An Interview with The Smouldering Singer-Songwriter, Jake London!
Sure, singer/songwriter Jake London is quite the looker but more importantly, he’s an incredibly talented musician with an interesting back-story that I was lucky enough to learn about via interview.
His impressive upcoming debut album Runaway Heart is a collection of 10 complex and nuanced modern folk and country songs ranging from slight twang to acoustic rock. It’s an album full of emotion stories that everyone can find something to relate to.
Without further ado, here’s my Q & A with Mr. Jake London:
Can you offer us a brief journey of your musical career thus far from your perspective?
I ended up a musician somewhat by happenstance. I was never a kid who dreamed of being a Rock Star nor did I pick up the guitar at 13 like a few of my heroes. My older brother had just passed away when I was 18 and I basically decided to drop out of school and go after riskier career endeavors.
I chose to pursue entertainment. I moved to LA not knowing anyone. I had an apartment to myself. It was a lonely time but I managed to find a friend in a borrowed guitar. I started messing around to pass the time and the messing around became an obsession. I would sit for hours on YouTube trying to learn songs, chords and understand some theory. I also wanted to sing and play but had no clue HOW to sing or if I even had a voice worth listening to. I began by emulating other singers I looked up to until I found my own voice. I also took some vocal lessons to better understand the voice as an instrument and how to use it. I think I’d say I got here by a series of events that were meant to happen.
Tragedies are a devastating thing for anyone to go through, but sometimes (and I will attest) to the fact that the silver lining can be a self-discovery. I believe someone watching out for me somewhere above has cheered me on this journey.
What has the music scene been like in Los Angeles? I read that you got started performing at open mic nights! How was that?
The music scene in LA I think is and always has been beautifully eclectic.
You can hear ANYTHING out here. While LA is highly competitive and saturated with insanely talented musicians, I think you can still carve out a following with hard work, persistence and patience. I did start out performing at open mics. I would go every Monday and Thursday to the Gyspy Den in Santa Ana, CA. I began by ONLY watching others until I FINALLY decided it was my week to try it. It was dreadful. I was a nervous wreck. I hadn’t quite learned to sing properly or even play that well, but I wanted to see if my lyrics connected with an audience. I still have some old audio from those days… and yes I do cringe when I hear it back. I got better at it though. In my opinion open mics are novice songwriter rites of passage.
Can you pick a favorite song from your album, Runaway Heart?
I’d have to say my FAVORITE song on the album is the Title Track “Runaway Heart” for a few reasons. One being that it was a turning point in my approach to writing songs. Many of my heroes have said that sometimes it just flows. The whole thing might have taken about 45 minutes to write which NEVER happens for me. The second reason I dig it is because it pays an homage to my hometown of Portland, OR. In the chorus I reference myself as a “Bridgetown Kid” and Bridgetown is a nickname for the city.
Who are some of your musical influences? Who are some of the new artists who inspire you and who do you think are going to be the next big artists in the future?
Some of my musical influences would be: Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Ryan Adams, John Mayer and Jimi Hendrix to name a few. And he isn’t necessarily new but he is receiving recent acclaim with his latest record: Jason Isbell – His songwriting just blows me away. In addition to Isbell, I hope that Blackberry Smoke become HUGE because I love them. I also dig Gary Clark Jr. and I hope he too continues his upward success.
How are you using social media networks and sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram to interact with your fans? How often do you post?
I use all of the aforementioned social media sites on a daily basis to interact with fans. I like to try and keep a personal approach to many of my posts. It can turn people off when news feeds are flooded with “Come see me play here…” or “Buy my new album etc…” every other day. I think a nice balance of give and take between promotion and personality is good.
Can you tell me about your involvement with Gruv Gear as an artist endorser?
I first saw Gruv Gear products at NAMM 14’ – After countless of gigs with multiple trips to load and unload gear, it seemed like a no brainer to work with them. They are a local company in Yorba Linda, CA and they give great personal attention to their artist family. The products themselves are AWESOME and I’m not JUST saying that. Honestly as a working musician who hasn’t quite reached Stadium Touring with a Crew to load in and out every night… Gruv Gear has been THE best. I like to make sure I let other musicians know about them as well as include them on my social media posts etc… when applicable.
What is your approach to songwriting? How do you capture the inspiration when it comes? How do you capture your idea for a new song when the inspiration hits you?
My songwriting approach varies from day to day however I DO have some routine I like to maintain. Upon waking up when the coffee hasn’t quite kicked in… I like to write for 10 minutes about ANYTHING. I do this just to warm up the writer brain. I may go about my day afterwards but I try and do that on a daily basis. I use my iPhone “Voice Notes” often. With a guitar in hand I’ll press record and then freestyle various ideas using words, phrases and title ideas from notebooks. I have TONS of voice notes saved. Inspiration can strike at anytime. For example while driving, a melody may come to mind or even a cool combination of words and I’ll immediately sing it into my phone for later. If I don’t record or write down my idea or thought I’ll often forget it.
How are you using new music technologies to record music and in your personal life?
Besides my iPhone for idea recording, I use Logic to demo songs prior to taking them to the band. That’s about the extent of my new music technology usage. I guess I’m old school?
If you had the opportunity to work with any artist/band from the past or present, who would it be and why?
Do I have to pick JUST one? I would choose Tom Petty because it’s TOM Petty. I think I’d like to witness his songwriting process or at least ask him about it. It seems so mystical. The stories about how some of his most beloved songs were crafted just fascinate me. I’d like to pick his brain, get some advice and maybe write a song together.
Why is this lifestyle (recording, singing, traveling) one that you’re willing to follow?
“This” lifestyle of a musician can be grueling however it’s what I’m passionate about. I LOVE to create. I LOVE to write. I LOVE to play. It is very rewarding having a complete stranger let you know their personal connection with a song you have written. I will follow music wherever it takes me. I am blessed to have enough ability to pursue this lifestyle and will continue to do so until I’m old an arthritic.
What is your favorite song to perform live and why?
As of right now… I love to play a song called “100 Days” It’s a slower tune but has a very personal meaning to me so I often get a little lost in it. Last year both my grandparents passed. It was getting to be their time as they had lived long happy lives and were in their late 90’s in age. They had been married 75 years. It was the ultimate love story. His sight went almost completely and her hearing went…so as you may conclude one would not do so well without the other. My grandmother was the first to go and it was exactly 100 days after her that my grandfather passed. The song is their story.
“Somewhere Down The Road” is a lovely song and I really like the way it was filmed. Was it your idea?
Thank You! Yes, I had this vintage throwback idea that I brought to the director. He was completely on board and dug it. He found some really great spots to capture the essence of the retro look. I was really happy with how it turned out.
When you aren’t performing and writing new material, what do you like to do in your spare time?
In my “spare time”… now what is that again? Well… I don’t do it enough but I love being outdoors. Surfing, Hiking Wakeboarding, Fishing, Running, you get the gist. Sunday’s in Fall are also dedicated to the Chicago Bears, NFL Red Zone and Fantasy Football.
Do you have any great or interesting road stories you’d like to share?
One time a man in a Diablo mask was terrorizing us on the two lane 8 FWY towards Arizona. He was driving and wearing this insanely scary mask. The Diablo man pulled next to my vehicle and proceeded to do the “Throat Slit” finger action towards me. I would slow down he would slow down, I would speed up he would speed up. It was like a movie. I was convinced we were dead. This cat and mouse game lasted for roughly 10 minutes. He then sped up but was still in slightly in sight. I decided to be a genius and call highway patrol. I said he was under the influence instead of a masked man. I figured the urgency would be slightly more for the officer to stop a drunk versus stopping a Diablo. 10 minutes pass and I see the patrol car coming in my rearview. He passes us and proceeds to tail the masked man’s vehicle. I’m sure he was running his plates and observing any swerving. There was no swerving so the officer did nothing but pull off and turn around. At this moment I was prepared to text my family and say goodbyes. I saw him slam on his brakes until we were even again. Wearing the mask… he rolled the window down, shook his head no and then pulled off. I floored it in hoped he never caught up. He vanished. It was F***ing scary. The Hills Have Eyes type stuff.
Do you have any advice for upcoming musicians?
Work. Work. Work HARD. Learn from your mistakes. Be nice to your fans. Strive to grow. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t act bigger than the gig. Don’t be late. Take Risks. Thicken that skin. Smile and get out of your own way.
Try to catch Mr. Jake London out on tour this summer: