Raised on ‘60s folk and classically-trained as a composer at Sydney’s prestigious Conservatorium of Music, Jack Colwell chose the alt-pop path. The “classically-trained / pop-brained” Sydney-sider is due to release the sing-and-whistle-and-slap-along single, “Hopechest”, this October. “Hopechest” pays homage to the godmother of freak folk, Vashti Bunyan. Inspired by her unique songwriting style, Colwell wrote the song to celebrate the diversity of her music.
Vashti Bunyan has heavily influenced the likes of Joanna Newsom, Animal Collective and Devendra Banhardt. With Vashti’s blessing, Jack reworked her 1969 release, “Just Another Diamond Day,” into what he re-titled “Hopechest”; the first single from the debut album, ‘Picture Window’. Due for release 2012, the album features collaborations with the likes of Daisy M Tulley (Bridezilla). Colwell describes “Hopechest” as “chamber pop”, but he truly is the explorer of a great many sounds.
With a few minutes to spare, we had a chat with Jack.
1. Although you’ve said you are “classically-trained / pop-brained”, how do you see this interacting with your way with music?
The 'term of endearment' so to speak actually came from a review someone gave of me which incorporates my legacy as a classical performer (I studied at the Conservatorium of Music on piano, composition & double bass) with my project as a solo artist (Jack Colwell & The OWLS). I feel my music often lends itself to classical sounds and ideas, it's been described as 'freak-folk' or 'chamber folk'. The type's of instrumentation, and playing in orchestra's and chamber-music groups influenced a lot of large layered sounds I'm attracted too as a composer, using choirs / woodwind / strings etc. - I guess to put it plainly it's not 4 chord rock.
2. Working with so many other people, how do you keep creatively on track?
Working with so many people can sometimes make it easier to keep on track, especially if you're all channelling complimentary thoughts / ideas. People are naturally drawn to other people who 'think a-like' and then as a community build something together, with each bringing their own; so in the end, perhaps it's not so much about what I'm doing personally but how my work personally fits into a community of sounds.
3. What 'is' music to you?
Tough question. I don't know if that can really be answered - In short, I truly believe that music seems to be the most 'sublime' of all the arts. When we listen to music we experience a feeling even so far as a sickness / sadness at times which can't be explained. It's a link between here and another plane, whatever sort of music you enjoy.
4. How has 2011 been for you?
Pretty swell, thanks for asking.
5. For Christmas, you’re hoping for...?
A big bag of coal, I probably deserve it - then I can write about it on my second LP. Either that or more knitted jumpers.
6. What are your plans for 2012?
2012 will notorious & B.I.G. - I'll release my first debut LP, 'Picture Window', there'll be a tour and I'll even go over to the UK (They quite like me over there, good chance to wear the jumpers). There's also some talk in the works of my album possibly being performed by a 40 person orchestra but I can't say too much on that right now. Fellow musician Rainbow Chan & I are also talking of teaming up to do a 'collab', like icelandic electronica meets the woods kinda thing. There'll also be a second EP 'Momento Mori' released through Disco Naivete online - it's more of a follow up to my earlier work on 'White Noise' (released 2008).
7. With so many accomplishments already, what would be your goal for your career?
I think just to keep exploring different sounds - I wouldn't even know how to begin to work a synth. There are so many things i'm yet to explore and do and despite any achievements I've already had it's no good to rest on your laurels - It's important to keep looking for various opportunities. I'd love to write a film score or even something totally different to now - like dark,disco dance music; but I'd have to work on conquering that synth first.
8. What is it like performing with such talents as Architecture In Helsinki?
In a word, 'Amazing'. It was really such an honour. I sang with them at VIVIDlive at the Opera House and to walk out onto stage and see thousands of people jumping in their seats was insane - very different to playing with SBS orchestra in the concert hall. AIH were really professional and just made it like a party on and off the stage and everyone involved has kept in contact incase it should happen again; If that's the highlight of my career then I think that's a pretty good one, but hopefully it won't be the last time i'm at 'the house'.
9. If you can be remembered within music for one thing, what would you hope that is?
Too early to say, hopefully something more than "That boy who played piano, sounded a bit like nick-cave / patrick wolf, wore various multi-coloured christmas jumpers who I once saw sing with Architecture in Helsinki at the Opera House and released that one dark chamber-pop record, Picture Window, with that single on it....HOPECHEST"
10. Any tips or suggestions for those just starting out in the industry?
I think just to write lots and take small steps. Once I read an interview with Madonna and in it she said it was just a series of 'Suddenly' s'. You know, suddenly she was in NYC with $100 and some ballet shoes, then suddenly she was playing guitar in her bf's basement, then suddenly she was recording with BMG then suddenly she had a hit single "for the very first time". I do think though for Sydney readers that FBI open day is a great start. When I turned up 16, with some crappy bedroom demo's and no idea of anything they put me on the radio, gave me some good advice and some contacts to get some shows and that story is echo'd by many grateful people in the sydney music community.
For more information: myspace.com/jackcolwelll