Entertainment & Arts

'Obama liked my album': Sound of 2016 winner Jack Garratt reflects on his year

Jack Garratt Image copyright Island Records
Image caption Jack Garratt's debut album recently went silver, denoting 60,000 sales in the UK

Jack Garratt topped the BBC's Sound of 2016 list in January and went on to score a top three album with his debut record, Phase.

Since then, he's won a Brit Award, sold out the Hammersmith Apollo and proposed to his girlfriend, Sarah Elabdi.

Hailing from Little Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, Garratt has come a long way since 2005, when he entered the British heats for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest and placed eighth - out of eight.

Forced to rethink his approach, he conjured up a musical style that takes sentimental singer-songwriter material and smashes a box-full of electronics right over its head.

It won him a deal with Island Records, while his athletic one-man shows have packed out concert halls around the world.

Ahead of the announcement of the Sound of 2017 next week, Garratt reflects on the highs and lows of his first year in the spotlight.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The star played almost 150 shows in 2016

I didn't believe I had won the Sound of 2016

I found out a few days before it was announced, but that doesn't mean I believed it. It means I was told those words and my ears conveyed those words to my brain. I didn't know in my heart it was real until the announcement happened.

Touring helped me conquer my fear of flying

I didn't like flying. It's not so much the fear of heights as it is the fear of losing control - but I ended up taking a course that British Airways offer and have not been on a plane since where I have been terrified like I was before.

They do equal parts sitting down with a pilot and understanding what flying is; and sitting down with a therapist and talking about what fears are. So you get your insecurities challenged from both angles. You get told about the reasons why you shouldn't be scared, then the therapist says, "Your fear is natural, your fear is normal, and it's expected. Here's a way to help change your attitude."

I would 100% recommend to anyone who is insecure about flying.

In Japan, I discovered the joy of heated toilet seats

I cannot understand why that has not become a global phenomenon. Every visit was perfect and comfortable. I'd bring my own with me everywhere if (a) I could afford to and (b) I could put up with the scrutiny and embarrassment.

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

My album came out in February and, for three days, I had the biggest-selling record in the UK. Then Adele and David Bowie got a sales boost from the Brits...

I could not be prouder or happier with the placement of that record. To come third behind Adele and David Bowie, I think that's fine. To have made a record that sounds like the one I made - which is challenging pop music about death and love - I could not have expected it to have done any better.

But there was criticism my album hadn't sold well enough

The album's just gone silver, which is unbelievable. But a lot of people - not people whose opinions I care about, but unfortunately people whose opinions I'm exposed to - said that because the record hasn't sold hundreds of thousands of copies it's a failure.

The music I'm making appeals to an audience that doesn't buy records. That would be like trying to sell meat to a vegetarian and then complaining that it doesn't sell well.

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Media captionHighlights from Jack Garratt's Glastonbury set, on 24 June 2016

I played Glastonbury on the day the UK voted to leave the EU

It was very strange. I'm not going to say everyone was over the moon. But if you compared the atmosphere on Friday morning to that evening, it was like being at two different festivals. In the morning, everyone was like, "Oh God, what are we going to do?" But by the evening we were saying, "Mate, we can keep doing what we've always done."

While obviously being aware there are huge consequences to come, we realised that music and art will prevail over everything.

Craig David covered one of my songs on Beats 1 Radio

That was a huge moment. Craig David, without a doubt, one of the most inspirational people I've ever met. He taught me a lot about how you should be with strangers in this industry. When you met him, he gives you his full attention and it doesn't feel forced or fake. That is a rare thing.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The singer's fiancee Sarah Elabdi is a marketing and advertising executive in Chicago

An important question got popped in July...

I moved to Chicago recently, but I'm rarely at home. Then in July, I played Lollapalooza in Chicago for the first time - and I asked my girlfriend to become my fiancee and she said yes! It was really lovely to be able to do something as special and as life-changing as that in my own living room.

I kept playing my guitar solo when I fell off stage at the ACL Fest in Texas

Rock never dies, man! No, I'm kidding... Every guitarist I've ever loved and admired, I've seen a video of them going through something where it seems impossible they'll bound back, and every time they do because, ultimately, the moment is way more important than, "My strings have broken," or, "My foot's been bitten off by a dog."

I mean, that hasn't happened yet - but I'm planning to do a show this month at a puppy adoption agency so we'll see what happens.

President Obama got in touch...

I sent President Obama a copy of my vinyl and didn't expect to hear anything about it - but, lo and behold, about three months later, a letter came through the post from the Oval Office and it was signed by him, which was incredible.

Will I send a copy of my next album to Donald Trump? Um, maybe not. We'll see what the lyrics are going to be about first. I'm not sure if he's going to appreciate it.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The musician won best breakthrough act at November's Q Awards

At the Q Awards, I won best breakthrough act, and took a swipe at Stubhub, who were sponsoring the show

I know there are people who didn't go to the awards because they disagreed with the sponsor, and I admire that, but I think the best thing to do was exactly what happened: Three young artists, who have all been affected by secondary ticketing sites - myself, James Bay and Bastille - all said something about the fact secondary ticketing is not ethically or morally right.

We fight really hard to make sure our tickets are affordable, because we want everyone to come to our shows. But when you hear about some millionaire out in Quebec who buys thousands and thousands of tickets before anyone else, and then resells them at a profit, that's not right. It's making a business out of stealing moments away from people. I don't agree with that and will do everything I can to expose those kinds of people as immoral and unethical.

Then I celebrated with a pasty

Being given an award by Mel C, then handing an award over to U2 and then sitting on a train to my mum and dad's and eating a pasty - I don't know about you, but that screams a perfect night to me.

Image copyright Island Records
Image caption Jack Garratt is managed by the company that launched the careers of previous Sound Of... winners Ellie Goulding and Jessie J

Work has started on my second album

The music I'm making at the moment is very different from anything I've ever done. There's a lot of stuff I can't quite openly talk about yet, which is really fun and very exciting, but I'm going to go and disappear for a few months now.

I'm excited to see who inherits the Sound Of crown... if there is one

Well, I don't think I got the crown. No-one gave it to me. I absolutely 100% do not believe there was a crown in the first place.

I think this year's list is incredibly diverse and they are all artists that I love. 2017 is going to be such an incredible year for art, especially given how awful 2016 has been for politics. We've all got a lot to write about and I think we're going to write some incredible stuff.

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