THE terrific Jake Morley…
has been talking with me about his new release – an acoustic, stripped-back version of the track, Ghostess (originally released in 2015). I ask about his plan to release an acoustic track each month and what Ghostess’ story is – Morley chats about his Spotify playlist, Tell It to Me Straight, and a couple of upcoming artists we should throw our weight behind.
I ask Morley which artists he grew up around and was inspired by; how his touring diary is looking at the moment; what advice he would give to artists entering the scene right now – he reveals what he wants to achieve before the end of the year.
Hi, Jake. How are you? How has your week been?
You know those T.V. characters who walk around with Dictaphones and starting all their sentences with: “Note to self….”? Well, that’s pretty much me right now. I’m heading into the studio next week to record another batch of tracks, so it’s a regular stream of lyric tweaks and maybe-we-should-move-that-chord-somewhere-else. Basically, if you see me mumbling quietly into my phone whilst on the Tube, do not be alarmed...
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
The challenge I’ve set myself is to produce songs for acoustic guitar and voice that are interesting, and stay interesting many listens later, with lyrics that you don’t regret giving your attention to and production that isn’t trying to con you.
I’m a white, heterosexual; bearded, male singer-songwriter… so, not exactly a rare unicorn. There are millions of us! Too many, maybe. But, I don’t feel like a stereotype: I feel like I’m finding something quite specific. Not just another bloke singing sensitively about his love life.
A stripped, acoustic version of Ghostess is your latest single. What is the story behind that song?
Ok. So, this one is actually a heartbreak song and, thus, may be undermining my point above a little. But, it’s absolutely authentic. The album version got a few million streams, so we wanted to include it for this acoustic series.
A few years back, after a break-up, I was desolate and surrounded by little remnants of the relationship - hairs on clothes, toothbrushes that still seem to kiss (all that). It’s funny how often the best songs are the ones you feel you have the least control over, can take the least credit for. This one flew out pretty quickly, helped along by Lady Gaga suggesting the title to me during an imagined conversation in my living room.
You are releasing a new acoustic song each month. Why did you decide to do that? Has it been fun reworking your songs?
In the past, I would spend ages building up an album of songs. Slowly, they’d get recorded with big, detailed arrangements and then, eventually, they’d get released. By the time I’m actually touring them, they’re already years old, grown up and off to university. It just feels like there’s a better way, now: write, record and release; craft the song, record it without over-producing; share it, move on. Keep it fresh.
I’m loving that right now.
The playlist, Tell It to Me Straight, seems to be a source of inspiration. What sort of artists are on that playlist? Does it give you drive and ideas?
Often, the songs I come back to, again and again, talk to me like a friend with clear words; no bulls*it, no razzle-dazzle - just straight in there with an authentic expression they feel is important. It’s not about what genre it is: it’s an attitude thing. Treating your audience like an equal rather than a mark. Maybe a little hard to describe but I know it when I hear it.
The playlist came first, but it’s very much an ethos for me right now - in the songs I want to write and the way they’re recorded and toured.
Which artists inspired you to get into music? When did you start writing your own music?
My dad tried to get me into Miles Davis and Steely Dan. My brothers tried to get me into Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine. I started around eight or nine, piano first; then drums, then guitar around thirteen. At fifteen, I’d be getting drunk with my friends playing Oasis songs and thinking: ‘Ooh; this is a bit fun’.
Writing songs seemed like an obvious extension to learning instruments.
If you had to select three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Stop Making Sense – Talking Heads (live album)
Because it’s absolutely dazzling in its ambition and emotion.
Rage Against the Machine - Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium
Because, sometimes, I’m angry and fearful.
Freddie Stevenson - 50 Songs
Because I love them dearly - and a fifty-song album would be a good way to cheat and get more (songs).
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
Most days, I measure achievement in a personal way by how well I’m writing and playing. Other days, I measure achievement by how many ‘likes’ I get on Twitter and how much more successful my peers are. Hopefully, by the end of 2018, I’ll have done more of the former and less of the latter.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Standing side-of-stage to watch Willie Nelson after a support slot is up there. But, I’m pretty ruthless with memories: once it’s done it’s done. There’s no satisfaction quite like a great song coming together, or a great gig after the last notes are played…
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Never been that fussed about riders.
As for the support slot…hmmm, well. It’s mainly about playing in a great room with great sound to people who are feeling the music. That’s kind of more important than who the headliner is. Hammersmith Apollo was my favourite ever venue to play. I’d maybe pick someone like Bon Iver - if he was in an acoustic phase.
How important is it being on stage and connecting with the crowd?
Essential. Sometimes, I find myself feeling grumpy as hell then realising I haven’t played any gigs for a while. Then, I play a show and I’m all better again. I have a nineteen-date U.K. tour later this year and plenty of festivals – so, I think I’m covered for now.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Nothing will help you get better like practice so, whatever music you make, make it often; play it hard, give it everything. With that comes confidence in yourself and, with confidence, you can sometimes do far more than you previously realised.
IN THIS PHOTO: Bryde
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I run a weekly club for musicians to co-work together in London. We meet up with laptops, get work done and bounce ideas off each other. In fact, I’m here right now. It’s also a great chance to find new music. Check out these two amazing artists who are here this week: Bryde and Roxanne de Bastion.
IN THIS PHOTO: Roxanne de Bastion
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
That, my friend, will just have to be a mystery to you – mainly, as chilling away from music seems so hilariously foreign right now.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
A Case of You by Joni Mitchell – if even one person discovers it today that’d be worth it
Follow Jake Morley