Interview: UK Cutie Jack Vallier's New EP Offers Radio-Ready Power Ballads
We’ve all been scorned by love. We’ve fallen hard and clawed our way up out of that black hole. For London-based singer-songwriter Jack Vallier, his war with love has been a reoccurring theme in his music. With two EPs under his belt and an upcoming stint supporting Dermot Kennedy on tour, it seems like Jack’s got love and loss to thank, but we’re thanking his talent — he’s got it in spades.
Last month, Jack released his sophomore EP, Anyway, just three gone-too-soon tracks with major hook appeal built on buzzy synth patterns. The opener for the EP is its title track which expertly emulates Jack’s talent for crafting catchy radio-ready anthems. It’s the quickest track of Jack’s whole discography, clocking in under three minutes, but it’s packed with quirky energy, the arrangement composed of a fairly minimalist rhythm line of synth fizzles and deep percussive pulses. Jack’s vocals are gorgeous, alternating between an aching falsetto and a strong croon as he sings, “I should probably hate you but I love you anyway.” Btw, his acoustic version is a stunner too — his vocals don’t falter but remain just as emotive as ever, plus the quick strums offer a sweet base to the stripped-back performance.
Next comes “Drink 2 U,” a cool-as-ice slow burn featuring instrumental crescendos and slick breakdowns. It’s a woozy love song, romantic lines like “every word you say is a symphony / every move you make is choreography” spiraling in the drunken soundscape of wailing synth, sparkling keys, and slaps of drum pad beats. The choir effect backing the hook makes for a hypnotic accompaniment, the song teeming with countless sonic details designed to make you swoon.
The Anyway EP ends with “Love You Twice,” another sweet song disguised as a top-volume dance banger. The track thrives on deep vibrant synth layers aided by booming percussion and Jack’s vocals are at their best here. He’s mastered his delivery — quick, clipped, and cool, but flavored by passion when it needs to be, like when he howls “loving isn’t easy but I will love you every time.” The arrangement follows the radio recipe that skyrockets pop tracks to the top of the charts, which is exactly where Jack should be. He’s got this whole music thing down pat. Now he just needs the credit he deserves.
On Anyway, pop cutie Jack Vallier teases us with far too few gems buzzing with lovesick honesty and dripping in synth-laden rhythm. Each track begs for attention, catchy dance anthems destined for top charts, but they’re not just mesmeric pop ballads — they’re love letters from Jack to his past (and maybe his future if he’s lucky). He’s honing his songwriting craft with perfect hooks that compliment edgy rhythms sweetened by soft melody. He’s crushing it.
Listen to Anyway below and read on for an exclusive interview with Jack who chats with us a bit about co-writing his singles, his music recommendations, how Bon Iver inspires him, and more. You can connect with Jack on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
JV: Hi! I’m a singer-songwriter born and raised in Bournemouth, though I’m currently living in London. I make sad pop music, mostly about my many failed relationships.
TMM: You’ve done the touring and gigging thing pretty frequently -- what is your favorite town or city you’ve been to and why?
JV: I’ve got to say Brighton — it’s like my two homes rolled into one, a little seaside town with a beach I can scoff my face with mini donuts on (like Bournemouth) but also a thriving music scene with endless venues and places to play and watch music (like London). However, I’m so excited to see and play in Hamburg this month — I’ve heard great things.
TMM: What was the production process like for your latest single, “Anyway”?
JV: “Anyway” was a weird one. I wrote it with my two friends, Lauren Aquilina and Kin. We just talked and laughed for hours, and then the song just happened super quickly at the end of the session. But then when it came to the final tweaks, it took a while. Me and Kin tried changing and re-recording a lot of things, but eventually we realized that we just loved what we did on the [first] day. I even ended up using the demo vocal. Sometimes you can never top the emotion from the second you wrote it.
TMM: To me, it feels like most of your work focuses on finding love, battling with it, and ultimately losing it. They’re brutally honest but crazy catchy moments we can all relate to. What is the songwriting process typically like for you?
JV: Haha yeah, mostly the losing it part. I’ve kind of been a serial monogamist since I was 15 so when I've written lyrics over these past few years, it’s often been this stuff that jumps to the front of my mind. I usually like to write lyrics in my bedroom and really hone in on a clear concept. This part always has to come from me, and then I take it to a producer or songwriter friend and build it up from there.
TMM: Speaking of catchy, every song has that expert hook appeal, but “Anyway” strikes me as the quintessential radio-ready anthem that could hit charts if we’re lucky. Can you talk a little about that track?
JV: Thank you! I wrote most of the lyrics at home the night before in a time when I was struggling for new concepts. I thought back quite a long way to the first girl I was in love with — the only real toxic relationship I was ever in. I also went into the studio at a time when I really wanted to experiment with my sound. I was obsessed with Bazzi’s new album and Kin really nailed the feel of the song sonically [so that] it feels uplifting despite the lyrical content. Lauren Aquilina is the queen of hooks — the song would have never been all those things you described it as without her in the room!
TMM: I know it’s wildly unfair to ask, but what song of yours do you feel closest to and why?
JV: It’s like picking my favourite child… but right now that would probably be “Rebekah” (my song, not my child). It’s the first song I put out and it did so much for me despite being unsigned, plus it’s just super personal. At the time I wrote it, it genuinely helped me through a lot of deep stuff. However there is song coming soon which definitely tops it!
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
JV: Tilly Valentine - amazing jazz vocals over trip/hop/pop beats. She just released her first single “Coins” completely independently and it’s so good. Plested - writes songs for the biggest pop stars, but his solo stuff he’s currently releasing deserves a lot more attention. Bruno Major - a genuine genius, go and listen to A Song For Every Moon.
TMM: I saw on your Instagram that you pulled together a playlist of your fans’ favorite songs (which is ridiculously cool of you and I can’t believe I missed it… add “Wooden Heart” by Listener for me!) and you cited Bon Iver’s “Holocene” as yours. In what ways has Bon Iver influenced your work (as a musician and as a human being) at all?
JV: Wow thanks for the suggestion, it’s currently giving me goosebumps! I love listening to music knowing it means something to someone else. Bon Iver was essential to my journey as an artist. When I first started writing, I listened to so much folk music — my main influences for a while came from Justin Vernon and S.Carey in Bon Iver. “Mothers” by S.Carey and “Holocene” by Bon Iver are still songs that make me feel things that I still haven’t felt since and they are the reason I wrote so much on my acoustic guitar back then. Seeing Bon Iver’s evolution since then has also been incredibly inspiring. I’ll always be a big fan.
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment so far?
JV: As a musician, probably my first proper show supporting Bruno Major at Omeara, or my first headline show this year. As a music fan, front row at Glastonbury for Coldplay. I cried.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Jack Vallier?
Jack Vallier: I’m going on a big tour around Europe with Dermot Kennedy in a few weeks. The venues are huge so I am absolutely buzzing. After that, it’ll be about my own shows and getting my next batch of songs ready to show the world!