Interview: Jake Downs
Unsure of how to introduce Jake in terms of his musical style, I finally settled on this analogy – imagine if Morrissey and Florence Welch merged their voices; and this sound was implanted into an eighteen year old, alternative-pop singer from Devon.
Jake’s debut single, Seize The Water, is reminiscent of Morrissey’s melancholic ballads, whilst also evoking the same mellifluous tones as Florence Welch or, one of his biggest musical influences, Kate Bush. Seize The Water is an ethereal love song, perfectly accompanied by the sound of rolling waves in between piano tracks, the occasional clinking wine glass, and, if you listen carefully, you may even pick up a little latin phrase, thrown into the mix! In his music, it becomes apparent that the sheer volume and power of the sea is a hugely musical thing. It also becomes apparent that Jake has incredibly maturity and natural talent, for such a young musician.
I was lucky enough to interview Jake, so without further ado, here it is:
It’s notoriously difficult for up-and-coming musicians to get a foothold in the industry, and yet your single ‘Seize The Water’ is available on iTunes and on vinyl. Was it a difficult process, getting your music available to the public?
You’re so right: the industry is a ridiculously tricky place to find a way into at first. Although ‘Seize the Water’ is my debut single, I’ve been making and sharing my own music since I was 14, but I’m so glad I had those four years to improve my writing and fine-tune my style; I listen back to things I did back in 2008 and I see how much I’ve changed over the time (for the better, I think!). Getting signed to Vox Humana, my record label, earlier this year was a lucky coincidence for me: Colin, who owns the label, got in touch with me after hearing a particularly shoddy version of the A-side on my SoundCloud page which I’d recorded on my iPhone! I guess he must have miraculously been able to see what I wanted the little demo to become.
How important do you think social media (Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/YouTube) is for new acts to promote themselves, as opposed to old-fashioned gigging and trawling round record companies and radio stations?
I do think the Internet is both a fantastic and evil tool for the modern musician. Fantastic as I was ‘spotted’ via the Internet, was able to communicate music prior to the single using these media, and have been hugely reliant on it as a way of broadcasting information about the release. I just get the feeling it can sometimes make a music-lover lazy: I’m hugely guilty of this myself. You begin to relish the fact that you can sit behind your computer screen and have everything delivered to you on a cyber plate. I both love and hate its immediacy: it’s so wonderful to be able to download a song so quickly from iTunes, but it loses a certain excitement in receiving a physical copy of a release… my label and I made a conscious decision to release both on vinyl and digitally. Nonetheless, I’ve been able to get in touch with some incredible people through the Internet: I wouldn’t be anywhere without my lovely Twitter followers, and it’s so incredible that they contact me from all ends of the globe – from America to Russia – so I adore the Internet for that reason. I’m still an ‘old-fashioned gigger’ at heart, though, I think!
Your video for ‘Seize The Water’ is rather impressively filmed! Did you edit it yourself, or do you have people who help you?
Thank you so much! I’m so pleased with how it’s all worked out. As my first music video, I wanted it to be an embodiment of the place where I’ve lived all of my life; I’m moving away very soon, so it’s my farewell to Devon, I think. It was shot, directed, and edited by the wonderful Benjamin Leggett, who’s been a total rock to me over the past years, and it was such a fantastic opportunity to work with him professionally on something. Ben’s a hugely talented filmmaker, and his company Curieux Productions sorted me out impeccably, even if his penchant for sunrises didn’t agree with my preferred sleeping pattern! The entire shooting and editing process was very long and full of experience, hilarity, and good wine; we did everything around the Devon/Cornwall area and included lots of my very beautiful friends in the process. I’m so grateful to Ben and his family.
Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Oh, what a question! My music taste is hugely varied, and my influences change from day to day. I like most things (although I’m still trying to find my way into the heavy metal repertoire), but my all-time biggest musical influences are Kate Bush, Bjork and Nina Simone: crossing seamlessly between art music and pop music is the greatest feat for any writer, I think, and to me is the answer to the ‘it-all-sounds-the-same’ problem we sometimes face these days. Nina Simone, for example, was such a raw musician: her multi-faceted performances and incredible technical ability along with her fiery determination and spirit continue to be a great inspiration to me. I’m also hugely influenced by composers throughout history: Machaut, Byrd, Purcell, Beethoven, Debussy, Cage and Pärt are a few of my most treasured loves. I have a thing for innovators and risk-takers: Laura Marling, Lana Del Rey, and Patrick Wolf are three musicians who I respect greatly. I also really love One Direction!
If you could bring any famous musician back to life, who would it be?
What a question! It would be between Claude Debussy, Jeff Buckley, and Nina Simone for me, I think. I’m currently swaying towards Nina… but ask me tomorrow, and I’m sure I’d have a completely different set of names! I could never choose!
Watch the video for Seize The Water here: