt Shakes Off Inhibition

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  • Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORRY")

JACK GARRATT: (Singing) My nights are broken up by the sounds of women I'll never meet.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Jack Garratt is not the kind of musician who rose up fully formed like Venus on a clamshell. He made a first go of it when he was 13. He entered the Jr. Eurovision song contest and came in dead last.

GARRATT: That was the first time I ever put my foot in any kind of door, and the door broke my foot as it slammed in my face.

SHAPIRO: He kept at it, though. Today, he's 24, and it looks like this is going to be a very big year for him. The BBC called Jack Garratt the sound of 2016. Other people who won that same title in past years are now huge pop stars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORRY")

GARRATT: (Singing) Pick apart the pieces you left.

SHAPIRO: Garratt is not a typical front man, though. He's more of a one-man band, standing alone on a stage with a thick, red beard, guitar slung over his shoulder, a keyboard in front of him and a drum machine at his side. Jack Garratt's debut album, "Phase," is out today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORRY")

GARRATT: (Singing) Try and give yourself some rest, and let me worry about it. Let me worry about it.

SHAPIRO: In the years between his disastrous Jr. Eurovision debut and his triumphant BBC award, Jack Garratt worked as a teaching assistant to a boy with cerebral palsy. I asked him whether that experience affected his music.

GARRATT: It affected my open-mindedness, which, in turn, yeah, it does affect everything that I do, especially creatively.

SHAPIRO: What do you mean it affected your open-mindedness?

GARRATT: Well, it was - allowed me to gain access to someone who was becoming. And you know, in turn he ended up teaching me a lot as well about losing your inhibitions. Like, I got to see a kid who had cerebral palsy go and hit balls harder and try and run faster than all the other kids in his year.

SHAPIRO: So what's the musical translation of that inhibition - something on the record you might not have tried but you did?

GARRATT: Yeah, I'd say, well, probably something like "Chemical," actually.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEMICAL")

GARRATT: (Singing) My love is overdone, selfish and domineering. It won’t sit up on the shelf.

This song kind of sets itself up in this way first. And there's a choir in the background, and there's claps. And you kind of think it's one thing. And the thing I try and encourage myself to do with all of my music is to invite the listener into a safe place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEMICAL")

GARRATT: (Singing) It won't think beyond itself.

But to kind of build the walls of that safe place with like very soft wood that's been painted to look like concrete so that when the moment it's about to happen happens, the walls can explode like they do here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEMICAL")

GARRATT: (Singing) My life won't reason, loosen up the chains that bound you. Don't try to reason with my love. My love is chemical.

So the song just takes a completely different shift and does something completely different. Now, if I wasn't the kind of open-minded producer that I feel like I am, I may not have taken the chance on that kind of turn. But I felt like it was necessary, and I love doing that in my music. I like to surprise people.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEMICAL")

GARRATT: (Singing) And when you pray, he will not answer. I know this for I ask him all the time.

SHAPIRO: One song that comes to mind for me when I hear what you're describing - and tell me if this is off base...

GARRATT: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: ...is "The Love You're Given."

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK GARRATT SONG, "THE LOVE YOU'RE GIVEN")

SHAPIRO: Did this song start with this falsetto line?

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK GARRATT SONG, "THE LOVE YOU'RE GIVEN")

GARRATT: Yes, it did. Yeah, this is Lisa Fischer, who's a vocalist from America. She was featured in a documentary called "Twenty Feet From Stardom," and this sample is from that documentary.

SHAPIRO: So what did you do when you first got this sample and you started playing with it?

GARRATT: What I did was I just brought it into the studio. I recorded the song sample through the speaker off of my phone at the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LOVE YOU'RE GIVEN")

GARRATT: (Singing) But your ego won't let you love.

SHAPIRO: Did you then just write this lovely beginning, middle and end of the song that we have on the album, or did you experiment and get 20 minutes of music that you cut down to four or - how did it work?

GARRATT: (Laughter) No, the song poured out of me.

SHAPIRO: Really - that actually happens?

GARRATT: Yeah, it does. And when - it happens very rarely. There's an interesting conversation, actually, in the idea of - and this is not me calling myself this whatsoever - but the idea of genius and what does that mean? And is genius something that you have, or is genius something that visits you? I was visited by whatever that is when I wrote that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LOVE YOU'RE GIVEN")

GARRATT: (Singing) I've been trying to give you my love, but you won't let me, won't let me. I've been trying to give you some space, but you won't let me, won't let me. I've been trying to save you the trouble, but you won't let me, won't let me. I've been trying to give you my love. Don't feed the solace within you.

SHAPIRO: There are a lot of electronic musicians who, in a way, almost hide their songs, their voice, their songwriting under the layers of electronica.

GARRATT: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: But on so many of your songs, it feels like the opposite. Like, it starts out - I'm thinking maybe a song like "I Know All What I Do."

GARRATT: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: It starts out nearly a cappella. And then, suddenly, the layers come in, and then we almost discover that you're an electronic musician over the course of the song.

GARRATT: Yeah. Like, this would be quite an interesting song to show someone if they'd never heard of me before because it starts off as a almost Gaelic folksong.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I KNOW ALL WHAT I DO")

GARRATT: (Singing) Fault me for my actions. Fault me for my brain.

But it's a heartbreaking song, but it's a song of self-heartbreaking, of heartbreak that you do to yourself.

SHAPIRO: What do you mean by that?

GARRATT: This song, lyrically, is about owning up to all the parts of yourself that you know were not good enough for the person you've dedicated your life to.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I KNOW ALL WHAT I DO")

GARRATT: (Singing) If I...

If we don't ourselves, we don't deserve the love of other people. Like, we all have those feelings. And this song just owns up to the fact that the person singing it is aware that they're not perfect.

SHAPIRO: You're saying the person singing it - it breaks their heart.

GARRATT: Yeah, yeah.

SHAPIRO: You're singing this.

GARRATT: Yeah, but it's not necessarily about me, though it comes from me, and it comes from my head and my heart and my soul. The best way for other people to be able to connect with it is if they believe it's their's, and it is their's. This song's, when they're done and finished and as soon as they're listened to you by other people, they belong to the people who listened to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I KNOW ALL WHAT I DO")

GARRATT: (Singing) I know. I know all what I do.

The song goes from being very delicate at the start to being very delicate at the end, but in the middle of it, it erupts in this moment of passion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I KNOW ALL WHAT I DO")

GARRATT: (Singing) If I ever leave you, your eyes will remain the sweetest comfort in which I could lay.

Being passionate is a very exhausting thing to be. I'm a passionate person, and it's terrifying because I never know what I'm going to feel in the next five minutes because something may trigger something in me. And this song and all of my songs that I create are there to kind of highlight that - the unpredictability of human nature of the way that we feel about each other and feel about ourselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I KNOW ALL WHAT I DO")

GARRATT: (Singing) I know. I know all what I do.

SHAPIRO: Jack Garratt's debut album is called "Phase." Congratulations, and thank you for joining us.

GARRATT: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I KNOW ALL WHAT I DO")

GARRATT: (Singing) I know. I know all what I do.

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