Jack Savoretti, a solo acoustic singer, chats with Kevin Cooper about his love for The Royal Albert Hall, his break from the music business, the release of his latest album, and his forthcoming tour of the UK.
Jack Savoretti is an Italian English solo acoustic singer who began playing guitar at 16. He was brought up in London before moving to Lugano, a Swiss city near the Italian border. After releasing a number of albums, he took a break from his career after becoming disillusioned with the music industry. He is now back touring and releasing another album.
He has attracted the attention of Burn Magazine who has compared his song-writing to that of Simon & Garfunkel; whilst London’s Daily Telegraph describes his guitar playing as having a ‘primal magic about it.’ Some music industry insiders are already buzzing, calling him the new Bob Dylan.
Whilst preparing for his latest album launch and his forthcoming tour of the UK, he took time out to have a frank and honest chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what he had to say.
Hi Jack how are you?
Hi Kevin I’m fine thanks, how are you today?
I’m good thanks and let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
It’s no problem Kevin, thank you for talking to me.
So how is life treating you at this moment in time?
It’s good, the weather could be better but its good (laughter). Everything is hunky dory at this time.
I assume that you are busy getting yourself ready for the forthcoming tour?
Yes that’s right Kevin, we are just ironing out a few small things. We are also getting ourselves ready for the album release and all that kind of stuff. I am just making sure that everyone is in their positions (laughter).
You have a release date of the 9th February for the album, are you happy with it?
I love it Kevin. I love it more because I love everyone who has worked on it. I was lucky because the album originated from a spontaneous approach, so it was nice that we ended up with something that I love. It is also nice because it seems that everyone who has worked on it like it too, which is the most important part. There is nothing worse than working with people just for the sake of working with them. So it’s nice that everyone who has jumped on-board seems to be really feeling it, which is good.
I have been listening to the album and I have to say that I think that Broken Glass and Written In Scars are fantastic tracks.
Thank you very much Kevin, cheers, thank you.
Just as you are starting to relax and get into the songs, your voice suddenly comes through and hits you straight between the eyes.
(Hysterical laughter) well that’s the plan Kevin (laughter).
Are you ready for the tour?
What can I say, I am ready for it in as much as you can ever be ready for a tour. The best and the worst part about touring is that you never know what you are going to get; what’s going to happen, what kind of conditions you are going to get, will everyone be ok, is everybody in a good place, is everyone healthy, and will the weather be good or bad. There are so many different factors that sometimes it is a bit like going out on a mission. You never know what sort of response to expect, so it is always exciting but you can never prepare enough. There will always be something on the road that throws itself at you, and you just have to improvise (laughter).
You have played Nottingham before, how do you find it?
Yes I have played Nottingham a few times now, and I love it. I can particularly remember playing The Glee Club over there. I have played at various clubs and venues in Nottingham over the years and I played at Summer Splendour in 2013. Jake Bugg was also playing that festival and with him being a local boy, it was great doing that. It’s a beautiful part of the country; I love playing in Nottingham.
At least you didn’t give me the usual answer that I get when I ask that question and say that we have got some fantastic curry houses (laughter).
Well you have got some really great ale up there in Nottingham Kevin. The last time that we played there we found these two really cool pubs that brewed their own ale. That was brilliant.
Did you manage to get yourself down to Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, which is supposedly the oldest Inn in England?
No I didn’t, but I will be sure to do that next time. So it’s The Trip To Jerusalem and it’s the oldest Inn in the UK right?
Yes, The Trip as it is known locally is actually built into the Castle Rock which Nottingham Castle stands upon. According to local legend it takes its name from the 12th Century Crusades to the Holy Land and apparently legend has it that the Knights who answered the calls of Richard I to join the crusades stopped off at The Trip for a pint on their way to Jerusalem.
(Hysterical laughter) well thanks for giving me that tremendous piece of general knowledge trivia Kevin. I will be sure to quote you on that (laughter).
Well that’s my bit done for Nottingham Tourism. I will be sending them an invoice later (laughter).
I will be sure to credit the quote to you Kevin whenever I use it during the tour (laughter).
You are playing The Rescue Rooms here in Nottingham on February 14th Valentines evening. I would have thought that you would have had more important things on your mind (laughter).
(Laughter) not at all Kevin, I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. That is the one holiday that I am never too sure about. However I am not going to go into that as I don’t want to be the Bah Humbug of Valentine’s Day (laughter). Let’s just say that it is a holiday that I don’t trust (laughter). That one has always gone against me.
Four years ago you turned your back on the music business. Did you really feel that low that you thought enough was enough?
Yes, genuinely Kevin. I was very disillusioned when I realised exactly what the music business could do to people. I was always aware of what the business was, but I was never really aware of what impact the music business could have on people. It was a bit of an oxymoron really. When you are trying to sell something that is really so relative to you, and then people behave in a certain way it breaks your heart. That is what happened to me. Naively I hadn’t realised that the two went hand in hand. Luckily however, because of that experience, I realised that the two didn’t have to go hand in hand. They are both very important but there is the music and then there is the business. You have got to keep those separate and not mix them up. If you can do that then it’s the best job in the world.
And do you feel now that you are managing to do that?
At the moment I am figuring it out, but I know that is what I am trying to do, which is great. Before, I was trying to combine the two and so it wasn’t working. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was happy to let other people do it for me and that’s why things went the way that they went. Whether I am achieving it or not, I will have to let you know further on down the road. What I do know is that we are trying to do more in order to achieve what I want to achieve.
At least now you know in your own mind what you are working towards.
Yes and more importantly I now realise that every success is thanks to usually just a handful of people. So it is very important that those handful of people want the same things that you want Kevin. As long as that is always open, and nobody has to BS each other, then it’s great.
Speaking to some of the older artists, they have told me that they have worked for over sixty years in the music business and they haven’t got a bean to show for it. It just goes to prove exactly how shark infested the music business is.
Yes for sure Kevin but every now and then you need a shark of your own, especially because there are sharks out there. But you are never going to change the music business. It is always going to be what it is going to be. Remember, it is a business and in the business world there are always sharks who have absolutely no interest in music. But what you have to remember is that most of the people in the business, even if they have become sharks, SOB’s and all that, they did once want to do it for the music. You just have to be patient with people and not take anything for granted and never give anything away too quickly.
Is it true that after you walked away from the music business you couldn’t stop writing songs?
That’s what I needed Kevin when I decided to pull away from the business. At that time I thought that I hated music but hadn’t realised that I was writing music. The best part about that wasn’t so much that I was writing, but the fact that I was actually writing, and it made me realise that these were two separate things. I didn’t start writing at sixteen years of age because I wanted to be in the music business; I started writing because I loved writing songs and it reminded me of that. I realised that if I could do that then get into the business side of things, then the two are not the same thing. It was the wake-up call that I need Kevin.
So would you agree that getting as low as you did was in fact the best thing that could have happened to you?
Yes totally Kevin. They always say that when you hit rock bottom its good because you spend the rest of your life looking up (laughter) so I guess that was a positive.
Listening to the new songs I feel that they are more passionate and have more feeling. Would you say that is an accurate description?
I completely agree with you. I don’t like saying that they are more genuine but they probably are. That is why you have to be so careful with what you release when you are young and first starting in the business because you don’t really know what you are doing Kevin. A lot of the experiences that I was talking about in my earlier albums were very much from my imagination or what I had seen or even about some of the other art forms. I was trying to learn how to do it. It’s a bit like this; you have to learn how to speak a language before you can express yourself fully and with the first two records I was really learning the language. It took me until my third and fourth albums for me to be in a position to say ‘this is me, I can speak the language, and this is what I have to say’.
So describe the new album for me?
Well Kevin it’s based on rhythm. It’s based on defiance. It’s defiantly rhythmical and I hope inspirational too, to anyone who is trying to do something that they don’t think that they can.
Is it true that you first began playing the drums before moving onto the guitar?
That’s right Kevin. I had started playing the drums when I was fifteen years old. Then after a while I got bored waiting for everyone to tune their guitars (laughter) so I decide to get one myself. Most of my friends were playing the guitar all of the time so I decided to jump on the bandwagon (laughter).
So have the drums been put away for good now?
I love them but whenever I play them I think that everyone around me wishes that they had gone for good (laughter). I love playing the drums and find it so much fun. If I had more time I would definitely play them more.
What got you started with music?
Well there was a bunch of things Kevin but it was probably down to me discovering certain musicians like Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joan Baez, James Taylor and a band called Sublime. I discovered all of those guys in the same year and until then I had never really thought much of music. I just thought that it was something for parties. But then when I discovered these guys I realised that it was a form of expression. For me it was all about teenage angst and not knowing what to do with it; various things changing and generally needing a voice.
I was very bad at learning other people’s songs so I kind of cheated (laughter). When I started learning a song I would figure out the first three or four chords and then it would get too complicated so it was easier for me to make something up than to actually learn the song. That’s how the whole thing of writing came along because I would do that; friends of mine would like it although it was someone else’s song, and I thought that was quite cool (laughter) and I was getting away with it. And I have been stealing other people’s ideas ever since (hysterical laughter).
So who were you listening to whilst you were growing up?
Pretty much those guys actually. It’s pretty much down to my parents. My dad made me a mix-tape for my sixteenth birthday which was called Forever Young and on it were people like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, so I quickly got a full education into real songwriters. At that time I really didn’t know what to do but the people on this tape really struck a chord with me and I thought I can do this and I wanted to do that more than anything.
And your mum liked Motown.
Yes she did Kevin and that was always nice, the fact that my parents had totally different tastes in music. My mum was really into Soul, R&B, Motown, so I grew up very much with Marvin Gaye and that whole Motown scene. All of the Motown greats were always blearing through the house.
Who has influenced you musically?
There have been a few Kevin from Paul Simon to Bob Dylan of course, the list is so long, and there are so many (laughter). Otis Redding is one of the most influential artists for me. Otis Redding and Sam Cooke were the first albums that I started stealing (laughter) from my folks. They were always hanging around the house with those kinds of records.
I personally think that Otis Redding is possibly the best singer/songwriter that there has ever been.
I think that I am with you on that one Kevin. He would definitely be in my top three. For Otis to only have had such a short career, he has to be one of the most influential voices and singer/songwriters that has ever lived.
But you would have to put Steve Cropper in there at number 2 (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) well he was a very big part of it.
Can you remember what the first record was that you ever bought?
I can and it’s a really weird one (laughter). It sounds like a really pretentious answer but it was the album Talking Timbuktu by Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder. It really does sound pretentious but it wasn’t. I bought it because I thought that the cover was awesome (laughter). The two guys are just sitting there in a hut with their steel string guitars somewhere in Africa and I just loved this photograph. And that was the first cd that I bought. On that occasion I really did judge a book by its cover but fortunately it was one hell of an album.
Who did you first see live in concert?
I was very lucky Kevin, it was Bob Dylan in Zurich, and it was my very first concert at fifteen years of age. I got given a ticket and it was amazing, though it was half empty. He was playing at the ice hockey stadium in Zurich and you could literally walk through the back, get yourself a drink and then go back to the front of the stage. It was a great environment. It was at a time when certain things were still legal in Switzerland so there was a really good vibe (hysterical laughter). It was as close as you could get to being ‘back in the day’ (laughter). It was great and that was my first show.
And without meaning to be disrespectful in anyway, that would be when Bob Dylan was still putting on a good show.
He was very good, and I think that I caught one of the last shows when he was still putting on a good show. I saw him again two years later at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles and all that I will say is that it wasn’t great. But the first time that I saw him he was phenomenal, it was a great show.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It would have to be a tie between playing The Royal Albert Hall in London and seeing The Arena in Verona, although I have never played there. The Arena is probably the most beautiful place that I have ever seen in my life, so somewhere in-between those two. It is neck and neck between those two (laughter). The most phenomenal thing which you cannot prepare for is the sound of the audience when you walk out onto the stage at The Royal Albert Hall. When the public do actually applaud, which you hope to god they do, the Hall is designed in such a way for acoustic and classical music, the sound of human applause comes at you with such power, it is magnificent. It is a thing that you have only ever seen in classical concerts. It’s grand and even the applause of the audience is grand. That was the thing that hit me the most, the sound of the applause.
Jack thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been a pleasure.
Cheers Kevin, thank you man. I will see you in Nottingham. Bye.