BRITs winner Jack Garratt: Anger issues, fear of flying and defining success

The Critics’ Choice and Sound Of champ on passion, anxiety and his stunning debut album

Sound Of 2016 winner Jack Garratt
What, me worry? Jack Garratt in a rare moment between winning prizes.

Jack Garratt is an anxious man.

You might not guess that from a first listen of his music. Musically, Garratt’s scorchingly-tipped debut album Phase is supremely confident. It’s nakedly passionate, experimental and increasingly willing to go for the jugular with grandstanding Bond themes in waiting.

Delve into the lyrics for just a few minutes, however, and a different Jack Garratt emerges.

There are the usual concerns about women, but also of someone wondering if he can ever be good enough as a person. Garratt hates discussing his lyrical inspiration but, well, there’s a giant clue in that his new single is called Worry.

Winner of all three key music industry new talent prizes already this year – BRITs Critics’ Choice, Sound Of and BBC Introducing – Garratt’s fears are something he’s willing to discuss in detail for the first time to Loaded.

“I’m an anxious person,” he admits. “I’m not sure where it comes from or what it’s about, but I definitely need to find out what drives it.

“It used to trigger anger in me. I had anger issues a few years ago, because I was stressed a lot of the time and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Anxiety made me angry, and that was fucking horrible.”

In person, Garratt is these days about the least angry man you could wish to meet. He’s slightly fidgety, sure, but that’s only because of a restless energy that makes you suspect he’d like to be writing six songs, whittling wood, playing basketball and inventing a hovercraft at the same time as doing his polite best to pay his interviewer his undivided attention.

“It’s usually confident people who see insecurities in themselves,” he continues. “They find a new way to be confident, by either being funny and light-hearted, or displaying the darkest part of yourself you could ever see. Unfortunately, I veered towards the latter.”

Through “friendships, family and help” Garratt was able to at least control his anger. But, as he says, “What’s left is knowing that I’m anxious a lot of the time, but not knowing how the fuck I should deal with it.”

The Buckinghamshire-born singer’s worries extend to fearing that nobody will turn up to his concerts. Given that he sold out the 5,000-capacity Brixton Academy months in advance, this could be written off as false modesty.

Yet the impressively-bearded Garratt is plainly sincere when he frets: “Every day I play a show, I’m always amazed when people turn up. I walk out on stage absolutely terrified, because I think ‘What if no-one turns up?’

“All I want to do is walk out in front of a roomful of people and for them to have a good time. If that means there’s seven people, I’ll still do the show and give them the best time I can. But I’d obviously rather the room is full, so that people can communicate with me for the next hour of their life.”

The son of a police sergeant father and music teacher mother, Garratt represented Britain at Junior Eurovision aged 13 before stopping his “permanent show-off ways” to concentrate on music that meant something.

“I’m never sure if a song is good or not when it’s finished”

Phase is the beautiful result, partly from songs like the fantastically grandiose R&B throwdown Fire, which sounds like Alicia Keys if she had balls that had just spectacularly dropped.

“I concentrated really hard on the songwriting side on some of the ballads,” the 25-year-old explains. “But, with Fire, I’d forgotten that I’m a producer too and I needed to have some fun with producing the songs. I went really experimental before I found the right style on Fire.”

Garratt worried Fire was no good when he sent it to his manager. Really? “Oh yeah! I’m never sure if a song is good or not when it’s finished. When I send a song to someone else, I always think ‘Well, I like it, but is it any good or am I just entertaining myself here?’”

At least Garratt is now able to sound confident about the album itself. “Everything on it is as I want it to sound,” he insists. “Every sound, every note is placed purposefully. So there are no wasted notes on there.” He means it so much it’s hard not to applaud.

Garratt moved from London to Chicago last year. He’ll only say it’s “for personal reasons”. It’s fairly safe to assume he’s moved in with his girlfriend, and let’s leave it at that. “I’ve lived there for four months and only spent four nights there anyway,” he sighs. “As a touring musician, I don’t really live anywhere.

“But Chicago is incredible. I like cities that encourage you to look up, at the beautiful architecture and the sky. I love London too, but after five years there parts of it were encouraging me to look down. And the floor in London is disgusting! Chicago is definitely influencing my songwriting – I’m looking up in an emotional way too since I discovered it.”

“I’ve taken sleeping pills to stop being scared of flying, but my body fights them”

Not that it’s perfect… “I’m colder than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Chicago is cold as fuck, man. My beard has frozen there on a couple of occasions, which is hilarious.”

Flitting between Chicago and Britain raises another of Garratt’s anxieties: he’s terrified of flying.

The singer is seeking therapy for it, via the head of British Airways’ course Flying With Confidence. “Captain Stephen Allwright, who runs the course, has given me a list of things to remember before I fly,” explains Garratt. “It’s really helped me, but I 100% have a fear of flying.

“I know that because I’ve flown in all conditions – totally sober, a little boozed up, economy, business class. I’ve taken sleeping pills, but my body fights them as it’s on such high alert. It’s fucking horrible.

“I’m a confident person, but if I’m nervous about something, I’m really nervous about it.” Loaded mentions that David Bowie was also scared of flying, and used to travel on the QE2 to get from London to New York. Garratt looks delighted at travelling in such style, before pausing. “That’s a fantastic idea. But unfortunately, I’m poor.”

“If all this goes to shit, I could still be the happiest man in the world if I’ve worked hard”

Garratt is unlikely to remain skint for long. He certainly deserves all those awards, and the public look like agreeing.

“Measuring success in music is such a weird thing to do,” he shrugs. “The outcome of all this is up to the public.

“But if I’ve worked as hard as I can and I’m not disappointed in myself, I’m happy.

“The worst thing would be is if I’m sat on my arse, knowing I didn’t work as hard as I could have done. That would be hell, and I don’t ever want to be in that nightmare.

“So long as I can sit here with a clear mind and be confident in my actions, then even if all this goes to shit I’ll be the happiest man in the world.”

Phase deserves to make Jack Garratt a very happy man indeed.

Jack Garratt’s album Phase and new single Worry are out now. He plays at the BRIT Awards at London’s O2 Arena on February 24, shown live on ITV1. He tours in April at:
Glasgow O2 ABC2 (April 1)
Edinburgh Liquid Room (2)
Newcastle University (4)
Leeds University (5)
Bristol O2 Academy (7)
Birmingham O2 Institute (8)
Manchester Albert Hall (9)
Oxford O2 Academy (11)
Norwich UEA (12)
Brixton O2 Academy (15)

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Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn

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