WITH Train Rider out today...
I have been speaking with Jacob Henley about its creation and what he has coming up; what it is like putting his debut track out there and which artists he is inspired by – Henley reveals albums that are important and influential to him.
I ask what it was like working with Ralph Murphy on Train Rider and which new artists we need to look out for; how he relaxes away from music and whether Henley will tour soon – he picks a good song to end the interview with.
Hi, Jacob. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! BUSY. Ahahaha. Over the last few months, my whole world has been releasing this single it seems. It’s been a battle but it’s going to make having it out into the world so much sweeter.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Well. My name is Jacob Henley and I’m a singer/songwriter from Canada, now living in Dublin, Ireland. If I had to describe my sound I would describe it as ‘Guitar-Driven Pop’, with influences such as James Bay, Shawn Mendes; John Mayer, Hozier - with nods to the artists I grew up listening to such as Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell etc. I’m a big fan of songwriters; I’ve always been a big fan of songwriters and the craft of taking real life stories and turning them into songs. I just love writing songs whether it’s for myself or others. It’s always been a love for me.
Train Rider is your debut single. Is there a history behind the song?
I wrote Train Rider about three years ago. I was taking a train to Toronto from where I live and I was enjoying the scenery of the ride (the train runs right beside Lake Ontario) and I saw a man and woman exchanging looks and smiling from across the seats. They didn’t know each other but they were smiling and seemed to catch themselves looking at each other, before looking away quickly, realising they’d been caught.
I wondered, in my head, if those people would work up the courage to talk to each other or if they would just let it pass them by. It sparked the influence and the song is really a story of finding love in unexpected places and taking chances.
You wrote it alongside Ralph Murphy. How did you come to work with him?
I actually started the song with my cousin Andrew Dawson (Gold Complex) who’s a writer and fantastic artist in Toronto and my friend Ryan O’Shaughnessy who is also an incredible writer and artist. We all met in Toronto at Canadian Music Week and one day we got together and wrote Train Rider in Andrew’s back garden in downtown Toronto. We then sent the song to my friend and mentor Ralph Murphy in Nashville who worked his magic on the song and finished it off!
Train Rider is your debut track. Are you excited to see how it’s received? What comes next?
This song has been a battle. I’ve been planning to release music for the last three years - but, for some reason, it didn’t work out or it didn’t feel right. In hindsight, I’m glad that I waited. I have grown so much in that time as a person and I feel like I am more sure of who I am now than I was back then. It’s got to feel right when you are releasing music in the world and I feel like I’m finally in a place where I can put this song out into the world. I’m excited to see how people feel about the song for sure! Every artist wants their music to be enjoyed and every artist wants their songs to be played.
However, with Train Rider most of all, I would love it if someone related to the song or if it made them feel. The thing I love about music is the feelings it gives me. I remember the first time I heard Suzanne by Leonard Cohen; I remember the first time I heard Guiding Light by Foy Vance; I remember the first time I heard Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen – I remember exactly how I felt at those moments. I would love for people to have that reaction to my music, like I had to those artists’ music.
I’ve got plans to release more music this year and am currently in the process of recording my next single. The plan is to play as many shows as possible and get my songs out there! 2019 is going to be a busy year and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You began life in Canada but are based in Dublin. What inspired that move?
I’m from a small town called Newcastle, Ontario (Canada). It’s a small town outside of Toronto. I moved to Dublin about ten months ago for music but I’ve been writing/performing in cities across North America and the U.K. for years - cities like Nashville, Toronto; Montréal and London.
I went to Dublin in 2015 and as soon as I left I had this desire to go back. I went back in September 2017 and as soon as I left that time and landed in Canada, I knew that I wanted to move back there. I don’t know how to explain what inspired the move but all I can say is that it felt right. I’ve been so productive here and have met so many like-minded musicians and writers that this is where I want to be right now. I adore Canada and it will always be my home, but Ireland just feels right for me right now.
What is the Dublin music scene like? Is it a great place to create?
Incredible. I think that the Irish music scene in general is pumping out so many incredible artists and songwriters. There is so much talent in this country and it’s steeped in their culture. Everyone and their mother can sing. Ahahaha. There’s something about this country that is so inspiring. I find that Ireland and Canada are very similar. Canada has pumped out so many great artists and songwriters but they are often overlooked and I feel like Ireland are the same. However, I feel like that’s changing with the power of the Internet and Spotify etc.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
There are so many. But, one for sure that always pops in my head is when my friend Neil Sanderson (Three Days Grace) saw me playing in my hometown pub in Newcastle, Ontario (when I was fourteen-years-old) and he said “Hey, kid! Wanna go to Nashville at the end of the month?” and I did what any kid dreaming of being a Rockstar would do and said “Let me ask my parents!” Ahahaha. We went down and met Ralph Murphy - it all kind of started there.
Do you have a list of artists who you draw influence from? What sort of music did you grow up around?
I come from a very musical family. Not everybody plays but everyone loves music and loves a variety of music. My dad is an incredible performer and great singer so I drew a lot of influence from him. But, I remember growing up and there were always loads of singer/songwriters playing around the house like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell; Neil Young, Carole King; Bruce Springsteen etc. so I was heavily influenced by artists like that.
But, recently, I listen to a healthy dose of everything. Whether that’s James Bay, Shawn Mendes; Julia Michaels, Ariana Grande or any of the music that is doing well in the charts - I find myself listening to all of that. HOWEVER, I always go back to my old favourites.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
The first Leonard Cohen album, for sure. I’ve never had an album that has moved me more than that album. It is such a masterpiece and his songwriting is so visual. Forever my favourite.
I’d say Foy Vance’s Closed Hands, Full of Friends album. Again, such a visual album and so perfect.
Then I would have to say Abbey Road because every songwriter has to have ONE Beatles album on their list and the whole album is a masterpiece.
Also, just a bonus…I would have to say Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. MASTERPIECE.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
That’s a tough one. I don’t really know! I’d be grateful to open up for anyone. Maybe a bar or two of chocolate back stage wouldn’t go astray…ahaha
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Well. I would say this: put in the work. Go out and gig as much as possible, promote yourself on social media; write as MUCH as possible with as many different people as possible, put yourself in situations out of your comfort zone. Go to a conference, network; write with someone out of your genre. But, most importantly, be a good person. Good people are remembered for the right reasons.
Do you think there are going to any tour dates coming up?
I have plans for gigs coming up, starting with Train Rider’s single launch on 11th February at The Workman’s Club in Dublin with support from Tim Chadwick and Josh Gray. But, there will be more over the coming months and they will all be posted on my socials and website.
IN THIS PHOTO: Laura Elizabeth Hughes
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I watch A LOT of ice hockey. Ahaha. You can take the boy out of Canada - you can’t take the Canada out of the boy. I love walking around the city, spending time with my friends and writing. It’s important to enjoy your breaks - it keeps you fuelled for your work.
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).
Lord (It’s Okay) - 1000 Beasts
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