From car parks to pop charts
When reporter Tony Grew first heard Jake Hook’s music, he was sure there must be a team of producers and writers behind it.
It turns out that Jake, while looking like the face any music guru would pick to launch a ‘brand,’ is in fact the genius behind all his own music and lyrics. PinkNews.co.uk sent Tony off into the wilds of North London to find out more.
When I meet Jake Hook for a late lunch, a posse of producers, press agents and management accompanies him. Which was nice, as they paid.
Jake himself, in a blue Hawaiian shirt and jeans, is relaxed and super-chatty, a little ball of energy, with an anecdote for every question. A proper little charmer.
His happy-go-lucky exterior masks a poetic soul. We met to discuss his upcoming album and the single, ‘Elusive You’, released today.
It is a beautiful song and his voice is angelic as ever. ‘Elusive You’ is tale of lost love, with Jake’s trademark piano perfectly echoing the subtle emotions of the lyrics.
Camden-born Jake has always been a performer. His Irish mum and English dad were treated to diva performances from him at their suburban north London home from an early age:
“It all started when I was about eight and my great grandmother gave me her piano in her will.
“I was an annoying eight-year-old, very highly-strung, attention-seeking, with pointy-out ears. I was probably one of the most well equipped eight-year-olds ever, with microphones and a little mixing desk and keyboards.
“I used to hold nightly living room concerts. The early audience would have been my mum, my dad and my brother was incarcerated in a pen at this stage so he would have to watch too.”
So what were these early efforts like? Jackson 5 material?
“They were such shite! They were about religion and school. I still remember the first song I wrote it was called “Crazy School” sometimes I still play it to myself and think ‘what a twat!'”
So from a young age Jake wanted to be a performer. Like many good-looking teenage lads in the 1990s there seemed only one route into the big time: boybands. He looks back on those days with amusement:
“I have been in several boybands, all of which were destined to be the next big thing. All of them turned out to be practicing in Asda car park and cramming five lads into the back of a Mini and going off to Welwyn Garden City. Really nightmarish things. And you always have these wide-boy managers who are all ‘yea yea I can get you into all the parties.’
“It was all about creating this thing with the product more important than the actual music. The first two boybands I was in we didn’t even see a microphone.
“One was called the ‘Fury Crew’ and then there was ‘Those Damn Kids.’
“I am so happy none of them succeeded because the worst thing you could be is in a band that releases one single. You can never go back into the record industry.”
Having avoided the pitfalls of boybands, and a little older and more mature, Jake returned to his true gift, song writing.
“When I was 15, fame was all I wanted. More than producing music. As you get older you realise that fame is a very fickle thing.
“What I want to do is make a living out of my music. If fame was a by-product of my album then that would be great but I would prefer to sell some albums.”
His writing and composing have been maturing for a few years now, and judging by the forthcoming album, ‘The Butterfly Observations’, he could be the next big thing.
He describes the last year of writing and recording as one long therapy session, and it is clear that he puts his heart out there in his work.
His writing style is unusual: “I come up with the title first and try to find an interesting one. Then I just sit down at the piano and doodle and see what sticks and then often record the vocal line live without even writing it down.
“The lyrics come at the same time as the tune, to help process how the song will turn out
I might use different instrumentation.
“Then I give it to the producer! I mentally escape from it. ‘ElusiveYou’ pretty much sounds as it did when I first thought of it. The elements in the song were there in the beginning.”
Jake has been round long enough to know that talent alone will not get you far. As well as founding his own publishing company, loneboymusic.com, he has been exploiting the new opportunities sites like myspace have recently brought to musicians worldwide.
The Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen are just two of the artists who grew their fan base through the site before being snapped up by record companies desperate to keep up with modern times.
“Myspace is scaring the hell out of record companies because they have suddenly realised that there is something like a million bands on the site now, all getting well-deserved attention. Before the record companies had the monopoly on media. Now if you are good there is opportunity to shine.
“Writing the record is the easiest bit – getting people to take time with it is hard, there are always voices saying ‘its not cool enough or cutting-edge enough.’
“Personally I ain’t bothered. I just thought ‘I will do it myself’ and that is what we have done. You get tired of waiting to hear back from various AR and distributors.
“That being said record companies are instrumental in creating your marketing, because they have the money.
“More and more artists now are recording their own stuff and not relying on the development stage from the record companies. What also frustrates me about record companies is you end up getting 13% of the record sale!”
The internet in general, and myspace in particular, has brought Jake a whole new fan base, many of them in the US. A quick look on Jake’s myspace page reveals hundreds of pages of positive comments and ten of thousands of linked friends.
How does it feel to have fans?
“It is always nice to have someone say they like what you are doing I use it as a sounding board to check what I am doing it right. I haven’t come across anything really intrusive yet, well a couple of stalkers.
“When you put yourself in the public arena you will always get people who want to know more of you than you want them to know.
“I am quite a private person about some things, I like to leave some bits to the imagination. For me its like, listen to the song you will get your answers there.”
As we finish up our lunch, and Jake’s people start making noises about getting back to the studio to listen to yet more album tracks, I realise I haven’t asked him about the meaning of this single, ‘Elusive You.’
Realising that next time I want to interview him I might not be able to just call him up and ask, I try to get some deeper insight into his songs:
“‘Elusive You’ started with an answerphone message left on my voicemail from a friend who said that I was being very elusive as I wasn’t getting back to her phone calls.
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“The two words just really stuck in my mind and it reminded me of a particular situation in my life. I had just broken up with somebody and was walking round university being ignored by the person I just spent the last two and a half years with.
“I was trying so hard to be exactly the right person, hang back a bit, play it a bit cool, then I tried the opposite, be in their face and that didn’t work.
“The idea is when someone has gone off you, when love has gone, it does not matter what you do, even if you try to mould yourself into what you think they wanted, it won’t work. It has gone. You can’t see that because you are still in it feeling the hurt.”
Deep. As Jake departs with a big smile and yet another joke, I wonder if it will be Arctic Monkey-like fame or a dedicated fan base that will await him after the release of ‘The Butterfly Observations’ later this month. All I know for certain is that the boy with the boyband looks deserves it all.
The single ‘Elusive You’ is available through iTunes, Napster and most other online digital stores. You can get a ‘hard’ copy CD and other Jake merchandise from www.loneboymusic.com
‘The Butterfly Observations’ will be released in October.