If you saw heartbreak king Dean Lewis or indie pop queen E^ST this summer, chances are that you caught a young bloke by the name of Jack Gray opening for them, armed with a guitar and some really relatable jams.
Jack's super new to the scene but when you hear his songs, you really wouldn't know it - at 20 years old, he's already writing, recording and producing at a level ahead of his years. His last single My Hands caught our attention for its simple structure and polished melody, and now that he's released his new track Drunk Talk, we sat Jack down to get the down-low on how he ticks.
You’ve had a huge summer touring with Dean Lewis, E^ST and Mahalia. What have you learnt from them, given that you’re fairly new to the touring world and they’ve all been doing it for a few years?
Dean is like a big brother to me - I’m completely humbled that he’s asked me to open for him on a few occasions now. My first show with him was in 2017. It’s been awesome to witness all the growth, excitement, and challenges that he’s tackled. I love to tour, honestly. Just last year, I was fortunate enough to play shows in the US, Germany, France, the UK, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Australia, of course. It was seriously amazing to see friendly faces from all around the world and share some of the music I’ve been working on over the past couple of years.
Do you remember what the first song you ever wrote was?
When I first realised my passion for music at the age of 10, I was terrified to put my pen to paper. I guess it’s kinda normal, it’s a very personal and vulnerable thing to do at such a young age… It’s hard to write lyrics with zero life experience. I can’t recall the first song I wrote but it was definitely a process of trial and error. The first track I actually connected with was called Yeah But No. I made the shitty demo in my bedroom and uploaded it to YouTube. That was my first song that didn’t suck.
What’s your writing process like – do you write lyrics first, or a melody, or something else?
Aside from playing shows, my “happy place” is writing and recording music. I usually start the process with an idea of what I want to say. I’ve never been good at expressing myself in words, so I turn to music when I'm alone to help me get out what I am thinking or feeling. I definitely try to avoid having too serious of a “process” - every song is different and comes out of me in a different way. Sometimes I’ll start with a drum loop, or a guitar riff, but either way, I'll build up layers of sound until I get close to what I’m hearing inside my head. Then I can usually work on melodies or lyrics. For me, it’s all a process to get out what I’m hearing or seeing in my mind.
When did you know you wanted to make this your career and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t know that I ever could have envisioned myself doing anything other than music. From as long as I can remember, music has always surrounded me. It inspires me, it makes me happy, it’s shaped me into the person I am now. I just don’t think any other career path could have been possible for me.
Who are your musical idols and who was a big influence on you musically growing up?
My dad. He kinda set the benchmark for good music. I grew up watching him play in his band and his love for it. My childhood consisted of being the old man’s roadie and the no.1 supporter at his rehearsals. Ball Park Music and The 1975 were two bands that really shaped my taste for music and how I make it.
Tell me about your new song Drunk Talk – what is it about?
Drunk Talk is a song I wrote with one of my closest mates Robert Conley down on the Gold Coast. We record in this amazing converted caravan down by the beach, it’s an incredible place. We usually get a bunch of musicians to come down, hang, drink and make music. It’s my version of an artist compound. I wrote Drunk Talk late one night about the pain that comes with people not thinking about what they’re saying. Too often, after a night of drinking, and emotions running high, people tend to say shit that doesn’t really characterise how they are feeling. It’s painful and I think we’ve all lived through that one.
Drunk Talk shows a more production-heavy side of your music, do you find that you lean more towards electronic or guitar music?
I really love all types of music. I just make sounds that feel cool to me and base every decision on that. The next song I hope to put up is called Take Our Time which is about a long distance relationship and the challenges that face couples forced to live their lives apart from one another for long periods of time. The song is predominantly piano and vocal accompanied with an electronic soundscape. Playing that song acoustically with just a keyboard is a blast. Following that, I’m thinking maybe a more guitar driven song? But who knows. I guess we’ll all have to stay tuned to find out... myself included.
What are you looking forward to right now?
I’m really looking forward to going back out on the road and performing live. Our next set of dates is likely in the US and Europe for the next few months and then I hope to be able to come home and do some more shows in Australia in May.