When Jack Garratt released his debut album ‘Phase’ in 2016, healthy sales, extensive tours, and industry accolades soon followed. Though it marked a period of his life that Garratt looks back on as providing precious creative wisdom, the experience was also deeply isolating. Increasing feelings of self-doubt and fear came to a head during a […]
When Jack Garratt released his debut album ‘Phase’ in 2016, healthy sales, extensive tours, and industry accolades soon followed. Though it marked a period of his life that Garratt looks back on as providing precious creative wisdom, the experience was also deeply isolating. Increasing feelings of self-doubt and fear came to a head during a trip to New York with wife Sarah, sending Garratt into an overwhelming confrontation with suicidal thoughts.
“It was the first time I’d ever truly contemplated suicide,” Garratt says of this period. “I was so taken with this moment, within the joy that I was feeling; that still, despite that, this arrow was able to find a way through it all and hit me, directly, square between the eyes. I just broke down. No love for myself existed in that moment. It was just all self-loathing.”
A complete reassessment in the aftermath of this episode of mental ill health led Garratt back to songwriting to find a new appreciation for life and for himself. The result is his forthcoming LP ‘Love, Death & Dancing,’ a soul-baring reflection of personal truths. Dubbed an album of “dance music for people who don’t want to go out,” its tracks soar and bloom with manic energy and soulful rapture.
The Mind Map caught up with Jack in anticipation of the release of ‘Love, Death & Dancing,’ and he shared his thoughts on tackling self-loathing, challenging our emotions, and some words of advice from pal Hozier.
You have spoken about ‘unreal, hollow pillars of affection’ relating to the adoration public figures receive. Have you managed to find authentic connection in your life? And if so, how?
I think regardless of being in the public eye or not, finding authentic connections in life is incredibly difficult. It offers such a unique reward when successfully done, but can also offer confidence-shattering and apathetic lessons that are hard to learn from. If you add a stage and a microphone to that act of making worthwhile connections, it makes it much harder to know when the connections you’ve made are trustworthy and mutually respected, or opportunistic and ultimately fleeting. I’ve been taken advantage of and emotionally abused by my closest allies in the past, only noticing that abuse until after the bruises had shown and I had no memory of where they’d come from.
I’ve found, however, that the people I admire and love and trust the most are also the people who hold me accountable and expect me to behave like any human being. They don’t ask more of me than they think I am willing to give, and I hold my hands up and admit that I am not very good at giving. My imposter syndrome flares up when I’m with my friends, as I think they’d all rather be somewhere else, with someone else. If we’re all hanging out I’ll force myself into a corner of thinking that assumes they’re all in agreement with each other – that I should probably not be there. And not once do I actually give myself the opportunity to air those feelings, like a dusty rug I allow myself to tread all over me.
Having such self-loathing can make it hard to judge fairly whether my friends truly love me, as I cannot fathom how they possibly could.
You’ve also bravely opened up about experiencing suicidal thoughts. What do you think caused these? And how have you dealt with them?
I’ve been lucky to have only had one instance of suicidal thinking, and it came when I was at my lowest. I was in New York with my (now wife, but then) fiancée, in early December of 2017. We’d had this incredibly busy and exciting few days, and it was nearly Christmas so we were feeling particularly festive. I should have been feeling the joy of those festivities, and instead I felt nothing. I had no love for my life or myself, I just felt numb.
And a voice came out of the darkness I could feel I was in, and it was a voice that sounded like mine, and it said: “You should kill yourself, and then everyone around you would be happier.”
And before I could argue it, it retorted: “But you won’t, because you’re a coward.”
I have never enjoyed any advice that encourages people to brush off their emotions. I don’t think it’s right. I’m expected to encourage my happiness and urge myself to engage in positivity when I feel it. I don’t understand why I’m supposed to treat my sadness like it’s the antithesis of my happiness. It isn’t. I believe my role is to engage with myself, to ask my emotions what they need from me.
Your latest album is titled ‘Love, Death & Dancing’ – what do each of these words mean to you?
The original title was supposed to be ‘Songs About Love & Death That People Can Dance To.’ My wife pointed out that that might be too long and suggested its titular shortening. I’d always loved it as a premise – and as it is with a lot of the creative things I do – I make what I like and its meaning presents itself to me afterwards. With the title, I liked the way it sounded, and came to realise that they’re all things I’m scared to do selfishly. I’m scared to love myself, I’m afraid of death, and I’m terrified of dancing.
What affects your mental health positively?
I think healthy vices are important, like little treats we give ourselves that immediately help us to feel better. I have a meditative coffee making routine that I use to start every day. I’ll go for a run with my dog, come home, and spend 20 minutes making a coffee that’s only for me. It’s a daily act of self-love. I also love my own company, and I need to be alone a lot. It helps me feel peaceful and quiet.
It’s hard to pinpoint, as it can change daily. Mostly, when I’m unable to vent, or talk openly is when I start to feel worse. I’ll go a single day of not talking about something that’s been on my mind, and by the next day that thing has buried itself so deep into the soil of me, and knotted itself in so diligently into the roots of my emotions that it makes it almost impossible to dig up and get out into the air.
What role does creativity play in your wellbeing?
Sometimes the thought of making music will cause me to feel a knot in my stomach, other days making music is the only thing I can think of doing to feel worthy, and I will be inconsolable until I’ve created something.
When I’m able to create something I truly love, it can give me such an immense joy, but with that also comes an incomparable sense of doubt when I’m creating something I don’t fully believe in. For that reason, I very rarely finish an idea I’ve had. If I feel resistance, I stop, and move on to something else.
I’ve also encouraged myself recently to engage with other types of creativity. It took me so long to refer to myself as an ‘artist’, (and that word still stumbles in the back of my throat when I say it in reference to myself), but I’ve noticed recently that I love to write poems and short stories and essays. I’m starting to do that a lot more.
What are you reading, watching and listening to at the moment?
I’ve just finished ‘LANNY’ by Max Porter (whose book ‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers’ was my favourite book I read last year), and I’ve just started ‘Lincoln in the Bardot’ by George Saunders. Currently I’m making my way through seasons 1-10 of The Simpsons and I’m listening to a lot of Ethan Gruska. He had a new album that came out this year called ‘En Guarde’ and it is shockingly beautiful.
What is your go to music if you need a boost?
Stevie Wonder or anything that Quincy Jones produced. Both are an immediate mood enhancer.
What are your favourite foods?
My wife and I love to eat! Recently, having been forced inside for obvious and pandemic-related reasons, we’ve been cooking a lot more. We both share a large appetite for Mexican food – tacos in particular – but it’s so hard to find well-made and authentic Mexican food in London (for good reason.) However recently we found somewhere in London (Cool Chile) that sells masa corn flour, tortilla press and Mescal so we’ve started making our own Tacos at home.
Do you like to exercise or meditate?
I like to exercise. I run with my dog every other day and I do minimal weight training at home. It’s very important to my sanity that I get outside every day.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received in regards to your mental wellbeing?
I had a really lovely message from Hozier recently. He and I have had some insightful and honest discussions about the criticisms we’ve both encountered in our careers. I recently opened up about some doubts I was having online, and I had an overwhelmingly affectionate reaction from people. Hozier texted me a really loving and lengthy message in solidarity and support, and it included this:
“There’s a reason people remember work for decades, and no one remembers the nay saying of critics and those not brave enough to do what you’re doing now.”
It gave me a surge of well needed aggressive confidence in myself.
How have you changed since 15, and what advice would you give to that person?
I’ve changed into a completely different person. I’m glad that I’m able to see myself at that age as a separate part of my identity. He feels more like a book I read than an age of my life.
But if I could give him some advice, I’d try and convince him that she’s not all there is…
Please nominate a friend you think should answer these questions . . .
My best friend and collaborator Tom Clarkson. He’s a director and writer, and has directed all of my official music videos but one. He also has a sketch comedy talk show called ‘Mr. Thing.’ It’s one of the most important and hilarious things I’ve seen, and been lucky to be a part of. It’s silly and wonderful and utterly joyous, reminiscent of the 90’s irreverent comedy stylings of Vic and Bob. I think it’s what the world needs more of right now.
However, he struggles with his own genius, and because of how high he wants to soar often finds himself surrounded by people who feel the need to ‘bring him down a peg or two’. I think he’d benefit greatly from these questions. I have found that self-assessment and self-criticism are dense and immovable forests that need navigating through in order to reach self-acceptance.
Jack Garratt’s new album, ‘Love, Death & Dancing,’ is available on 12th June via all major platforms.
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