Jack Name is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who resides in Los Angeles. His music has spanned from mystic psychedelic and rock, to now a folk-inspired album within the 2020 record Magic Touch.
Although written and recorded long before 2020, Magic Touch feels very current. The themes of loneliness and changing relationships is something we have all been faced with in the last 10 months. But even outside of that, the record is distinct from the 2020 records that tried a bit too hard to address the pandemic. Magic Touch is a reminder of how being alone and reaching for connections are very real problems, even without being in quarantine. The track “I Came to Tell You in Plain English (I’m Leaving You)” is a blaring testament to the impulsivity and cruelty of love. “Sacred Place,” on the other hand, is a window into the sweeter and softer moments in life. WLUW’s Music Director interviewed Jack to discuss more about the album, his nod to Italy during the pandemic, and the state of live music.
Hey! Congrats on the new album! What was the process of you writing and recording Magic Touch?
I recorded it all at home. Well I recorded the drums at a studio I built with my friends years ago and one of them ended up taking it over, so I still get to go in there when I need to, so I recorded the drums there, but the rest of it was recorded in my apartment at the time, which was in Hollywood. I think it was probably 2017 or 2018 was when I was making it. It took about a year and a half for it to come out after it was finished.
It just seems all very prescient with the title of the album being Magic Touch and being kind of about loneliness and being with people. Do you find that you’re kind of revisiting those themes with quarantine and everything?
I guess maybe I was a little ahead of the curve with my loneliness, but I was in that kind of a state of mind and then maybe I am revisiting some of those things. I mean, a lot of it’s about personal stuff that keeps repeating and patterns that you notice in your life. And so, unfortunately, you can’t really identify things like that and then have them just stop happening either. I guess some of the things are bound to just be the way it is. Maybe, that’s what some of it’s about.
How did you film the music video for “Sacred Place”? Did you do all the collaging yourself?
Salvador Cresta is a video artist in Argentina. And we had a mutual friend who said he was interested in doing a video for me. So I took him up on it and he wanted me to send him some green screen stuff. And I’m a pretty shy kind of stage fright type of person. So I wasn’t too excited about the idea of that. But I thought maybe if I could sort of disguise myself, then it would be like a way out without having to disappoint them, you know? And at the same time, I could make it more about how I don’t really view my own photographic presences as offering, just me singing to the camera seems more obnoxious than anything else. But maybe if I could be another prop or a piece of the collage or something and make myself be something that represented more of what the song is about. I was a skeleton at some point and I feel like it worked okay.
The symbolism of fire seems to be pretty central to the song “Sacred Place” as well, do you think of fire as a dangerous thing or more about passion?
I’ve thought about that too, because it’s a word that comes up a few times in the record as well. And I guess I feel both ways about it, like in that song, I guess fire’s being referred to as something that’s a good thing. It has something to do with passion or maybe, maybe lighting the way and keeping you warm and all of those things. And then there’s, you know a lot of my songs are about my relationship with music, maybe what I would consider to be kind of like a mystical force. It is mixed between a deity and a surrogate mother or something like that. I don’t know if it’s bizarre, but it is my view about something with a spiritual element to it. It’s not something I take for granted really.. And maybe [fire] has to do with that in that song.
It’s also like the building block of life.
True. It’s also the building block of all of our problems. Prometheus was tied to the rock, for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to people. And then Lucifer gives people light, which I wonder sometimes if that means fire. And I wonder sometimes if fire was the actual forbidden fruit or something, and hell being so affiliated with fire. Fire lets us escape nature, but then that also is the framework for all of what it means to be human in some ways. Which is just nothing but problems really.
Do you ever find yourself turning to Greek mythology or even like biblical stories when you’re songwriting?
I had an album called Weird Moons before this one that had a lot of Greek mythology involved in it. Because it took place on Jupiter and there’s the Galilean moons of Jupiter, which are all named after the lovers of Zeus. And so I took a lot of inspiration from that on that record, this one, not so much, but I do enjoy nerding out on that kind of thing.
Your songs on Magic Touch are so vivid and attached to memories. How do you keep track of feelings and moments that you want to include in the songwriting process?
Usually when I write stuff, I don’t really remember the process of writing. I feel like it’s kind of a state of mind that happens. I kind of disassociate, I guess you could say. But I think that it may be, it’s like I’ll be feeling something just pretty acutely and then it needs to come out in some way and I have to verbalize it and it’s kind of like therapy or something like that, where you have to be like on the couch and you’re trying to get it out. I think that’s a lot of times that’s the case with that, and that was the case with these songs. Maybe going through things that brought up memories and there was a lot of self-analysis and stuff going on during the writing of that record.
Did you find the production process less or more difficult because Magic Touch is more stripped back and string heavy compared to your other projects?
There were physical aspects of it, I guess just as a guitar player, of trying to make sure that things could be clean. It took a little bit of effort, I don’t know if I would say it was any more difficult, I guess it’s the same with everything. I tend to be a pretty obsessive person. So even if it’s a synthesizer of a drum machine, I might spend forever on the details of certain things. It was just kind of a different mode. I did finger-picking and stuff like that a lot when I was a lot younger. Some of it was coming back to my 15 year old self, in songwriting. So some musical sort of things I wanted to keep it really simple and raw. Maybe it being guiar-centered made it easier, once I had established the aesthetic that I liked. You don’t have to worry about reverbs and all that stuff, if it’s just all going to be really dry and straight up.
When exactly did you write the song “Tuscany” and was it a conscious decision to keep off the album?
That song was actually a pretty old song that was originally going to be on Light Show, my first album. But it was another one that came out years after it was finished. I kind of had a weird luck that way. I think I recorded that version of that song in 2009. And I was thinking about how, at the time it was released, the Coronavirus was really bad in Italy. And I was thinking about that and it’s really a song about an ex-pat having a fever dream in Tuscany, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to release it. I was always kind of bummed that it never got to come out. But it coincidentally matched the record really well.
With live shows being on pause, are there any venues that you are holding dear to you in LA or whenever you’ve toured?
I mean, there’s a place in LA that’s called Hyperion Tavern. That’s a tiny little spot. And every week there were these friends of mine who had one night that they would put on. It was a clubhouse for misfits around town. And that was a pretty special thing that I hope survives. Luckily the business is a hobby for these architects or something. There’s a group of people that own the bar and I don’t think they rely on it too much. I think they’ve been keeping it afloat anyway, so it might survive unless something really goes wrong.
Zebulon was a recent addition to LA. The guys had the same place in New York and they moved out here and reopened. And that was kind of a breath of fresh air because LA was in real need of a more legit venue. Because the ones that had been around had become not as fun to play at. I don’t know how to describe it, but, it was really nice to have a new place to play and I hope that that stays open. And then other towns, I mean, I don’t know. Things were always changing so much anyways that I guess, it’s going to be sad for anybody that loses their business. Me and so many people it’s like, you just can’t do anything when you can’t work.
And so it’s scary to think about that happening to even more people of course. But at the same time, all these things are always closing down anyway. So I guess it’s just a sad, familiar thing that’s maybe just happening more right now, but at the same time, other things always pop up. I’m not gonna cry too hard about it. There was like some funny meme I saw at one point when venues, in 2019, were typically saying, “alright, pack your stuff and get out.” And, venues in 2020 are like, “Hey, we’re all family.” There was a lot of mistreatment of artists at a lot of venues anyways. So, it’s hard for me to pity some of them too much, you know?
I agree. I just think that sometimes the physical space of it all is really important. It’s hard for me at least, as someone who just regularly listens to a lot of music, to tune into a lot of live streams or support music separate from the space of music venues.
I have a hard time with that too. It’s a frustrating thing because people are not wanting to invest in it. If you go to a venue and there’s just a terrible sound system or no lights and like nobody cares about making an experience for the music. Venue-owners just think like, you can come in here and do your thing and then we’ll charge for beers and that’s the end of it. But, I think there is something to be said for people putting effort into wanting to make things really great. And with some live streams too, if there’s no budget for it, and people instead have to use their iPhone or something, then it’s hard to make a video that really is fun to watch that way. I just hope that we come back from this with everybody caring a little more about doing a good job and really appreciating what we have in terms of time to be on earth and having good experiences. To not just have things be the bare minimum.
Absolutely. Plus there’s so much time to master your craft, but then there’s also so much time to not do that because the world seems to be burning around us.
It’s really bizarre and I hope that I can sort of make the most out of this time and get a lot done. But we’re going to be stressed out, looking at the news or start going stir crazy, and it’s hard to feel inspired when you can’t even see other human beings when you’re stressed out about just what’s going to become of everything. But hopefully, there’s a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel now.
You can listen to the full interview next week on Lakeshore Lady, 4-5pm CT and support Jack Name here.