The Stress of Lockdown and The Pressures on Young People — A Conversation with Singer Jack Howard
Jack Howard is a quick-witted and upbeat Brighton based singer/songwriter. He is a solo singer and performs with session musicians, one of the musicians being his twin brother Bertie, “Bert’s always been there obviously because he’s my twin, if he wasn’t my twin he’d be out”. When asking what style, he would describe his music as, he said the short answer is “soul pop. Soul pop is like it’s a bit solely a bit poppy, the long-winded answer is I really think genres are going to be out the window in the next 5 years”. He explained that he avoids sticking to a singular style, “I’ve just tried to write what I like”.
My favorite song by Jack is ‘Sublime’ which he released during lockdown; it has a gentle acoustic guitar opening which introduce Jack’s mellow vocals. As the song progresses to 3:27 the vocals echo and clapping starts on the downbeat, which makes you visualize the song being performed live (helping us reminisce times of live music). Jack say’s that the song “is about finding a muse. Someone that makes you want to create and give you endless inspiration”.
We spoke over Zoom; Jack was sat in his bedroom/makeshift studio. We talked about life pre pandemic, Jack said that one of the things he misses most pre pandemic is performing live and that due to the lockdown restrictions his music output has changed. Now he is unable to perform live he focusses more of his time to promoting his music digitally. He explained how important playing shows is for an up-and-coming artist, saying “it is your lifeblood of starting as an independent artist” and it is key to picking up new fans. Jack compared the types of validation from online feedback and performing live. When Jack performs live, he would receive instant feedback, whereas online it is not the same, the instant reaction from the live audience is not there when he uploads content. Jack said this led him to feel anxious around his music and at one point it made him contemplate stopping music altogether. These feelings scared him, so he “tried to get rid of that very quickly because that pops up a lot when we weren’t playing shows”.
He talked about the positive effect’s lockdown has had on his music, “I might be the one of the only people that says this” … “but lockdown has been absolutely amazing for my music career because I’ve had to just make a lot of music, like incredible amounts of music”. Jack has a very philosophical outlook on creativity, “it has given me time to write without the distractions of what other people are doing, if you’re thinking of what other people are doing then your creativity is impure, it’s not pure creativity”.
Jack expanded on this idea and spoke about how many creatives in lockdown felt the pressure to start producing all of the things they didn’t have the time for before. Jack explained that yes, it’s good to do those things “but don’t bully yourself into doing it if you don’t want to do it, because that isn’t from love that’s from stress” … “no great art was ever made from stress it was made from a place of calm and peace that’s where all the best stuff comes from”. I think this is a great way of reflecting and thinking about the pressures we put on ourselves day to day.
I voiced to Jack how amazed I was by his positive energy considering the pandemic has put his music career somewhat on hold, “Oh definitely, if you’d called me a year ago during the first lockdown, I was a state because I didn’t know what to do, because obviously it’s never happened before, everyone around me didn’t know what to do. You can’t go to the studio to record music, so your just sat at home”. He explained how there was “the pressure of finding something to do, when really it’s the only time in your life to really relax and also just be at peace” and this is clearly reflected in his music that he created during the lockdown, especially in his latest song ‘Heaven Sign’.
Jack released ‘Heaven Sign’ in February, it is a song that makes you feel present in the moment and inspired to use the time you have wisely. The two words ‘why wait’ sit and resonates with you for a while after the song finishes. Jack told me about where the song first came from, “That song was written in a Manchester Airbnb, on a bin”. Shocked that such an amazing song could be created from a bin, he gave me further context “we were about to play a show in Manchester and Jed my drummer was tapping on this bin, I’d written these cords and started singing” … “Holly joined in on her saxophone, Matt plugged in his bass, Bertie started playing his guitar, it was great!”. Jack explained how everyone joined in and it felt very “community based”, I suppose this perfectly embodies Jacks previous ideas around creativity, there was no stress, just a group of artists creating together in the moment.
If you don’t follow Jack on Instagram, I highly recommend you do, he posts morning videos which are instantly uplifting, he said he creates these because it is nice to spread a little joy during lockdown and that the basis of anything, he posts on social media is to show transparency. He also posts some amazing Thursday ‘Demo day’s’, he described ‘Demo Day’ as “a collaboration effort with other artists”.
Jack also explained that ‘Demo day’ was similar to a therapy session for him, he would “get into a room with someone and we make something and even if it’s not good” … “we don’t even talk about it, we just release it on Thursday, and it’s done and out there in the world and it almost brings about this kind of freedom”. ‘Demo Day’ was a chance to create something and not ask for validation, Jack said he “wanted to treat it like actual art, like actually make something and have fun, and enjoy every moment of making it and be incredibly present”. He expressed his pride in the ‘Demo days’, “some of them are going to be made into demo tapes which will be released this year”. So, if you haven’t listened to them already, go check out Jack’s SoundCloud, they are raw and amazing pieces of music. He also told me that he’s got six more collaborations for ‘Demo Day’ to come in the following months, so make sure to listen out!
We spoke about the music Jack has been writing and producing and if it has been influenced by the pandemic “yeah I guess you write what’s around you”. A lot of the songs are about when he was younger, “because I haven’t got a very exciting life, so I’ve written a couple of tunes one called ‘Have a Life’, which is on demo day and is about doing things when you don’t want to do them. A lot of the songs I write particularly at the moment are about the pressure on young people”. He expanded on the topic of pressure especially in music, he said:
“you’re not deciding the fate of the f**king earth, you’re making noises, that’s all your doing really, making noises that other people enjoy, or might enjoy in the future, so, don’t take it too seriously, just have fun with it”.
Before we ended the interview, I asked Jack who his favorite up and coming artist is. Jack said Biig Piig, I asked why, “because I love the energy in her songs, dark but still super catchy, I like things that sound fun but also dark” Her song below ‘Oh No’, perfectly resembles Jacks point of being ‘dark’ with her ghostly vocals and overly catchy instrumentals. Make sure to go check out Jack’s music and listen out for his new ‘Demo Day’s’ for a raw musical experience!