Tim Jackson, welcome to VENTS! Can you tell us about your sophomore album, Litter in The Park?
Thank you. I wasn’t looking to write an album at all. Having caught covid very early on in March 2020 I wrote the song Nowhere Together With You to raise money for the nurses at my local NHS hospital The Whittington. I think perhaps because it was still novel and everyone was understandably very scared, the song took hold and was featured on LBC, helping us raise £5000 overnight. I didn’t do anything else over the summer but as lockdown two came and it was clear that we were in for a long, lonely winter, I found myself sitting at the piano and the songs just started flowing. I’d been listening to a lot of what I suppose you would call forgotten classics from the 70s (people were obsessed with what they called Yacht Rock back in 2020, which is music that I have always just thought of as intelligent pop). How Do You Mend A Broken Heart came first and is inspired by the west-coast sound of late period ‘70s Beach Boys with lush harmonies and some satisfying chord changes that I really made to enjoy listening to myself. It came out really well and from there the other songs just flowed smoothly from piano to voice-notes to paper and then into the studio. I was lucky that I had built myself a little recording studio in my garden in 2019 which really came into its own during the lock-down. It has a fully-mic’d drum kit and piano in it and my good friend Tom Meadows was free and able to work with me to record all the drums parts live. That’s one benefit of having your tour dates cancelled (Tom is the drummer for numerous acts including Kylie Minogue). We worked really hard on getting the best drum sounds we could out of that room to the extent that Tom is now in heavy demand as a session player and has been adding drums to many famous artists’ tracks from our little room over the past two years because everyone loves the sound we get and the way he plays. From there, I was able to call in favours from some of my musician friends like Iain Hornal (10cc ELO), Jon Green (Linkin Park, James Bay) and Ben Epstein (Mika, The Voice) to add their parts remotely. It’s amazing what a fast internet connection and Zoom can do to make remote collaboration a reality.
Was there a particular event that inspired the standout single, An Unusual Time?
I think most of us felt very discombobulated in 2021. We couldn’t see friends, family or colleagues and we didn’t really have an idea how long it would last. Despite the misery and gloom there were also positives about being able to slow the pace of life, appreciating the nature all around us and always hope on the horizon.I didn’t want to write a song that was super-literal in its lyrics but one that encapsulated the mood we were in. An Unusual Time hopefully does just that. The title refers not just to the period we were living in but also to the time-signature of the song itself, which is in 5/8. It’s a little in-joke for musos, but there is something challenging and fun about writing a song in an odd meter while still having a strong melodic hook and not throwing the listener off track completely. The track is built from a solid base of a really great drum-pattern from Tom and a satisfying Wurlitzer electric piano chord progression which allows everything else to flow from it.
There is some serious flair in the instrumentals; where did you pick that up?
That’s kind of you. I have been playing piano since I was three (I learnt via the Japanese Suzuki method) and was playing classical concerts at the Albert Hall as a child aged 7 alongside other students. I’m lucky that I have perfect pitch and have always been able to pay by ear to the extent that if I hear something on the radio, I can immediately sit down and play it. For whatever reason my earlier attempts at rock stardom never took hold, but in a way I am happy, because the music I am making now is 100% true to myself and basically created for my own enjoyment. The fact the other people are responding positively to it is lovely.
It is worlds apart from the other ‘lockdown-inspired’ releases that we have heard since 2020; what was it like to write the lyrics?
I tend to write the music and lyrics simultaneously. I might come up with a musical hook and put some nonsense words behind it which fit the groove but then I will generally come up with a subject and write the rest of the lyrics and music together. It is not an easy way of working but it means that both parts of the song are authentic, at least to me. I believe less is more and I try to say as much as possible in as few words as I can. Tom Petty (RIP) was the absolute master of that as far as I am concerned. When it works well, it allows the listener to create their own meaning for the song.
After being infamous on the Camden gig circuit in the 90s with your former band, what was it like to emerge as a solo singer-songwriter?
We were the rock-n-roll cliche. School friends who formed a band in our early teens and did everything together for years. We had a particular idea of where we wanted to go but we took on a manager who had had some success in the 70s and 80s and wanted to turn us into some kind of bubblegum pop-rock band, which we were never going to be. After the band imploded in about 2002, I didn’t touch music again for about 5 years when my good friend Richard Lobb started running weekly music nights at a pub in Bounds Green, North London. I became a regular member of the house band and over the years we got a great reputation for hosting emerging artists as well as performing our own songs. Ed Sheeran, Duffy, Kacey Musgraves all came and did sets with us and the atmosphere was always special. We would usually end the night with some covers. I think we first played Africa by Toto in about 2008 and people were dancing on the tables – we still take credit for its revival today. Doing those gigs rekindled my love of music and I suppose gave me the confidence to write and record my own material.
What was it like to work with Jon Green and Iain Hornal on the release?
Jon and I have played music together since we were young kids and working with him is totally natural because we have so many years’ experience together. He is an amazing all-round musician, songwriter and producer. He always brings something unexpected to the table in terms of arrangement and it’s no surprise he is doing so well as a producer and hit songwriter. Iain is one of the guys I met during our pub gigs and he is just a phenomenal singer and guitarist / bass player. His BVs on How Do You Mend A Broken Heart actually made me crack up laughing because they are so perfect and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of classic rock which he brings to everything he does.
Is there any new material in the pipeline?
Always, but my first priority is to put a little band together to gig these songs. I never got a chance to perform my first album Better Late Than Never which came out in late 2019 because of Covid and the same with this one so I would love to be able to play these tracks live. If any promoters are reading this, don’t be afraid to call!
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