Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
JJH: I’d class myself as a songwriter above anything else. I’ve never really been interested in that whole ‘guitar hero’ element of rock, although anyone who has been to one of my live shows might question that! I’ve always wanted to tell person stories and try to connect with people on that emotional level. That the root of everything I do.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
JJH: I grew up in Burnley in the north west and moved to London to study art at Wimbledon Art College. I was always in bands whilst studying, and just kinda fell into it as a profession after I graduated. I still make artwork, but I find music is a more direct way of connecting with people. Put it this way, last year I toured Brazil and had 8,000 people singing my song Justified back at me. You don’t get quite the same response at an art exhibition opening, although there’s more free wine.
Pic by Rob Blackham
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
JJH: Neil Young has always been my main inspiration, obviously because of his songwriting and music but also his attitude. He doesn’t compromise which is what I’ve always aimed to do. It’s cost me a few friends down the years and there’s almost been a trail of destruction I’ve left behind with various bands as when I feel some is becoming stale I move on. But I think that’s been important for musical growth and I stand by all the decisions I’ve made.
In terms of non-music inspiration, one of my favourite artists is the painter Frank Auerbach, partly for the same reasons I dig Neil Young. He’s 100% assured in his craft and won’t be swayed by outside sources.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
JJH: When I was younger I was chasing a record deal, like a lot of bands do. I joined a band that had signed quite a significant deal with a major label and the whole process was something of a nightmare and kind of put me off making music for a while. Lots of drugs were involved which was effecting other people’s judgements, and I just decided it wasn’t for me.
When I came back to music and launched my solo career a few years ago I said I wouldn’t make the same mistakes, which is probably why I’m so stubborn. I have literally no interest in fame – I want to be in a position where I make the music I want to make. If that connects with lots of people, great. If not, I couldn’t care less. I think it’s worked out ok so far.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
JJH: I write all my songs and they are about a variety of things, but to sum them up it would be that they are personal reflections on life. That might be a failed relationship, or a successful relationship, or simply about getting drunk and rocking out. That’s the joy of songwriting for me – it can be about anything.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
JJH: Well I’d say the best way of promoting my band has been to always deliver kick ass shows every time we play live. I still strongly believe that word of mouth is a powerful thing, even in this day and age of social media. Obviously that is incredibly important, but if you can’t deliver the goods live it’s a total waste of time.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
JJH: I hate it. I’m a massive vinyl fan and always buy albums in that format. I’m maybe slightly hypocritical as I do release my music on platforms like Spotify, but I’d hope that if someone discovers my music through that platform they will then pick up a copy on vinyl.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
JJH: Well there’s tons and it changes pretty frequently. But I’m a massive Black Crowes fan, and particularly a fan of their Amorica album. The final track Descending is beautiful and something I really wish I had the skills to channel.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
JJH: Over production is the crime of 21st century music. There are so many albums I listen to now and they don’t sound like a human has recorded them. Everything has been fixed, and all that does is do a disservice to your fans because when they come and see you live they will not be getting anything near the same experience. I’m not saying stick something out that is half baked, but take care and perform the songs properly when you record them rather than fixing shit vocal takes down the line. Sing it right at the time!
Another pet peeve of mine is musicians who are up their own arses and don’t have the ability to self reflect. Some of the best musicians I’ve met are truly humble people. I met one of my heroes Zakk Wylde just before the pandemic at a show in Paris and he was so down to earth. And then I meet other musicians who profess to be God’s gift to music…and then they don’t even show up for their own gigs and when they do they can’t even remember how to play their own songs. It’s hilarious.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
JJH: The aforementioned show in Brazil when we played to 8,000 people was nuts and a real magic moment for me. There were queues of people right around the block waiting for photos after the show which just felt bizarre. I was stood there thinking “shit, we are bigger in South America than we are in the U.K.”.
But there have been lots of proud moments. My first album Paint No Fiction got 9/10 in Classic Rock Magazine, which is a mag I’ve bought since I was 14, so that meant a lot. And also playing the O2 Bluesfest and meeting Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck afterwards backstage was incredible.
But these highs are always counter weighed by lows. A few years back I got punched repeatedly after a show by a chap who didn’t like my hat. To this day I have no idea what his problem really was. So my advice has always been take it all with a pinch of salt.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
JJH: I am currently recording my next album The Hammer Falls at Momentum Studios in Devon. For me it’s the best thing I’ve ever written and it’s sounding great so far. It would be great to release it via a label, but it needs to be the right deal. I am quite interested in working with a European company as the band are considering relocating there due to the post Brexit issues we will face once touring is back up and running. So some work needs to be done on that behind the scenes by my management team.
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
JJH: All my albums are available on the main streaming services and vinyl, CD and other merch is available here: https://jackjhutchinson.bandcamp.com
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