Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Page 82

Sing, songwriter and multi-talented musician Joe
Jackson burst onto the pop scene in 1979 with his
debut single, Is She Really Going Out with Him?, a smash
hit that propelled him into the charts, and launched
a career that has taken in 19 albums, Grammy award
nominations, and a huge array of musical styles. His
latest album, ‘Fool’, was released earlier this year.
He reflects on the lessons of his 40-year career
People often ask if I make records
or myself rather than an audience,
but I suppose it’s both. I’m hoping to
reach an audience, obviously, but I’m
not trying to just give them what they
want. How am I supposedly to know
what that is, or how to do it? No, it has
to start with me being excited about
something, and then hopefully I can
communicate that to other people.
Singer and songwriter
Joe Jackson is still going
strong after 40 years
in the music industry
When talking about music, the hardest
questions are always the ones that
start with ‘why’: why did you write
this song, or make this record, or do it
this way. I don’t know why! Because
it seemed like a good idea, because it
felt right, because it was fun! I think
people assume you start with some
kind of plan, or agenda, and then create
something to fulfil that. But it’s much
more intuitive than that. I just keep
putting one foot in front of the other
until I feel like I’m getting somewhere
interesting. I only have one rule,
which is that if it starts sounding like
something I’ve done before, or heard
before, I scrap it or do something to
mess it up.
In this business a lot of people are
bat-shit crazy, or just neurotic anyway,
but I think I’m reasonably sane.
There’s something about being any
kind of artist, especially in what you
might call a popular medium, that
breeds neurosis. I think it’s because it’s
not an exact science; no matter how
talented you are, so much is beyond
your control. You write a song, you
have no guarantee you’ll ever be able
to write another one. You have a hit,
that’s even worse, there’s no guarantee
you’ll ever have another one. You
could write a better song, but then the
whole scene has somehow shifted and
no one’s interested. That happens to
almost everyone who sticks around for
more than a few years. So, you can get
messed-up in all kinds of ways.
For better or worse, technology has
changed everything in music.
I mean, it’s fantastic that more music
is more accessible to more people than
it’s ever been, but… well, I’m not sure
how to put it. Maybe it’s just that for
my generation, music was incredibly
important, but sometimes now, it feels
like it’s been cheapened or something.
It’s certainly much harder for anyone to
make money out of it – I’m lucky that I
had some success at a time when quite
modest recognition, especially in the
States, still meant you could sell a lot of
records. But for a lot of younger artists,
it’s tough. The whole business has
pretty much collapsed. All the biggest
movers and shakers in what’s left of the
music industry are running around like
headless chickens trying to figure out
what to do. The only thing I can do is
focus on making the best music I can.
You just can’t evaluate yourself by
numbers – record sales, chart positions,
and so on. I’m not saying I wasn’t
happy to have a couple of hits, but
I certainly never counted on it. What’s
even more amazing to me is that I’m
still able to make music and do shows I
can feel good about, and have an
audience. Seriously! Some days I wake
up thinking, “my God, I’m still getting
away with it!” I didn’t have to go and
work in the salt mines! It really doesn’t
matter if the glass is half-full or halfempty anyway, so long as there’s
whisky in it.
Fool by Joe Jackson is out now

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