Jack Gray was meant to be in LA right now. Instead, he’s in his childhood bedroom on the Sunshine Coast, surrounded by those he grew up with.
For some, that would be a real downer. It would be a time of feeling quite depleted. Like it hasn’t worked out the way you planned. But for Jack, he’s turned it into the opposite.
‘Sheltering in place’ has given Jack the opportunity to focus, be with his own thoughts, learn new skills and best of all – actually finish the songs.
With I Got 3, his excellent, genre-blurring earworm of a new track out now, we’ve got a camera installed in Jack’s bedroom I’ve just realised how bad this sounds JACK ZOOM’D ME. To talk about where his head is at, the music to come, and the music we can hear right now.
Nic Kelly in bold, Jack Gray in not-bold.
Jack Gray, what is this song about?
You know the beginning of a relationship. That time when you’re realising all these feelings you have for this person, and you want to vocalise them, you want to tell this person how you’re feeling. But, you don’t want to mess it up or say the wrong thing. I really wanted to leave what the three words are pretty ambiguous. Like, you have a pretty good idea what they are, but they could be anything! I don’t say what the words are in the song. And when I’m talking about the song, I also don’t want to say what the words are. I want people – however they’re feeling – to be able to put their own story to it.
You did well, I went back and listened three or four times trying to work out whether you actually did say what the words are at any point. Do you try and leave things open to interpretation regularly?
Yeah. Everyone’s going through things and they might relate to your thing in some sort of way. If you can leave it open enough where it relates to more people, I feel like that’s pretty cool.
Is it a conscious thing balancing being super specific and bleeding your heart out onto the page, with trying to be a little bit secretive about the actual meaning of songs?
Um, yeah. Yes. I was gonna say no, but I think with songs, you want them to feel like your story. But you also want them to relate to other people. That is something that you must think about as a songwriter. There is a lot of that. And I’ve done a lot of that on this record I’m making, almost blending the very personal lyrics.
I know you were over in LA for a fair while living your best – how has it been coming back to the Sunny Coast over the last few months and ~getting back to your roots~ a little bit?
It’s been beautiful. It’s been really nice just hanging out with my parents and my family and all my friends, my girlfriend, it’s been such like a moment of just touching base, you know. And also, I’ve gotten so much work done! I set up a little studio in my parents place and I’ve been working all day every day. Like, I’ve worked more than I normally do when I wasn’t here. Which is hilarious, because I’m finishing up the record and I don’t have to leave this bedroom. I can just be plugging away here.
Were you always meant to come back home or were you’re going to be over in the States still?
I was living there for the foreseeable future. And I was also putting the record together over there and then doing shows in between. But being here has been really great. It’s actually been perfect for me. The visual side of things, I’ve gotten in touch with, I bought a camera, I bought Final Cut Pro, and I’ve just been shooting heaps of stuff and figuring out that side of things and getting together the aesthetics and it’s been really fun and a good little journey for me.
I think for some artists, especially people who are so musical, like you are a multi-instrumentalist, people who just are so focused on the music, sometimes they’ll sort of leave the visual side up to someone else. For you has it been a process of taking charge of that again and executing things as you see them?
I think the whole ‘iso’ thing kind of forced my hand because beforehand, I was leaving it up to people that I trust, and doing my best to vocalise my vision. I’ve always struggled with that. So being able to just know what I want and go out and try and shoot it and just figure it out for myself has been such a cool thing. This whole weird, weird world that we’re living in has definitely forced me down that path. And I’m so happy and grateful for it. Like, I love actually putting together videos and artwork and doing all that stuff. It’s so much fun.
That’s an exciting place to be. Tell me about the idea of building a full record, an album, I know that means a lot to you.
I’ve been a music lover my whole life. And my favorite bands have always put out an album and there’s always a theme and it’s like a little world for the fans to go into – the album tracks, the interludes – man, everything about an album I think is really cool. How I think of it is sitting on a train. I used to do this all the time, when I was living in Sydney, I would sit on a train with my headphones. Everywhere I went, I had my headphones in, and I would play the first The 1975 album, for example. I’d feel like I was in a movie. It’s like the soundtrack to your life. And I want to be able to do that for other people too.
What’s the sort of spectrum of sounds that you’re working on at the moment?
There’s a little bit of everything – but the first EP Nights Like This was kind of everything. I was just experimenting. This is a little bit more of a defined vibe and sound that I’m really happy with. Lately I’ve just been thinking about what I used to listen to in high school. And there’s definitely big influences from that, like Sticky Fingers, Ball Park Music, The 1975, Frank Ocean. I’ve been playing around with a lot of live instruments – and I love ‘roomy’ sounds. So whenever I’m recording live instruments, like my piano, I figure out where to put the microphone to really capture me – if it’s the piano, I get the seat squeaking, or if I’m playing the guitar, you can hear my arm on the guitar – those really organic sounds, capturing the room that I’m recording in. I’m focusing on some of those things that I wasn’t really thinking about before.