He may never have played at The Isle of Wight Festival before, but the island has played a key role in Jack Savoretti’s own career.
The singer-songwriter is currently riding high with a successful album, his fifth, Sleep No More, under his belt, and is playing on the main stage of the historic festival tomorrow evening.
But it wasn’t always thus – after his third album, the well-received but poor-selling Before The Storm, Jack was weighing up his future and went to visit a friend who lives on the island.
‘Funnily enough the weekend I spent there changed my life,’ Jack reveals to The Guide. ‘My friend asked me: “What are you going to do now?” And I really didn’t know. I didn’t have a label, I didn’t have anything, and I said I want to try and get a record deal, I’ve never really worked with a major label, I want to see what it’s like. He said: “Don’t do that, make an EP”. So we made an EP called Sweet Hurt, and that EP was the beginning of “the change” for me, it got to number one on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. But the decision to do that came on the Isle of Wight. I’d never really thought about that before,’ he laughs.
Since then he has released 2015’s Written In Scars, and last October’s Sleep No More, which followed its predecessor into the top 10, and the venues he plays have got much bigger – Jack played The Wedgewood Rooms for Scars. He was at Portsmouth Guildhall for the new album.
‘It’s been exactly what we were working towards, it’s working and we’re getting the music played.
‘It’s been 12 years since I started doing this. Somebody said to me recently, “How does it feel to be an overnight success?” I said: “It’s been a very long night.”
‘It is nice – what’s nice is that everyone involved gets to enjoy it too. There are a lot of people who’ve sacrificed a lot of time and taken a lot of risks to stick with this project through times when it all looked pretty doom and gloom.
‘Now it looks like it’s starting to pay off so we can say it was worth the sacrifice.’
Support from national radio and TV has been critical to his breakthrough.
This album is the marriage between passion and responsibility, Usually you have to choose - to follow your passion or to be responsible, but I want to do bothJack Savoretti
‘It’s amazing what a difference that sort of support makes. Three minutes on TV is worth four years on the road – if it’s the right TV show, and radio is fundamental – I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for Radio 2.’
While Radio 2 has been there from the very start, it hasn’t always been so helpful.
‘Jonathan Ross actually played my first ever single, a song called Without, and then he referred to it as “a bit boring”. That was my first experience of national radio. Thanks Jonathan,’ he audibly winces. ‘He was right,’ he adds with a chuckle. ‘It was a bit boring.’
‘That was my first sort of experience, of “Oh wow, my music is out there to be judged, it’s no longer mine”. it was quite a harsh lesson.’
For Sleep, Jack returned to the studio with Samuel Dixon, songwriter and producer for the likes of Adele, Sia’ and Christina Aguilera. They continued to use the same process as on Scars – they would write and produce a new song each day.
‘That’s how we’ve done the last two albums. Don’t get me wrong, we go back, but we try to capture the soul of the song at the start. On my first record – the cliche thing when you make a demo, everybody falls in love with the demo, and then they spend a lot of time and money trying to recreate the demo, which I always thought was really stupid.
‘Everyone loved this version – why are we trying to remake it? So now I try to avoid the demo stage – when I put it down I try to make it of a standard that if everyone likes it, then that’s the one we’re going to use.
‘And back in the day there was a lot more money – you could go in the studio and spend two months on one song, but we don’t have that kind of money now. To go back in and redo it just for the sake of it seemed kind of silly.
‘Written in Scars and Sleep No More kind of go hand in hand. Written in Scars was written in a youthful, immortal sense of “I don’t give a crap, I’m going to go out and do it my way”. It was my last hurrah before I would either quit, or it would be the one to get it going. Luckily it was the one to get it going. After that, everything about the way I wrote matured, my son arrived – I have two kids now – and it looked like this might actually work!
‘I had to stop playing the victim and take responsibility – if this might work I have to stick with it and make it really work.
‘This album is the marriage between passion and responsibility, Usually you have to choose - to follow your passion or to be responsible, but I want to do both. I think you can have both, it’s hard but if you really want it, you can do it.’
The album is also his ‘thank you’ to his wife of seven years, actress Jemma Powell.
‘It’s more of a thank you letter, than a love letter. I often think that saying thank you can mean more than I love you, specially when you’ve been together so long. Just being told “thank you” is the best thing you can say sometimes.’
Circumstances also meant that Sleep No More ended up being put together even quicker than Jack had originally intended thanks to a fortuitous TV appearances. ‘I was going to put away half a year to do that album and then we got a TV slot on Graham Norton and it really boosted the whole Written in Scars project, which meant the time I had for Sleep No More kept getting shorter and shorter, but I was actually quite happy about that. I like when albums really capture a time and space, like a photo album, and this was such a strange, full-on few months, I was so glad we were able to take this Polaroid of it.’
Jack’s also keen not to keep his fans waiting for another album –and he reveals it could take his sound in a new direction.
‘If I could, I’d release an album ever year, I really love making records, that’s my favourite part of it. I do write all the time, but not when I’m on the road, the minute I come home, or if I walk into a studio, I can’t leave without a song. And I’ve recently bought myself a piano, so I’ve been writing a lot on that, which is very different.
‘It takes you somewhere completely different to the guitar.’
* The Isle of Wight Festival gets fully under way today, with headline sets from David Guetta, Arcade Fire and Rod Stewart. Weekend tickets with camping cost £195. Day tickets are also available. Go to isleofwightfestival.com