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20 year-old Aussie Jack Gray Announces 'Nights Like This' EP Out May 31 via Warner Music GroupRead More
“I don’t think of music in terms of genre,” says Jack Gray. “I grew up listening to everything, so I feel like that sets the table for me as a songwriter.”
Take a listen to Gray’s captivating debut EP, ‘Nights Like This,’ and you’ll understand exactly what he means. Blurring the lines between pop charisma, R&B swagger, and rock and roll propulsion, the collection showcases the young Australian’s deft hand as both a writer and producer, one with a preternatural knack for infectious hooks and emotionally resonant arrangements. Gray sings with a seemingly effortless intimacy, his easygoing demeanor often belying the relentless work ethic and minute attention to detail that goes into each of his tracks. Calling to mind contemporaries from Jack Garratt and James Blake to Frank Ocean and The 1975, his productions show little regard for traditional distinctions between acoustic and electronic elements, frequently combining both into an ambitiously modern blend that feels instantly familiar and boldly adventurous all at once.
“When I’m making beats, I don’t care if I’m using an 808 drum machine or an acoustic kit,” explains Gray, who plays most every instrument on the EP himself. “If it sounds dope, I say let’s run with it and see where it goes.”
That up-for-anything attitude has helped fuel Gray’s success from the start. Just a few short years ago, the Queensland native was studying music at a conservatory in Brisbane when he received an unexpected invitation.
“This manager from Sydney reached out over email and said they heard my stuff online and wanted to record me,” he remembers. “I decided to just go for it.”
Those recordings landed Gray a development deal with Warner Music, who quickly added him to the famed 50 Songs In 5 Days songwriting camp in order to meet collaborators. Gray made such an impression on the team from event organizers Specific Music that they offered him a publishing deal on the spot.
Though Gray had suddenly gone from student to major label breakout star-in-the-making, his creative approach remained largely unchanged. He continued to work primarily in his bedroom, writing and recording by himself or with friends for the sheer joy of it, just as he had since childhood.
“My dad raised me as a musician,” Gray reflects. “He was a drummer, and my whole family played instruments, so I was surrounded by music growing up. I started off playing drums, guitar, piano, and bass, but when I finished high school, I got a laptop and started teaching myself how to produce in Logic. That software became like another instrument in and of itself for me. I was obsessed with it.”
Gray would put in countless days and nights fine-tuning his material, often writing the skeleton of a song in a quick burst of inspiration before producing as many as a dozen different versions of the track in search of the perfect vibe.
“I’ll spend a stupid amount of hours on the same song,” he laughs. “I’ve got a little recording setup right next to my bed, so I can work for a bit and then lay down and listen over and over again until I get it just right. I’m a perfectionist, but working on my debut meant that I had the luxury of taking my time until everything was exactly the way I wanted it to be.”
When not working in his bedroom, Gray often found himself working out of “Gracevan,” a caravan studio that his publishers set up on the beach in the small community of Fingal Head, just north of Byron Bay in Australia.
“It’s such an amazing creative space because you could be in the studio all day, but the beach is right outside your door,” says Gray. “If I lose inspiration, I can head out for a swim or a beer to clear my head. I’m my own producer and engineer and band, so I don’t have to follow anyone’s schedule.”
It was in the caravan that Gray penned some of his earliest singles, including “Red Rental Car” and “My Hands,” which earned him extensive international tour dates with multi-platinum Australian star Dean Lewis and collectively racked up more than two million streams on Spotify alone. While the singles made for a great introduction to his music, Gray was ready to tackle something a little larger with the EP, assembling a collection of songs written and recorded over the past two years that reflected his remarkable growth as an artist and producer.
“I’ve finally gotten my songs to a point where they sound like what I’ve heard in my head for so long,” says Gray. “That’s how I knew it was the right time for this EP.”
Capturing all the beautiful highs and messy lows of the journey into adulthood, the songs on ‘Nights Like This’ often juxtapose conflicting emotions, tackling weighty topics with subtle nuance and thoughtful reflection. “Down Side of Up” is a fast-paced sugar rush that clocks in at less than two-and-a-half frenetic minutes as it balances optimism and pessimism, while the slow-burning “Take Our Time” builds from a hushed piano to a dreamy synth-scape in its exploration of fantasy and reality, and the soaring and powerful “Bullet” examines human connection and loss in the face of depression and isolation. Perhaps it’s the radio-ready alt-pop gem “Fools,” though, that’s most indicative of Gray’s artistry. Grappling with the pull of nostalgia and the push to move forward, the track would ultimately go through an elaborate series of revisions and re-imaginings before ever seeing the light of day, with fourteen alternate versions eventually giving way to its final form.
It was a long and winding evolution, but, as with everything Jack Gray does, the results are more than worth the journey.
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