Jack Howard at WaterBear Venue, Brighton, 5th April 2022
A night of Brighton debuts for me as it was the first time experiencing the intimacy of the WaterBear Venue, as well as London jazz artist and long time friend, Jack Howard, who returns to Brighton after a 4 year hiatus from the city.
The place was brimming with Brightonian student life. Friends and fans of both headliner Jack Howard and support, Amber Burgoyne, hustled around the bar to grab their (modestly priced) £4 beer – perks of a university run venue, ey?
Prior to his set I managed to nab Howard for a quick 10 minute chat where he opened up about past releases, musician FOMO, and some poignant decisions that he has chosen to take to benefit him with his songwriting and his authenticity as a musician. With seven releases to date we began by chatting about Howard’s debut Yesterday. “I was as green as they come when I wrote Yesterday” explains Howard earnestly.
Honourably, Howard has made a conscious decision to take more time in his artistry and worry less about being a big name in lights at this point in his career. “Before I just thought I’d write all these pop songs and become famous but the more I ended up writing, the more the idea of being famous wore off and the better my writing became”.
He mentions that just before lockdown he sold out Colours, a 300 cap venue in London and was taken aback on how he’d managed to sell out a venue without any management or industry backing. However, Howard picks up that he wasn’t entirely happy with the music he was making and his own development. He describes what I like to call ‘musician FOMO’.
Around me I kept seeing other [artists] doing something…”. Ambiguous as it sounds, I believe that that something is Howard observing other musicians being proactive with their career. “I felt like ‘fuck, I need to do something’, when that should never be the motivation behind true creation”. In Howard’s words, he is the self proclaimed “laziest person he knows in terms of creation” but, I have to disagree with my friend Jack here and give him some credit. An artist cannot move themselves to London, grow a social media following on Instagram and TikTok, be an unsigned and unmanaged solo artist that can sell out venues and call themselves lazy – not to mention the gig I was about to witness which was self-promoted.
As we ended the interview the support, Amber Burgoyne, played her final song, a well rehearsed and tight band backing Burgoyne’s strong stage presence. The room was now prepped and ready for the headliner to play his first show back in Brighton after 4 years, as the underground venue was packed out.
The set kicked off with a funky instrumental that really set the tone. From the word go it was clear the headliner was much more in his own using jazz and funk melodies with a pop tinge and raspy vocals – thoughts of Paulo Nutini spring to mind, a self-confessed inspiration of Howard’s.
Highlights from the set included when Howard cheekily dismissed the band and performed a spine tingling stripped back version of his latest release How to be a Man. As the crowd hushed any mutters from potential hecklers, the room fell silent… Here I see how Jack’s vocals can’t be faulted, despite some minor technical errors which are brushed off with a harmless smile and giggle from both musicians and the crowd, altogether it made for a terrific performance from the whole band. Further moments on was the fan favourite Sublime and unrelated tune Meteor, a song said to be about a man rating his car, from the perspective of Howard – a non-driver. Special mention to the saxophone/backing vocalist Molly, whose shy character juxtaposed her every time she jumped from sax to microphone, really adding some additional authenticity to the live performance.
It continues to be a refreshing thing to hear yet another artist using the pandemic as a time of reflection and integral pondering, signalling that many artists actually used the halt on humanities day-to-day life to study themselves rather than be bitter about it. Jack Howard’s return to Brighton did truly feel like a homecoming. A homecoming filled with appreciation, care and authenticity. I walked out onto the very breezy Brighton seafront having discovered a new venue and what felt like a new artist certain on his path and ready to write that song that gives him the recognition as an artist that he deserves.
Jack Howard – FFO: Tom Misch, Paolo Nutini, Isaac Waddington
Words and photo from WaterBear by Matisse Moretti
12th April 2022