Studying jazz piano, in the midst of falling in love with soul and RnB, has surprisingly led Christchurch artist Jack Page on a long musical trail – evidently straight into the arms of contemporary pop music while creating his double-dip EP ‘The Days Pt. 1 & Pt. 2’. Jack’s some-time bandmate, musician Emily C Browning, sat down for a chat with him for NZM.
“It’s first and foremost pop music,” says Page of his 5-track EP released this May, following February 2020’s ‘Pt.1’ EP. “I think I’ve got a broad listenability if you will. But at the same time, it’s definitely inspired by a lot of soul music, from the ’60s and ’70s – Al Green, Stevie Wonder, all of that. But also mixed with more modern RnB, and kind of more jazz-influenced groove music – so Jordan Rakei, Tom Misch, those kinds of artists. And I’m really interested in, where old school writing and sounds mixed with modern production kind of comes together to create this, kind of, sheening up of the old into the new.”
With a period of more than a year between creating the two halves of his double EP release, Page recognises a sense of personal growth in that time, an up-skilling on the songs plus involvement of a fresh crew.
“That first record is about just kind of grappling and learning about myself and relationships and just kind of getting to grips with being an adult basically. And this new EP is a continuation of that, so there’s, like, more things I’ve learned, relationships have changed, and so that’s kind of influenced a lot of the writing. I also think I’ve learned a lot since the last record in terms of my own songwriting and production and I think those things have kind of levelled up a little bit as well. I’ve got a different production crew on this record – Devin Abrams on the two singles, and then Neil MacLeod on the three b-sides. And those guys are incredible at what they do.”
It wasn’t his original intention to make a record of two halves, the second EP, he says, seemed to develop on its own.
“When I got to the point of putting it out, I was like, ‘This is not finished.’ I just had more stories to tell, more to say, so I was like, ‘If I write ‘Pt. 1’ on the first EP, then I have to do another one.’ So it was kind of a little way to like, force myself, it was kind of like setting a deadline.”
Jack spends his career maintaining a healthy balance between solo artistry and session work playing keys for other artists, aiding them in realising their own vision.
“I think being a session player is first and foremost my main love. I like living in lots of different worlds and helping other people realise their musical ideas with my knowledge from across lots of different genres. But I think that this project will always stay alive in one way or another, I just love writing my own music and having full control every once in a while. It’s a real sometimes-food, every now and again I go, ‘I want to make the decisions.’”
Regardless, both sides of his musical coin are backed by a Bachelor’s degree in jazz piano from Ara Institute of Canterbury.
“For me, it was super important to kind of go and just have a dedicated amount of time to learn about music. I feel like if I didn’t do that, I would always be kind of stumbling around in the dark, worried I was going to knock something over. Whereas now that I feel like I have a basis of knowledge I’m not so scared to do interesting things with harmony. I don’t often feel out of my depth when it comes to the actual technical side of music, which is a comforting feeling!”
Despite having little choice but to stay close to home mid-pandemic, Page maintains a glowing perspective on the local scene.
“There’s a whole onslaught of musos all coming out of Christchurch, especially post Covid. A lot of people have kind of flocked back to their home ground. Across the board, there’s lots of people making kind of soul/jazz/pop kind of inspired music like I am, but there’s a bunch of different folk artists, rock artists, and I’m lucky enough to collaborate with a lot of them so there’s definitely cool stuff going on.”
“I reckon Christchurch is like New Zealand’s ‘New Zealand’. It’s pretty understated, no-one’s going around saying how amazing it is, but everyone who comes here is like, ‘Yo this is awesome.’”