Jack Gray is a 20-year-old singer/producer from Australia. His music blurs the lines between pop charisma, R&B swagger and rock and roll propulsion. Jack’s debut EP which was released on May 31st, “Nights Like This,” showcases the young Australian’s deft hand as both a writer and producer, one with a preternatural knack for infectious hooks and emotionally resonant arrangements.
Calling to mind contemporaries from Jack Garratt and James Blake to Frank Ocean and The 1975, Jack’s melodic voice floats over a combination of slick guitar work and crunchy electronic production.
Listen to “Take Our Time,” a song about dealing with life’s transitions “layered with captivating electronics and angelic vocals”: https://www.onestowatch.com/blog/jack-gray-treats-us-to-soothing-piano-melodies-in
The songs off this EP often juxtapose conflicting emotions, tackling weighty topics with subtle nuance and thoughtful reflection, while also capturing the beautiful highs and messy lows of the journey into adulthood.
Learn more about Jack Gray in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
Yo! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! I just got back from a couple days in London and New York around the launch of my first EP, ‘Nights Like This’ and now I’m in Los Angeles in a rehearsal space putting the finishing touches on my set for the upcoming shows in Australia. It’s been about six months since I was able to play with my band, so we’ve been having a blast.
Now that we are half-way through the year, how has 2019 been treating you? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How close are you to reaching them?
2019 has been an incredible year thus far. I’ve been all over the world, seen places and met people I never thought I’d get a chance to see or hang out with. We’ve put up a number of new tracks including the launch of the new EP. I’ve sold out my first ever headline shows. It’s incredible. I said to myself at the beginning of 2019 that this year was going to be totally focused on putting new music out – – and thus far, we’ve put up a new song about every six weeks – – I hope to be able to keep driving forward – – I have a couple of new songs that I’m working on now that I can’t wait to share with the world.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
You know, I don’t know that I remember a moment in my life when I wasn’t going to be a musician. I grew up in an incredibly musical family. My dad was in a pub band back home, my sister played keys, my uncle played bass, and in fact, my first gig growing up was playing guitar for my 8th grade teacher at an open mic night. Music was the center of both family and community for me growing up – – I’ve never known anything but music – – so I imagine what I’m doing now was just inevitable.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
Honestly, no. I’ve never even imagined my life outside of writing, producing, recording and performing music.
How far music and creativity can take you. I grew up in a small town in Australia that was about 10 hours drive from the nearest international airport – – so you could say I was a bit cut off from the world. Now I’m spending time in LA, traveling to new cities every week, playing gigs around the world, and collaborating with song writers I never thought I’d meet. I honestly never dreamt music could take me this far. It’s cool.
Congrats on recently releasing your debut EP, “Nights Like This”! What was it like finally putting that out into the world? Did anything surprise you about the overall process of putting it together? Any unexpected challenges to it all?
Putting out the EP was such a lengthy process. I guess I thought once my part was finished, I could just put it up for the world to hear, but wow was I wrong. It took months to get thru all the steps necessary to get the music out, and I’ve been writing new songs and working hard every day this year, so by the time the EP was posted, my head was buried in six new tracks that I’m incredibly excited about, so it was funny to go back and perform songs that I hadn’t played since March. But it’s given me a perspective what people react too and what songs work in a live setting, and really lit my fire to double down and keep writing and producing.
While it’s difficult to choose, can you pick a few of your favorite songs on this EP and talk about their inspiration and how they came to be on the EP?
The greatest thing about this EP is I’ve been working on it for two years now and literally produced 50 or more songs, that I eventually whittled down to the five that we put out. So subconsciously, I ended up picking the songs that had the biggest emotional connection to my journey. Songs that punctuated my life experience up to this point. So when folks ask me about my “favorite” songs, I imagine I gravitate to the ones that represent the biggest transitions in my life. Bullet, which is a song I wrote about my life back home when I was in my early teens, is about depression, isolation and story telling. I learned when I was writing that song that all stories have two sides and it really helped me define the type of storyteller I wanted to be.
The other would be Fools, and likely because that song was writing right after I decided to take a break from University and try my hand at songwriting and producing full time. I checked fate to the wind, bought a one way ticket and found myself living in a rehearsal space in the Redfern neighborhood of Sydney. I met loads of musicians, who’s struggles were exactly like mine. It was an incredibly eye opening time in my life, the time I realized I could literally do anything I wanted to if I just put my mind to it.
What is next up for you? Do you have plans to make any music videos for the songs on “Nights Like This”?
So we talked a lot about videos for these songs and I have tons of ideas. The only hesitation I have is what I see in my mind’s eye is really inspiring to me, and I only want to shoot a video when I know the director and team making the clip see exactly what I do. The great thing about making music is I can literally do it on my own, nearly anywhere I am. I play a number of instruments, I sing, I can arrange, etc. and so I’m able to make sure the result is exactly what I want – – and to be honest, I just haven’t felt that way about video yet, so I’m perfecting my approach and learning what’s possible. I’m almost certain I’ll make a video for one of my songs before the end of the year.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started singing and writing songs?
I’m growing and learning every day – – that is what excites me every day. Every morning I wake up and my manager, or my band mates hit me with a new challenge and it’s fun to push myself to see if I can make it happen. I will say, when we started putting the set list together for these upcoming gigs in Australia, I was going back and re-producing some of the older songs so they could fit in the set, and I could definitely hear my own progression as a song writer. I spend a lot more time these days thinking about purpose and writing songs that really mean something to me. I also think about songs in the realm of how they will translate in a live environment, which has influenced my writing style a bit.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now? What has social media done for your career so far?
I can honestly say, I’m not a master of social media in any way. I was never the crazy outgoing guy in school, so the idea of social media was foreign to me at first. But now having devoted time to really thinking about it as a way to help get my music out to people, it’s changed my perspective. As a writer, you hope your music and ideas touch people all around the world, and there’s no way to really impact people’s lives if you can’t get your songs into people’s hands. So it’s pretty cool that I can literally be working on a “strings” session that will end up in a song that comes out next year – – but can put it on Instagram and get immediate feedback. It’s kinda freakish to think about how much the social platforms have changed the way people discover and enjoy music.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I have such a wide variety of influences. I grew up in a super musical family. My dad loved 80’s and 90’s rock and roll, my two sisters loved exactly what you’d expect your two sisters growing up in the 2000s to love in terms of Australian and international pop, so I grew up all over the spectrum. But I will say, when I close my eyes and listen to music, I love really confident players, strong direction, tracks that harness the complexity of what you can do in the studio. I tend to layer hundreds of vocal passes into my lead vocals, because why not – – it sounds different to what I grew up listening too, and there’s a number of really talented people who embrace that tone.
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
HA! What a great question. My manager and I have talked a ton about this and I really still don’t know. It depends on the song and the story. I’ve zero’d in on a few directors that I would love to work with and hopefully one day we’ll make that happen. I want my first video to be made like I make my songs – – a true collaboration with the director in visualizing the song in a way that I might not have intended. We’ll see.
Where would you absolutely love to hear one of your songs? On a TV show, in a movie or elsewhere? Do you recall the first time you heard a song of yours out and about?
The first time I heard one of my song on the radio was when I was playing a festival in the town of Tamworth. It was a local station that was highlighting acts playing that day – – it was pretty cool.
I grew up with music at the center of my community life – – it was the thread that tied my family and friends together. I just hope my music can live up to the experience I had growing up and can bring people together in the way I was raised. From experience, being raised with music at my core gave me such a different perspective on life than my friends back home
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about your music?
Honestly, I can only hope people enjoy it and it’s helpful to them in some way.