Entertainment & Arts

Jack Garratt on BBC Introducing, Katy Perry and swallowing a lake

Jack Garratt Image copyright Island Records
Image caption Garratt has been listed in various "ones to watch" lists for 2016

One week from now, Jack Garratt will win his first ever award.

The 24-year-old singer, producer and songwriter has been waiting in the wings for six years, ever since he uploaded a song to the BBC Introducing website in the hope of being played on his local station.

He was later championed by Zane Lowe, who made his debut single, Worry, his "next hype" track; while Ellie Goulding and Katy Perry declared themselves fans.

Garratt's stock in trade is the heartfelt ballad, performed in a wistful falsetto that has seen him compared to Ed Sheeran.

What sets them apart is the smart production - spliced vocals, dubstep drops and treated guitar lines - which suggest an attempt to bring Jamie xx and James Blake's electronic experimentalism into the mainstream.

Next Thursday in Birmingham, he will accept the Introducing Award at the BBC's Music Awards. He's also been announced as the winner of the Brits Critics' Choice Prize, and as one of the 15 artists on the BBC Sound of 2016. In other words, big things are expected of the luxuriantly-bearded singer from Little Chalfont in Buckinghamshire.

"It's the first moment of validation I've had from a peer figure in the UK music industry," he says of the sudden onslaught of praise. "It really is a genuine honour and a real privilege."

Speaking ahead of the awards, he discusses celebrity endorsements, synaesthesia and how he "swallowed a lake" on his latest video shoot.

How does it feel to win the BBC Introducing Award?

It's pretty intense actually. It's not something I ask for or look out for, but it's the first moment of validation I've had from a peer figure in the UK music industry. So it is a genuine honour and a real privilege.

Have you written a speech?

I'm way too terrified to entertain the idea that I'll actually be going up on stage. But if that's what I need to do, I'll definitely write something down, otherwise I'll end up talking for 10 minutes.

Maybe you could challenge Liam Gallagher to a fight, like Robbie Williams at the Brits.

Yes! I'll rewind time and pretend I'm one of them. That would be great!

Image caption The musician entered the Junior Eurovision Song Contest as a teenager, but failed to qualify

Your association with BBC Introducing goes back to 2009. What prompted you to upload your music?

I was writing acoustic music - sort of singer-songwriter bluesy stuff - and a producer mentioned it me.

I was, admittedly, sceptical about it. It hadn't quite proven itself to be a successful platform at that point. But I'm very glad I listened.

Your first radio play came shortly afterwards on BBC Beds, Herts and Bucks - so why did it take six years to get to this stage?

When I was a kid and writing more acoustic songs, I was doing it more for the attention than for the love of the music. I knew I needed to change something because I wasn't having fun, and wasn't liking the songs I was writing.

What was the song that showed you the way forward?

It was called I Couldn't Want You Anyway, and it was the first time I really sat down at a piano and wrote a song. It was a completely new sound and it really resonated with what I was feeling at the time. I remember saying to my management: "I've got this song. I'm going to try and produce it myself. Give me some time to have a crack at this." And I had a couple of days in a friend's studio and I came up with a demo version that I ended up using on my first EP, Remnants.

Image caption Like Ed Sheeran, Garratt performs all his shows as a one-man band, multi-tasking between guitars, keyboards and drum pads

You have several songs called Synaesthesia [a condition where one of the senses, such as hearing, triggers a sensation in another, like taste or colour]. Is it something you have?

No, but I know a lot of people who have synaesthesia, or who can see colours through sound. It's something I'm fascinated by.

The goal with those songs was to give people the idea of what synaesthesia could possibly feel like. Or to make music that's so dynamic or vivid it could trigger synaesthesia in someone who does have it.

Has anyone ever told you what colours they hear when they play your music?

People tell me different things. There's a song of mine called The Love You're Given. In the second verse, there's a big falling synth pattern and someone told me that when they hear it, it's just spots of purple on a background of blinding white.

What's interesting is that when I was making that piece, that was the image I had in my head - tiny dots on a background that's too bright for your eyes to be able to comprehend. For someone who has the condition turn around and go "that's actually what I saw", was a nice piece of validation.

Image copyright Island Records
Image caption The video for Breathe Life was directed by Andrew Donoho

Your latest video, Breathe Life, sees you lying on your back in a lake, while half a dozen synchronised swimmers dance around you. Was it a hard shoot?

It was fun but it was challenging. We filmed it in California, so it was a sunny 72 degrees the whole day - but that doesn't make much difference when you spend 12 hours floating in tepid water. I was a prune within the first half hour.

How often did you get kicked in the face?

Only a couple of times! The real problem was the splashback when their limbs re-entered the water. I swallowed half of the lake.

You've played a lot of gigs this year. What has that taught you?

Not be intimidated by whatever stage you walk out onto - whether it's big or small. If you can fool every single member of the audience into thinking you're confident and you deserve to be there, everyone will jump on your side.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Honestly, it is really very boring. I just stand in my dressing room and jump up and down and freak out for about 10 minutes. Then I'll walk out on stage.

I used to be in a band where the singer couldn't perform unless he'd eaten a Mars Bar, downed a pint of Guinness and thrown up.

That's brilliant! I'm stealing that. I'm telling that to everyone from now on.

Earlier this year, Katy Perry tweeted a link to your song The Love You're Given, calling it her song of the day. How did that change the trajectory of your career?

It completely opened up another door. She has 78 million followers so you're talking about someone who has, at her fingertips, the ability to reach more people than the population of the country I was born in. That's crazy to think about.

Your album, Phase, was finished in October but it isn't out until February. Is the wait driving you crazy?

Pretty much. But it's going to be a good four months. The plan is to go all over the world and say: "Hey, this is going to be available to you in February and if you want it, please go and get it."

For now, it's a little bit of waiting time. The hard work has been done and the album is fermenting. Then it's going to come out and everyone's going to get wasted on it.

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