Interview: Jake Sims
I’ve followed Jake Sims for a while. Not in a stalkerish way, but in a Twittery way. His talent has always been apparent – showcased on an array of covers, including one that was lauded by Marcella Detroit herself, the only thing you could ask for was original material Now, with a lead single under his belt, he’s undeniable. The final piece is in place. With his voice, piano skills and songs that bring them all together to dramatic effect – he won’t be singing in the local clubs for much longer. We’ve been chatting over Autumn to produce an interview that will, hopefully, tell you anything you could possibly want to know about Mr. Sims (Disclaimer: if you wanted to know his favourite flavour of crisps, you will be well and truly disappointed).
Hi Jake! How are things with you today?
Great thank you. Its good to be talking to you.
Let’s start from the beginning: how did you discover your talent?
I always say you don’t just discover you have a talent, you grow into something. That can be whatever but for me it was music. I’ve always enjoyed singing and playing the piano, and my first love has always been to write. Towards the age of 15/16 I started writing seriously and that was when I knew I had a real passion in telling a story through song.
Who were the inspirations that got you interested in making the most of your talent?
I have a lot of different inspirations. Billy Joel, Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, Carole King – the great songwriters. Vocally: George Michael, Freddy Mercury and many others. I can remember being young and shopping for a CD player with my mum in one of these electrical superstores. She took along George Michaels Greatest hits album (with all the stuff he’d done as a solo artist), to play on the hi-fis to test them before we bought one. I remember hearing ‘Jesus To A Child’ for the first time and being mesmerised. I love that intimate sound of the singer being close to the mic. From that day forward I knew I wanted to sing.
Have you ever had any professional training?
Training is something I’ve had in doses. I’ve worked with different people and gained so much knowledge since starting to record at 18. Vocally I like to keep maintaining the voice, after all its also an instrument: my main one!
Had you ever been interested in applying for reality shows like X Factor or The Voice?
I want to hard graft – do the gigs, build the fan base and write songs, that’s my preferred route. The X Factor and The Voice are great TV programmes. The X Factor is in its tenth season – it’s stood the test of time. For anyone going on the show that’s up for that quick route to fame and exposure and they are up for it, good for them but I want to really work at it and build a following.
Well it seems to be working for you; during this year’s Pride season you’ve been performing at a handful of events – how have the audiences received you?
The audiences have been amazing. From London’s Dean Street to Cardiff Millennium Stadium, they don’t change. They’re there to be entertained. It’s been good performing some new tracks that I’ve written this year too. Especially when you hear the crowds reaction, its something else. I have to say Cardiff Mardi Gras was ultimately my top venue this year purely because I’ve been there to see so many acts live, it was mental being on that stage….in a stadium!
So we can assume you love performing live, but what about being in the studio? Are there perks to both environments?
I think each have there pros and cons. I like both as much as each other. To be an artist and only be good at one is not really what its about. I love the energy of writing and recording in studios; you walk in with a hook and walk out with the song. That’s the exciting and creative part. Recording intensely to get every nuance in the voice right and really feel the music is also a perk of the studio. Live can bring such a different energy and you can feel something from a song just based on an audiences reaction. Although I love big audiences, for me performing on a piano, with people close, is my perfect performance setting. You can really get into the context of the track then and let people feel that emotion.
Currently, you’re promoting your very first single, the brilliant ‘Sold Out’. It has a much bigger production than your previous output..
I love performing stripped back productions. I also like doing stripped back covers like on my YouTube channel but I don’t want to have a one dimensional album. There will be big tracks with vocals and production to match – there is so much more I want to say on this record. There is definitely a style to my music already that harks back to bands I like, such as The Killers, Depeche Mode, Hurts, Coldplay and Muse. Two of my original tracks ‘Models On Parade’ and ‘Yesterdays Son’ are more of a mellow style of song and the production is of that nature, however my other new tracks ‘Try’ and ‘Fragile’, are in a similar vein to ‘Sold Out’. I love the process I’m in at the minute, finishing off this album, because of how it’s building musically. My live show will also incorporate the live band with this production, so the energy will be epic. I am still writing and this is the most personal stuff I’m getting down now. So I never know what to expect.
Did the song take a lot of work or come naturally?
Sold Out was actually the first original track I put forward to my producer S Jeffrey. It was a song that was the most natural to write out of all the songs I’ve written. I had the chorus in my head for weeks and once it was down I couldn’t stop. The demo is very different to the finished version you hear now and what S Jeffrey did was give it life.
What inspired the lyrics?
The lyrics are based around feeling at your absolute lowest. You’ve been living this lie, wearing ‘the smile of a clown’ but no matter what, you won’t let this break (‘I ain’t hitting the ground’). This song is an amalgamation of many emotions and life experiences. I lost my father in 2013 and so much of this track is about me fighting against that experience. But it’s also about people I’ve met along the way and situations that I’ve been in, feeling lost. Some times we’re all ‘Sold Out’ and everyone can relate to that at some point in their life but it takes a fighter to get back up.
Tell us about the video for ‘Sold Out’. Is simple but effective an apt definition?
I think out of anything I’ve ever done, photo or video-wise, this was my favourite shoot by a mile. I got to work with a young, talented film maker named Kiefer Cook
. I have worked with him previously – he is very hands on with the whole process and is so good at rolling with ideas. The original concept was to have me performing with a mic and it just didn’t work. Then we took a still of my face on a white background and it worked perfectly. The video is simple but I think that is why it’s effective so that’s definitely the right description for it. It’s had the best response out of anything I have ever released online, which is great. I think it’s because its very bare and people see the emotion and, with that, they listen to the lyrics even more.
We’ve heard a few tracks on your Soundcloud and your material just gets better and better, especially now we’re dealing with fully-fledged anthems like ‘Sold Out’. On a more general note, how far through the recording process are you? Is an album nearing completion?
I have already written many songs for this album and I’m continuing to write more. The recording process has also begun. There is much more I still want to get down in this album. Its about an extremely personal moment of my life. When my dad took his life last year, it completely turned my world upside down. The album is about so many emotions and moments of going through grief, anger, sadness and forgiveness.
It’s a massive thing for somebody to go through, let alone write a record about – what do you want the end product to represent?
It was so hard to talk about at the start. Letting so many people into such a private matter can be tough but if one person can gain something from these words and tracks; find comfort, understanding… that will mean something to me not just as a music artist. Every album is special in its own way as its a piece of art. But what I think will make mine special, is a story that is so real. Its simple. Its about the loss of a loved one. That could be for anyone: a partner, relative, friend. The album is a story that I want people to be to able to really feel and take something from.
On a much happier note, you are adored on Twitter! For somebody starting out in their career, what does the internet exposure and support mean to you?
The internet exposure, especially on Youtube
, has been amazing. When I started doing the covers and putting them out every Sunday ( #SimSunday), I didn’t expect this reaction! To have people comment, RT, share and talk about a cover you’ve done is such a good feeling. Obviously taking on a cover that is well known means you want to do it justice, so to have recognition from fans is great. Every tweet I get, I try to get back to. You shouldn’t take for granted any comment, share or tweet and I don’t. I appreciate every person getting back to me!
We might get a few ideas from your choice of #SimSunday covers, but let’s talk about what music you’re enjoying lately…
More recently, it would be Adele, Emeli Sande, Tom Odell and Hurts. There’s a lot of great music coming out of the UK right now I think. You only have to look worldwide to see the impact it has.
What do you think about the following artists…
Justin Timberlake has been an icon in the music industry for a long time now. From N*Sync to his solo albums he’s really developed as an artist. For me ‘Justified’ was his best album had some amazing songs. ‘Cry Me A River’ is one of those songs that an artist hopes they can have in their career. With his new album I think you can see a real progression for him musically. It’s very reminiscent of an early Prince record.
Lady Gaga is always going to be one of those acts that people either love or hate. I’m a fan, I think she’s very innovative with her albums and has a concept behind everything. When you’re an artist that can step outside the box and be unique, you’ll always have a fan base. You just have to look at Madonna to see that. I also like the fact that GaGa steps away from the dance routines at times and sits and plays an acoustic track. That’s not just because I’m piano based; I think it gives her the ability to really put on an amazing show and gives her so much flexibility in a set list. For all the hype over how many records she sells each time or whether she’s number one, two or sixty three – she rides through it all. That’s because she’s a real artist and musician.
Katy Perry, for me, is a prime example of ‘song is king’. In the sense of, when she has a good song in her hands, she sings he hell out of it. I think she’s got a clever marketing campaign behind her which is consistent with each album/single. She’s definitely moved forward from her debut single massively. I have a lot of respect for someone that has bounced back after different troubles in the music industry and Katy Perry is a fighter. I think ‘Firework’ is a very good track.
Thanks a lot for your time Jake – ‘Sold Out’ is a brilliant track and will definitely get you a legion of new fans, but would you like to say anything to those that have supported you so far?
Thanks Simon. Their support has been incredible and I want to thank each and every person for supporting my music. Fans are so important and to have people wanting to hear your music is a great thing. I feel very lucky to have that, so a massive THANKYOU!
Jake is currently taking part in MTV Brand New Unsigned – all it takes is a quick click to vote for him and then we can all say we knew him before he was on top of the charts. Wouldn’t you like that? Ofcourse you would.
Interview: Simon McMurdo