For the last 5 years, Nottingham’s Jack Peachey (AKA Gallery 47) has been crafting lyrical folk music from various apartments, studios and other large rooms in Nottingham. Influenced heavily by other artists, writers, and the inherited chaos of the Beat Generation, Gallery 47 writes songs about a radical range of topics, from skin pigment disorders to corporate finance. Here, he talks about his new album, “Clean”, and his reasons for writing it…
Can you tell us about yourself? Where you’re from and what you’ve been up to over the past few years?
I’m quite a shy person but I’ve always found confidence in expressing myself through music. At the same time, I appreciate that not everyone is out there listening to songs to try and break down the walls of lyrical perception or anything like that, so I’ve also spent the last 5 years trying to make myself the best musician I can be. That said, I’ve really enjoyed playing with other musicians on this new album because I think to see the best in others and the worst in myself!
I’ve recently moved to London with my wife Louise. We’re both 27 now. I released my first album in 2011 (“Fate Is The Law”) and my second in 2014 (“All Will Be Well”). At the time of writing those two I was completed obsessed – I mean obsessed – with Bob Dylan’s early albums. Can you believe I first heard “Blowin’ In The Wind” on a Co-Op advert? When I was younger especially I was quite insecure about my music despite being absolutely committed to making it like some kind of self-defeating samurai. I had “Grace” by Jeff Buckley on CD and his voice made mine sound like a packet of ready salted crisps. That’s why Bob Dylan was such a discovery for me. I loved his voice, but most of all I loved his songs.
When I heard those famous tracks – Girl from the North Country, She Belongs to Me, It’s Alright Ma etc. – I couldn’t stop listening to them. Since that point, I’ve always tried my best to better myself as a musician and a singer. In the last few years I’ve been working on three albums – Clean, Adversity Breeds & Young World. They were written in reverse order, oddly enough, so “Clean” is the most recent of all of them. I definitely bit off a lot more than I could chew in planning so much, and there was times in the last year especially where it just seemed like there was so much left to do to finish the record, but thankfully it’s finished now. I think I’ll give myself a few months to breathe before I try to produce the next one.
How would you describe your music?
I think I’m just a normal singer songwriter, maybe you would call me a folk singer. I have quite a high voice, maybe it stayed quite high because I used to be in a choir when I was growing up, but I’m not sure. My guitar style is mostly finger picking, but I play with only two fingers because no matter how hard I try, I simply can’t finger pick the traditional way. So my instrumental parts often rely on open chords and interesting tunings. I quite like guitarists like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell who play in a lot of unusual or open tunings, because this suits my style a lot more seeing as my picking hand is much faster than my left hand.
But with all this in mind, I think my recent songs are quite difficult to categorise because of the musicians I’ve worked with. They each have their own influences – so for example James (on drums) has a real fondness for lo-fi, old school hip-hop loops, which Martin (on bass) sounds a little more like Johnny Cash. It is a dangerous thing to say that your music spans multiple genres, not only because it can sound a little pretentious but also because this can often be taking as lacking a firm artistic direction or sense of identity. So I’ll call myself a folk singer, but deep down I’m not like early Dylan, not like Neil Young – I’m too pure sounding for that and my voice doesn’t have the grit, so I try to mix it up and have fun experimenting with different players and different sounds.
Can you tell us a little bit about your influences?
I’ve always had a guilty fondness for Rock Stars – I mean people like Jim Morrison, Paul Weller, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy Osbourne etc.. I know this is crazy because it’s completely out of my genre, but it’s true. When I was 11 or so I would walk around almost destroying my ears with my walkman listening to that stuff. So many of the songs were essentially pop music and I think that appealed to something in me which I wouldn’t have allowed were it coming from the Spice Girls.
When I got a bit older I got much more into songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Norah Jones, John Martin, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Brian Wilson – the list goes on and on like everyone elses. The turning point for me was probably in listening to the White Album by the Beatles, because it managed to blend the ferocity of rock music with the solitary beauty of acoustic tracks like “I Will”, “Julia” and “Blackbird”. Blackbird was actually the first song I ever felt proud to know how to play on guitar, and I think this is because I could finger pick it using two fingers. Like I said before, this is the only way I can play, so it’s nice to finally play something that sounds vaguely like the record. It’s a pity though because Paul McCartney does that whole finger-skiffle strum in that song and I can’t do that bit…
What are you currently promoting?
I’m releasing my new album “Clean” on November 11th 2016. I mostly wrote the songs by singing to myself on walks along the canal, hastily recording prospective vocal melodies onto my phone, recording them to a metronome and then trying to work together the best possible arrangements for them. Like many of my albums, “Clean” started out as a vision of “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake. By this I mean, I wanted it to be completely minimalist, just acoustic and vocal, maybe a touch of piano here and there. But in practice it didn’t turn out like this, in fact it never does. Maybe it’s a sub-conscious trick of mine to myself, trying to plan an album acoustic-only in the hope that the songs might be able to stand up for themselves when I play them live.
Have you got a particular song you’ve done that you’re particularly proud of, one that might define you?
I can be very up and down with my self-esteem, not just in music but in most things. I’m getting quite tired of myself actually. Sometimes I just want to stop scrutinising and criticising but it’s like a second nature. Take a song on the new album, “Mother’s Plan”. When I first demo’d that song it was my all time favourite, I remember saying “I actually enjoy listening to it” to Louise, “I actually like listening to it like I would listen to Bob Dylan – I don’t have any of that negative stuff going on like when I look at myself or when I read back my own words!”. A few months down the line, I hated it. Really. I thought it sounded like a boy band song. And with that came a whole sense of “What the hell is happening!? What is real!?” – and perhaps this is the moment when I decided to clean myself up!! I like the song now, I do like it, but obviously I never trust my perceptions in case one day I listen back and realise something different, depending on the day. So right now I’ll say that the one song which defines me is the song “Some Things” because it is one of the only songs I recorded live and my feelings have never really changed on it. It is very down though.
What are you currently listening to?
“Little Broken Hearts” by Norah Jones, “Love and Theft” by Bob Dylan (the song Mississippi has become an instant favourite) and “Silver & Gold” by Neil Young.
And your favourite album of all time, the one you couldn’t do without?
I don’t listen to it too often, and I would probably give you a different answer on another day, but I think “The Bends” by Radiohead. It’s just beautiful and nostalgic for me. It’s also sad because I think Radiohead have matured as a band. I think they’ve got better and better, and more self-aware and almost more intelligent in everything they do. And I love their new music just as much, perhaps more. But self-awareness has a habit of taking away some of that vulnerability which made songs like “Fake Plastic Trees” and “High and Dry” so important to me.
What are your hopes for your future career?
I just hope that I can look back at my life when I’m older without any regret over what I did or didn’t do. I feel like it’s very much out of my hands. I’m 27 now. I’m 5 ft 7 or 5ft 6 on a bad day. I don’t feel very much like a marketable pop icon. Nor would I really want to try to be something that would help me sell more records. At the same time, I always allow myself a little bit of hope that somewhere down the line I might do something right even if I don’t realise it.
If money were no object what would be your dream project?
There’s this studio called “Paper Stone” in Nottingham. If money was no object, I would pay all the amazing musicians I know comfortable session fees, get everyone a bit drunk, rent out the studio for several months, and see where creativity took us. This isn’t a world away from what happened with “Clean” but definitely towards the end of it I was finding it very hard to get by financially. At the beginning when you have the money, it seems like you can afford to record whatever you like. I even got trippy one day and kept trying to elbow this dulcimer and Tom the engineer was looking at me like I had gone fully mad at last. And then I ran out of money before finishing the vocals. I never was very good with planning and money and stuff like that. It’ll probably be the end of me.
What’s the best thing about being a musician?
It’s hard to choose because I think one of the nicest parts of it is that people get to meet you and know you without you having to break out of your social comfort zone. That’s helped me meet a lot of people who I have a lot in common with when I’m quite shy. But deep down I think that the hope for the future is the best thing about it. That’s what keeps me and so many others going. Creating music for me is the most rewarding thing I could image, other than perhaps raising a child. But at the same time it’s always tempered slightly by the sense of water-rising as life-responsibilities begin to dawn on you. That’s where the hope comes in. There is always a small semblance of hope at the back of your mind – however irrational – that everything could change dramatically at any moment. It’s something to dream about and something to calm your demons at times when everything feels bleak.
And the worst?
On some days, you can feel like you’re utterly worthless! But I’m not sure if this is exclusive to musicians! Thank goodness for beer, I say.
Finally, have you anything you’d like to say to the readers of Americana UK?
I’d just like to say thank you all for reading what I’ve written here. Please come and say hi if ever you’re at a show, or online or anything like that.