Jack Colwell’s CV is impressive. His classical education at the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium encouraged in him a love of strings and exposed him to different compositional styles and sounds. Perhaps as a result, he’s worked on an impressive range of musical projects. He was a vocal coach for an Architecture in Helsinki single launch at GoodGod, and Karen O's “psycho opera”, Stop The Virgens (it featured as part of VIVID in 2012). On double bass and string arrangements for a tribute to The Avalanches with Jonti and The Astral Kids in 2014. Most recently he was involved in a tribute to Chrissy Amphlett for Melbourne Music Week, arranging Divinyls songs for four-part voice and conducting a 12-person choir.
But these are all side projects to his work as a solo artist. Colwell sings and plays all the instruments on the near-perfect pop ballads that make up his recent EP Only When Flooded Could I Let You Go. They’re big, bruised, dramatic and lush, bearing all the hallmarks of a serious talent.
BS: Favourite things to do/places to go on a sunny day?
JC: Gordons Bay is the best place to go for a swim – every time I go I end up running into people I know from various artistic communities. Otherwise, I'm probably out speed-walking to a rehearsal, grabbing a coffee at Shenkin or Kawa on Crown Street (my loyalty is definitely split!) or soaking up the sun in Camperdown Park while attempting to finish any number of books I've started reading. A recent favourite was Kim Gordon's Girl In A Band.
BS: You had a classical education, but can you remember what first drew you to create music in the indie/rock/pop sphere?
JC: Definitely. While I was at the Conservatorium high school, I took composition lessons. I wasn't very adept at putting together a classical work, all I really wanted to do was write songs because they seem to come a lot more naturally. I was really influenced by artists like Tori Amos, Patrick Wolf and Joanna Newsom (I still am), and I used to write these really painfully angsty songs that seemed to go for 10 minutes each, and were so steeped in fantasy they were practically the Narnia Chronicles. I felt so proud after I finished them, and I used to call up my friends and perform them down the phone (there was no iPhone voice memo back then). There's a folder on my computer with all my early teenage songs in it – I don't want anyone to hear that!
BS: Apart from music, what inspires you?
JC: I draw a lot of inspiration from contemporary dance. I try to go to a dance class every few weeks because I believe that moving to music is really important when you're trying to create it. Fashion inspires me in unexpected ways: I certainly think that what you wear can create a narrative for how you feel, or what defines you. Fashion and music have always gone hand-in-hand in that respect. At the moment I’m loving Serpent & The Swan and Song For The Mute.
BS: Fantasy support slot – any band, anywhere, any era?
JC: Ooh, Nick Cave would be a big one on my list – or Courtney Love. I adore Tori Amos, but I'd be too intimidated. I wouldn't want to play piano in front of her.
BS: And what can we expect from your shows in January?
JC: Earlier this year I brought out an EP, Only When Flooded Could I Let Go. I've been enjoying playing the tracks off the EP in heavier arrangements than what I recorded. That's the funny thing with studio versus live: as soon as something is committed to tape, I want to push it in another direction, which is why the live show is really important to me. It reanimates the songs in a different light. So I'm performing the EP with more muscle, and I've reworked some older tracks. I'm also testing the waters with a couple of new compositions. Plus, the wonderful Sophie Lowe, fresh off the back of her EP release, will be my very special guest in Sydney, and Woodes is joining me in Melbourne. I'm really looking forward to seeing their sets. They're both incredible.
Jack Colwell plays Shebeen on Friday 8 January.