The Australian folk scene is booming with an exceptional level of folk and grassroots artists taking their music to the streets and venues around the country. Brisbane singer-songwriter Jack Botts has captured the attention and the hearts of music fans across Australia, touring the country and playing to sold out shows across our regional and capital cities. Jack will release his third EP ‘Slow Mornings’ on 4th June, then set off on a major tour of our major cities.
‘Slow Mornings’ is a collection of six incredibly sincere tracks spawning four singles with the title track the latest offering in this personal chronicle. The songs delve into new love and the highs and lows of maintaining a bond through distance and a world trapped in isolation. Botts has beautifully crafted his joys, frustrations and anticipations of the last 18 months into a collection of inspirational songs that will leave fans feeling hopeful for the future.
Our Music Maven Tracey Moyle recently had an insightful chat with Jack about the new EP, his rising up through the grassroots pathways of busking and traveling the country in his van, his personal journey laid bare through songwriting, touring the capital cities and taking his music out in person to his 250,000 monthly Spotify listeners.
Congratulations on the new EP ‘Slow Mornings’. I’ve had it for a few weeks now but to be completely honest I think every single from the EP is on my playlist. The first I saw you was your support with The Dreggs at The Zoo in early 2020.
“OK yeah. That was before everything shut down. It was amazing, it was the best. God it was so hot. I think I’m playing at my next Brisbane shows there in June. I’m kind of keen because I’ve never played there in winter. I’ve only in summer where she’s ruthlessly hot.”
You’ve certainly come a long way since your busking days in Byron Bay. At what stage did you realise that this was something that you could actually make a career of?
“I didn’t actually know busking was such a massive leap and I had a heap of mates that were doing it. My producer, Garrett (Kato), he was like ‘you need to come down and do it’, so I did. Then I kind of never stopped. I did a solid year busking and then before I knew it touring started taking over and busking kind of faded out. I was busking all the time and touring a little bit and now it’s touring all the time and busking a little bit. It’s been awesome super fun.”
The local folk scene is so strong at the moment. There’s so many incredibly talented artists coming out just like yourself, like The Dreggs, Ziggy Alberts, Tay Oskee just to name a few. You must feel so excited to be a part of this amazing community?
“Yes, it’s awesome for sure. When I started, guys that I’m playing with now are who I was watching on the street when I was younger, so it’s like pretty cool to be mingling with those guys. I’m stoked to be a part it. It’s a really strong scene I think, especially the East Coast, or the folk scene all over Australia now is pretty epic. Everyones pretty tight in it, so it’s cool.”
Music is such a powerful outlet and it’s an amazing way to get your message out and to just connect with people. Your songs are beautiful, they’re simple but they’re just so uplifting. You seem to draw your inspiration a lot of the time from deep down, from a personal place?
“Yeah, when people ask what do you write about, I’ve always found it hard to kind of make stuff up or pretend or like, make it a little dream scenario you’ve had. So most of my stuff I’ve always written from experience. I guess it’s kind of hard not to write about stuff that’s going on in your world and your life. I think it’s cool that, not all the time, but a lot of the times, they’re the simplest things that people can relate to it which is kind of the beauty of it. I think when you write something that’s personal to you and it can transfer to someone else’s world as well, then that’s my job done. That’s what you want, to just be able to connect, that’s the best thing you can do. That’s a pretty good feeling.”
When you play live you really feel the connection with crowd at a show. When I’m trying to describe your shows to people, I describe it as feeling like there’s this great big bubble of happiness embracing everybody within earshot and it’s like an energy that goes across the room. Do you feel that from your end as well?
“Yeah, I’ve always loved the live part, like playing live is where I kind of thrive, it gives me that big buzz and that’s what I enjoy doing. I’ve always tried to give it 100% all the time when I’m playing live because if you’re not connecting to the crowd in a new and different way then they may as well just go home and turn the CD on or listen to it online. Just trying to bring in a different experience and connect with how it was written and how it was meant to be performed, I think that’s coolest thing. I think it’s great that a lot of people say my live shows are so much different than what they listen to at home or in the car. I think that’s a compliment. I’m glad we have two different ways of seeing it, now and the way that I perform it is kind of how it was written. I really enjoy that part of it , the live side and just talking to everybody, it’s cool.”
Do you find that you prefer creating music and writing the lyrics or do you lean more towards enjoying the live performances of the songs once they are together?
“I really enjoy all of it. Recently I’m just coming out of a bit of a writers block where I was just busy and doing so much touring and playing live and doing only the other side of this job, that I didn’t have the time that I used to, to just sit down and write or get creative again. My last tour just finished up and it’s taken a week to find that time to just sit down and actually put a pen to paper. I really enjoyed the creative side for sure. Then being able to transfer that over to an audience or crowd, on a stage, is another things but they go hand in hand I think.”
You have a beautiful collection of tracks on the new EP ‘Slow Mornings’. You’ve been releasing them intermittently for quite a while so it’s good to have them all out as one collection. It reads like a story. Just listening to the lyrics it’s almost like a personal insight into your life. It feels like it’s all about loving somebody and your paths are being taken in different directions but you’re still holding on to that love and that knowing that you’ll be back together soon. For example, in the first track Hold You, you can actually feel the love in your voice, but you also feel the longing in the lyrics and the music.
“I guess ‘Slow Morning’ EP is the first one where I’ve felt there’s a definite theme going on. All the songs kind of connect in their own little way and they all cross paths at some point that’s definitely the same. I guess going back to writing about personal stuff, it’s the perfect opportunity and that has been my world the whole the last year and a half, just that longing and all that long distance stuff. My world has just been gobbled up by that so it’s hard to write about anything else when your whole world revolves around it.
“There are happy bits about it, and sad bits about it but they all cross paths at some point. It wasn’t until I finished, that I put all the track into a track listing and I was like, these all kinda actually go with each other right? It’s like a big story or it’s like they’re all different little chapters.”
Even though the music is about missing someone it’s still quite inspirational. Like Southbound, which I first heard when I listened to the new EP a few weeks ago, it’s like the simple things in life are the most beautiful. Like you’re holding onto all the things around you that are connecting you. Is that the way this song is meant to be heard?
“I’ve never wanted my songs to be completely happy or completely sad, I’ve always thought of them as hopeful and I always try to keep the writing hopeful. It’s kind of like science, for every positive there’s a negative. When you’re writing it you line up the negatives with a positive. It gets inspirational that the positive are worth it and that whole story becomes a hopeful kind of scenario. When I first started writing I never wanted to be a sad writer, I want to be somewhere in the middle where it’s like, yeah it hurts but it’s gonna be great.”
The music is so uplifting, and you do capture that really well. It’s exactly like you said, it’s hopeful and it just makes you smile. It’s like your song Gypsy, I know it’s not on this album but it is one of my favourite songs. I feel so happy when I hear it.
“Gypsy’s another one where you point out the negatives, you can be alone and you can have no money and not know where you’re going, but you deflect it with all the positive, like it’s gonna be great, doesn’t really matter. Although it’s sad, it’s happy, it’s got this kind of hopeful light lingering above it.”
How do you think the Australian music industry is coming out of the pandemic. It’s been tough for artists and the industry in general. What do you think needs to be done to get things back on track?
“The last year has been pretty tough especially worldwide, but I consider myself extremely lucky and Australia in general. I played my first gig last year in August or September where I would have played to 100 people and it’s like, nowhere else in the world could do that. I think when you compare it (the music industry) to other industries in Australia throughout the pandemic, yeah they have maybe copped bad end of the stick, but in terms of the world spectrum, we’ve been so lucky that we can do what we do. Even our last tour, we just played back to back 42 shows around Australia like through a pandemic when the rest of the world is still in lockdown and can’t even go to the grocery store.
“So on a global level I think we are so lucky to be out there where gigs are opening back up. Like the work you guys do and other people who are out there batting for the up and coming scene is great. I think its great that a lot of younger artists and grassroots artists are getting seen. We’ve just reschedule the best lineup for Byron Bay Blues Fest. It’s an all Aussie line-up, it’s going to be sick, there are so many great acts on there, big and small. Touring around Australia and just seeing the grassroots thing, it’s buzzing. And I feel like more than ever, and it’s kind of strange, but in the weirdest of times globally, it so cool that everyone is having a crack and getting back into it, I think its great. I’ve always thought like the more you play the more people will listen, that’s why I’ve always been a touring act, why i’ve always played busked, constantly played, because no one’s going to hear you if your not gigging or playing. If you can play a gig go play a gig. We don’t want to go back into what we couldn’t do a year ago.”
One thing that bothers me about the local music scene is that there are limited events for under 18’s. I know a lot of teens through my kids that are massive fans of yours and so many other local artists. There’s never anywhere to see local artists apart from Caloundra Music Festival which is once a year. Festival Hall was the main music venue when I was younger and I was seeing bands there from when I was 13. I feel bad that there’s no real outlet like that for the kids these days. What do you think about this issue?
“Yeah, for sure, and it is pretty frustrating . The amount of times I’ve pushed the venues I’ve been playing at to allow minors in, with an adult even. I know that they’re concerned about the bar, how much they’ll get over the counter. I remember being under 18 and not being able to see gigs, it was super frustrating not being allowed in, whether you’re with the band or not because of your age. It was super frustrating. I’m still trying to push and get places that are happy to host underage. I’ve just started Parlour Gigs, doing house shows and stuff so I’m hoping I can reach all ages, a bit more intimate as well.
I did see that on your facebook page. I hosted a Parlour Gig in 2019 with Chris Cheney and it was an amazing experience. To be able to have that up close and personal experience with musicians that we love is such a special opportunity.
“I’m pretty excited for the intimate settings its always great. Its epic playing as big a show as you can, but with that comes that kind of intimacy and that real connection with an audience. I’m pretty excited to get back into the backyard or living rooms or whatever it is and have a good night with people and appreciate it and be on another level with it.”
You have an upcoming tour for the new EP kicking off 4th June in Adelaide. You must be excited about that?
“It’s a cool one. When we’re touring usually, we live out of our vans pretty much. We tend to drive most of the time when we’re doing more regional places. But this time we’re doing capital cities, we’re flying. It’s a different approach to what we’ve ever done, but it will be fun. We’ve got a weekend which is Adelaide and Perth the next night and then Brisbane and Sydney together another weekend and Melbourne on its own weekend. Then we finish in Byron. It will be a lot of fun.
‘Slow Mornings’ EP will be available on all streaming services from the 4th June.
‘Slow Mornings’ Australian Tour
Tickets Available Here
Follow Jack Botts on socials for more
With thanks to Unified Music Group