London-based singer songwriter and rising soul star Jake Isaac describes his sound as ‘singer-songwriter soul, combined with a bit of pop’. After the release of his 2017 album Our Lives, Jake hasn’t been resting on his laurels, with follow-up single Long Road offering up a nice slice of easy Bastille-like folk – not to mention a seven-date tour supporting Sir Elton John last June.
Jake Isaac sat down with Nitelife ahead of his show at Thekla this month to talk about his whirlwind music career, pre-show rituals and what he’s got in the pipelines for the next few months.
‘I used to be a session percussionist and play drums for Duffy and a couple of other artists. I was also her music director when she first started out. I ended up playing drums for a couple of other pop artists, but then one day a friend of mine said I should try and give songwriting a go. My first two cuts as a songwriter were for Gabrielle and Blue. It was during that process another friend recommended I write my own stuff.
A year later we were playing Glastonbury
‘At that point, I had been writing songs for while, so I gave it a try and shortly after, I met my first manager. A year later we were playing Glastonbury!
‘When you’re in it, it feels nuts, like nothing is happening and you don’t know what is going on with your life, or you don’t know what you’re doing. But looking back, in hindsight you realise, flippin’ heck, that was a little bit mad.’
While that might sound like a relatively speedy ascent to the top, Jake says that he really pushed himself once he decided to go solo and start pursuing a career as a singer songwriter.
When I wasn’t out and about, I was on my laptop developing my craft by learning how to produce, and listening to loads of different music
‘I just felt like I 100% wanted to do this. I did a lot of networking and got into lots of sessions. That came from literally going out and meeting new people, late nights and early mornings, and working really hard. When I wasn’t out and about, I was on my laptop developing my craft by learning how to produce, and listening to loads of different music.’
With such a collection of music experience under his belt across a variety of instruments, songwriting and singing, the hardworking artist talks Nitelife through the music making process for his debut solo album.
‘A lot of my inspiration has come from real life situations. Often I’ve written a song and only realised afterwards, “Oh man, I went through some crap” or, “A friend of mine went through that”.
A lot of my inspiration has come from real life situations
‘With a lot of tracks, I get the music before the songs. I guess I didn’t really have a conventional process. I just got inspiration from different angles, whether it be other people’s stories, my own stories or music – and then seeing which ones stuck with me in terms of ideas.
‘My favourite song from the album would have to be You and I Always, probably because I’m the most honest in that track. It takes a lot to be honest.’
Perfectionism is part of Jake’s craft; even before he goes on stage, putting that extra bit of thought into his performance to ensure everyone in the crowd has an independently great experience from his live shows.
I don’t just want to perform to the middle or the front row, I’m always looking out for interaction across the room
‘I like to get to shows early so I can go into the actual venue before the show starts. I like to stand in the room from the crowd’s point of view. Before the doors open, I just like to walk around and stand in different corners of the room. Doing that makes me more aware of people in the crowd when I’m on stage. I don’t just want to perform to the middle or the front row, I’m always looking out for interaction across the room.’
Wrapping up our chat, Jake talks through his recently completed collaborative EP project: ‘I had this idea a while back and my label were really up for it. Basically, we’ve taken four songs from the new album and filmed and recorded stripped back acoustic versions with four of my mates.
We’ve got Ella Eyre, Maverick Savour, St Raymond and a guy called Joel Baker
We’ve got Ella Eyre, Maverick Savour, St Raymond and a guy called Joel Baker, who are all fantastic artists in their own right. The final EP should be coming out in the next couple of months.’
Looking forward to his Thekla show this September, Jake recounts his previous experiences of playing in Bristol, where he seems to be slowly but surely growing a solid fan base.
‘This will be my third time playing in Bristol and hopefully it should be a pretty big party. The first time I had a headline gig in Bristol, there were about 20 or so people there and the second time we played there were 100 people. This time tickets are going pretty quick, so hopefully there will be an even bigger party this time round.’
JAKE ISAAC LIVE: 18 September – Jake Issac + Cattle & Cane, Thekla
Photos by Elle Anna Smith & Victor Frankowski