Jay Fraser is a solo roots artist from Launceston. After releasing two albums, Jay traveled across the world to London. His latest album Building of dreams documents his move to the other side of the world and all the events in between. We caught up with Jay to ask him about his latest album and his musical career thus far.
What made you want to become a musician?
I’ve never really considered myself as a musician, but my interest in music and songs stretches back as long as I can remember. I’d exhaust my mum’s record and CD colletion and would just be fascinated by the imagery and mystery of music and the characters on the cover or not on the cover, like Neil Diamond, The Eagles and Dr Hook. Music seemed like magic. It still does. I guess its that child like wonder and passion that’s paved the way, there wasn’t any pivotal moment or decision making.
When did you write your first song?
After stumbling upon ‘A Skin Too Few’ on SBS one night around 2003. I’d never really thought of writing before, it inspired me to start.
What was the music scene in Launceston like?
I never really played very much in Launceston, I think I’ve played about 3 or 4 times in total. I was always a little scared of the home turf. I generally used to make the 2 hour drive south to Hobart, I enjoyed playing down there and there’s some great sub-scenes, bluegrass, country, folk, avant guard. A nice melting pot!
What inspired you to move to London?
I’d spent a year in France and would have gone back there if I could, but it was a little tricky on the visa front. London was the obvious next choice, just 2 hours on the Eurostar and you’re in Paris, or £25 and an overnight bus.
How does being in London compare with being in Launceston?
You can play several gigs a week and you’re not saturating it. There are so many venues, so many gigs to play and to watch. I’ve experienced many moments of musical magic and discovered some amazing artists via the London scene, stuff like Dry The River, Rocco de Luca & Marcus Foster. Its also great having about 3 cinemas to choose from and 30 restaurants all within a 15 minute walk! I do long for the clean air, though… and sunshine. I love the long shadows cast on a Tasmanian autumn afternoon.
You also release music under the name Aimless, why did you decide to produce the music under an alias?
It started completely without intention. Its very different from what I play live and what I write acoustically. I think the pseudonym allows for a sense of freedom where I’m separated from the material. The name also suggests the lack of purpose, in which there is great freedom also.
Is there any future releases planned from Aimless?
Yes, definitely! Soon.
You produced the soundtrack for the short film The Revelations of Clement Narscioni, how did that come about?
The film was one of my pet projects a few years ago, the concept was to conceive and shoot the film during a few days in Sydney. The atmosphere of the film was perfectly suited to a soundtrack by Aimless. I basically edited the film and scored the soundtrack at the same time, I think it creates a unique fusion between the images and the sounds, the soundtrack is definitely a fundamental part of the storytelling or vibe of the thing!
How does writing a film score compare with writing acoustic songs?
There is a sense of direction outlined from the beginning, there’s no struggling for a starting point in that regard. There’s generally a mood and essence created by the images and thus can spark the idea process quite well. I’d like to do more.
Your latest album had a very Australian sound while being recorded in England, was it hard to get the sound and feel of somewhere on the other side of the world?
I guess the saying is true – you can take the boy out of Australia, but you can’t take Australia out of the boy!
You’ve also said that the recording process was unplanned and natural, how did this compare to producing your previous albums?
The first album, ‘Losing home’ was all recorded live in studio with just one post tracking of some small vocal harmonies on ‘Ballad of Dechlan’. The second album ‘3 days, 7 lovers & the philistine’ was also recorded live in the studio but all the additional instrumentation was tracked after the initial guitar and vocal, stuff like bass, electric guitar and lap steel. With ‘Buildings of Dreams’, the idea was to start with the tracks that featured more production then taper down to a 1st take live recording, which is what we did.
Your bio says you owe much to the influence of a drunken sailor, do you plan on releasing and sea shanties?
It hadn’t really crossed my mind. There’s some great shanties and folk tales that have been done, I love Nick Jones’ interpretation of Humpback Whale and Canadee-i-o. It would be interesting to hear a modern interpretation of ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?’
Have you ever thought of performing in a band rather than playing solo?
Definitely. I’m playng a Spring festival in northern England and there’s talk of joining forces with a great bunch of lads I know from Doncaster for one or two of our sets. I’m also hoping to play some festivals downunder during the 2011/12 summer and the plan is to have my old mucka Teinne on drums and harmonies… maybe we’ll find a bass ring-in. Anyone??
When writing what comes first the music or the lyrics?
I don’t know. I think it can be either. Definitely, the toughest thing is to know what to write about. I would think its best for that to make itself known naturally, though many times the meaning can be interpreted completely differently from what was expected or thought at the inception. I used to tear through a song, writing several a week at one point. Now I enjoy carrying a song and letting it evolve slowly and naturally, being on the look out for the song, as it were.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
I’ve been listening to ‘Buildings of Dreams’ quite a bit. I’m not sure why I listen to it, perhaps partly because I want to analyse it further, partly because I’m searching to find a sense of satisfaction in what I’ve just made and also trying to get a sense of where I am so I can make a purposeful move forward. When I was young I made a small intricate cabinet for my mother in my Grandfather’s workshop out of scrap Blackwood that he’d picked up from the tip. I spent a lot of time on that little cabinet. I enjoyed looking at it a lot when it was first completed, it was a proud moment when I gave it to her. The need to look at it wore off but whenever I’m back at home I’ll sometimes catch a glimpse of it and remember all the things surrounding that point in time. I think songs can be the same. I believe it can be unhealthy to listen to your own music too much, like Narcissus and his reflection.