June 02 2019

Annie O Presents: Jack Gray

New York-Standard Sounds
Jack Gray moved all the way across the world, from a small town in North Queensland, Australia to Los Angeles. He toured with fellow Australian artist Dean Lewis in the U.S. and Canada, decamped to Nashville to do some songwriting, debuted new tracks every few weeks and now he’s set to release his first-ever EP, Nights Like This on May 31st. It’s been quite the momentous year for 20-year-old, to say the least. He will be in New York performing his latest alt-pop tracks at The Standard, East Village on June 3rd. In advance of the show, Gray caught up with Annie O to talk about his artistic process and the exciting new projects he’s got in the works.

Tell us about your upcoming Nights Like This EP?

I’m super stoked about the release of the new EP. After spending the last two years writing music, performing, recording and producing for myself and others, it’s super cool to be able to put out these songs and finally share them with the world. This year has been a whirlwind of new music for me; I’ve been putting out new tracks every couple of weeks and it’s cool to have it all culminate in the release of Nights Like This.

How is this endeavor different from your earlier releases?

Honestly, this is my first EP. My first collection of songs that mean something to me, together, as a story. I’ve always been inspired by musical story tellers so putting out this little collection starts my journey into sharing mine.  

How has the recent move to LA been? 

I’ve been living in LA since the beginning of the year, and creatively it’s an amazing place. Coming from a small town in Australia, it’s unbelievable how big of a community there is for artists and writers. Back home, the community was so small, and the opportunities were so far and few between. I’d have to work really hard to find ways to share my music. But that said, I haven’t sat still since I came to the US. I was on tour with Dean Lewis in the US and Canada, played a couple of dates with Ella Vos, spent time writing in Nashville, back to Australia to see my family and perform a few shows—it’s been a crazy year.

What song off your new EP do you connect with the most?

I’m torn between Bullet and Fools. Fools represents a time in my life when I finally moved to Sydney and committed myself to writing and recording music full time. It’s one of the first few songs I wrote out of this great rehearsal space I was essentially living in—so it’s full of happy memories. Bullet, is the other track that is really important to me. It’s a song I wrote about a really tough period in my youth.  

Who are you listening to these days? 

I love what Rex Orange County is doing. Drake is on my current playlist. The Japanese House, Ruby Fields are a few. 

"I think when you’re alone, writing and producing music, you never know if the stories that are important to you, or defined your experience thus far will resonate with people. Whether people will be as inspired as I was when I first started working on them. But in a live setting, you get that immediate feedback from the crowd."

Who are your greatest musical/non-musical inspirations?

You know, I’ve always been inspired by great musical story tellers. My dad was in a band when I was young, he was a drummer and my uncle was a bassist, so music surrounded me for as long as I could remember. They would play pub gig’s all over our state for fun and I, honestly, think it defined some of my first memories of how much music can inspire people. How much happiness came from the simple act of having music as a constant staple.

Tell us a bit about the recording process for your EP?

Because this is one of my first EPs, I feel like I’ve had so many different experiences recording these tracks. Some of them were simply recorded alone, in my bedroom. Some were recorded with my mates. Then as I got more serious about it and signed my first publishing deal, the crew at Specific Music had this amazing set up on the Gold Coast in Australia. We call it a caravan, but I think folks over here in the US call it an Airstream. It’s essentially, a converted RV that’s now a fully operating studio. Recording there was a whole new level of inspiration. When I would get writers block, ultimately, I could grab a beer, go sit on the beach and stare at the moon.

What is your favorite part of performing?

Performing has to be my favorite aspect of my career thus far. Being able to share my songs with people in a live setting is incredibly gratifying. I think when you’re alone, writing and producing music, you never know if the stories that are important to you, or defined your experience thus far will resonate with people. Whether people will be as inspired as I was when I first started working on them. But in a live setting, you get that immediate feedback from the crowd. I’ve gotten to play these songs with a full band, I’ve been playing them acoustically—like I will be ‪on June 3—and the reaction from people has been amazing.

What can we expect from your show at The Standard, East Village as part of the Annie O Music Series?

I will say, I like to call New York my second home—after Australia. I’ve only ever been two times since I started on this journey but growing up on the other side of the world, New York was always this colossus of a city. The energy, the people and the inspiration; it’s very humbling to me. I can honestly say, the most nervous I’ve ever been before a performance was in New York, and turned out to be one of my favorites, so I’m looking forward to being able to do it again.

What's next for you? 

I’m proud to say, I’m deep in the middle of putting together a new band show for my first headline dates in Australia later in June.  

INTERVIEW BY
Annie O