Simon Jay Catling 05/06/2008
GIITTV's Simon Jay Catling catches up with Jacob Golden before his headlining show at the Troubador in London.
For a man who possesses a singing voice of quite startling power and energy, it comes as a bit of a surprise to find Jacob Golden a quiet and at times shy presence on the other end of a phone line. The Californian solo artist is currently on a brief tour of our green and pleasant land in support of Sarabeth Tucek before a headlining show at the famous Troubador in London, famous for being the first venue in our delightful capital that Bob Dylan ever played at; a fact not lost on Golden, who confesses to being particularly excited about playing at the venue; “it's certainly got a lot of history. It's a place that harks back to the 60's and the cafes of Soho, the whole English folk scene and artists coming from America coming across to play- a real romantic time. I'm honoured to be playing it; there's a certain energy about the place."
Yet his live shows don't always take place in such salubrious backgrounds. In America, the Sacramento-born artist has become well known for his 'house concerts'- taking time out during his touring schedule to play in fans living rooms in whichever town he happens to be in; it's a concept he warmed to instantly and views some of his best performances as those taking place away from the confines of a stage. “There's no PA, no stage- it's just about the songs. I think my music works best when there's nothing between the song and the room, that's probably how I prefer the way of doing it." That's not to say Jacob doesn't enjoy playing more conventional venues, and it's an area he thrives in. On one of the times I've been lucky enough to catch him live, he's successfully managed to turn a chattering, disinterested crowd into one of thunderstruck awe; never possessing anything more on stage than his acoustic guitar, the singer manages to engage a crowd simply with the conviction and dynamic of his voice. Heart wrenching emotional deliveries of lost love ballads such as 'Love You' contrast with softer, more up tempo “pop” songs like 'Shoulders'- both from his excellent second album 'Revenge Songs', released last year. Without seeming to be the type to blow his own trumpet, Golden nevertheless recognises the diverse quality of his music and what he can do with it live: “My music does have different shades,” he comments: 'Live, I don't change the melodies much, but I like to take the dynamic to different places depending on the venue. Solo-wise it's always a bit of an experiment and I want to keep things that way; I don't want to stick to a formula, for me the performance is as much a part of the art as writing the songs,” he muses before, fearful of heaping too much praise on himself, he laughs, “but I suppose when it does becomes formulaic I'll know it's time to try something different.”
If maybe a little bashful, there's no doubting Jacob Golden's passion and vision for his work. When he speaks about his music, it's with a very clear direction and feeling; a lot of artists can feel at odds with their muse, but the acoustic troubadour is happy and at ease when discussing his own work. Interestingly for a man who freely admits on his own blog that he's “certainly not banging down the doors of the mainstream”, he has in fact collaborated with a rather impressive array of talent; notably Chris Martin and Michael Stipe for ambient electronica DJ Faultline, as well as composer Nitin Sawnhey amongst others. For a singer who live seems so confined in his intimate surroundings, his positive words on such collaborations come across as a surprise; “I do like the idea of stepping into different roles, and when I do it with different people they get different aspects of my personality. I have a side project called 'Little Foxes' which hasn't made its way out to the world yet, but is much more experimental and electronic than what I do by myself. The cool thing about doing collaborations is that I'm able to bring back little aspects of that and add it to my own music so it works both ways.”
What to expect then in the near future from him? Well for starter's, copies of a live EP will be available from the London gig and there seems to be an intent for more to come. Recorded at RAK studios in the capital, the artist invited thirty people into recording and played live in front of them, an idea that reminds him, again, of the 60s: “I like that you can listen to Jimi Hendrix records and there's times when you can hear people hanging out in the studio and getting into it; there's a certain vibe to that. The EP's like a volume one; the idea is to keep putting out live recordings. I think there's something different that comes out when you're singing in front of an audience instead of by yourself. But doing it in a studio means it's the best of both worlds because I do like having the space to experiment in the studio and the solitariness of that.”
Also to coming out on May 26th is new single 'On A Saturday'; a track that gained attention in America after appearing on the final ever episode of Californian teen drama the OC. To merely attribute that fact to the song is to do an injustice however. The song concerns a time earlier in Golden's life when he first came over to live in London; and indeed it is a city he still enjoys despite eventually returning to the West Coast. “When I first came everything was brand new, and there was an energy to that which was very exciting. Now I've been a lot, it does lose that brand new quality. But in some ways it's my second home, I feel a little bit more on the inside: I've experienced it and have friends here. I'll never be the kind of person who becomes so infatuated with a place that they actually want to become part of it, I like to be a bit on the outside; but at the same time it's different than just being a tourist.” And of the single itself? “On a Saturday's a little bit sweeter, slightly softer than my other stuff. It's also my catchiest pop song at the moment; it's not entirely fashionable and goes back to my love for the Beach Boys and also 70's folk music, which isn't necessarily the stuff that's on the radio at the moment”, and then, in a rare instant that allows him to bring the confidence he possesses within to the surface, he promises “but it will find its way out there.”
A folk-influenced singer sitting on the outside about to break in? I think there was a certain artist in that position when he played The Troubadour in the 60s wasn't there?
Jacob Golden played The Troubadour in London on 3rd June.
The single 'On A Saturday' was released on the May 26th.