Gallery 47, the musical project of Jack Peachy, has a new single out alongside a music video featuring historical footage of war and propaganda. Taken from his new album ‘Adversity Breeds’, the track sees the South London-based alt-folk singer-songwriter shift from his signature guitar-picking style and rely instead on a minimalist piano-lead instrumental, allowing his vulnerable, almost Dylan-esque voice and charged, relevant lyrics to take front stage. The follow-up to his critically acclaimed album ‘Clean’, and the second in a trilogy of albums, takes a more politically-minded direction and is out now via AWAL/Bad Production Records. “If ‘Clean’ was the romantic album, ‘Adversity Breeds’ is the divorce,” Jack explains.
GIGsoup caught up with Jack Reachy of Gallery 47 to talk about his inspirations, his new song and album.
What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Music was always a big deal for my family when we were growing up. Me and my brothers were in the St Marys Church Choir in Nottingham, my mum’s idea I think. On my dad’s side up in Thornley, near Duhram, well karaoke was always an important part of visiting my relatives up there. I remember we didn’t do it for a laugh or anything like that, we were genuinely trying our very best to knock the room out. It’s funny when I look back at it because I couldn’t bear to do karaoke now. I would be caught somewhere between feeling insecure if I was trying to sing well or else false if I tried to act like I didn’t care. I always listened to The Beatles. My whole family did. The big number 1 hits when we were growing up – She Loves You, All You Need Is Love, Lady Madonna – and as I got older I started buying records myself. I’ve always got a lot on my mind unless I’m out of it. Songwriting is a productive and nice way to write about things, sometimes to vent, or to articulate a nagging thought, or something like that.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
My live guitar sound is quite similar to Paul Simon or Nick Drake because I’m normally fingerpicking and I quite like to use open chords. I used to write songs in my head before I was capable of summing them up with music. I returned to this with my 3rd album ‘Clean’, most of which I hummed into my phone when walking along a canal feeding the ducks. So on the albums it’s a bit more varied but there’s lots of acoustic guitar, piano and light airy / brushy drums, often with double bass. I have a love / hate relationship with myself when it comes to singing. It really does depend on the day. I have quite a unique voice I think, quite high, a bit reedy, – and I think if I sing in my head voice quite softly it can sound nice. At the same time, I use double tracking quite a lot to escape from that. Especially when it’s a deep bluesy song like ‘Close to the Mind’.
What were you trying to achieve with ‘Adversity Breeds’ compared to your previous works?
I originally recorded demos of 50 or so songs, from which I assembled these three albums I’ve been working on – ‘Clean’, ‘Adversity Breeds’ and ‘Young World’. With Clean I was going for most of the songs relating to early 20s ‘Big Life Choices’ – that kind of thing. Wanting to do music but wanting to earn a living. Not wanting to let your parents down. Dealing with the pressures everyone has to deal with when they stare long enough at themselves in the mirror, both literally and conceptually. With ‘Young World’ I was the opposite. If ‘Clean’ was being measured, trying to empathise, hold myself back, then ‘Young World’ was the topical / lyrical chaos that erupted when my efforts to make everyone get along fell down completely. In between these is Adversity Breeds. In some ways, it’s a collection of singles. It’s not as tightly bound and inter-referential as the other two. But hey, I talk about track 5 – ‘Your Time’ – on my last album ‘Clean’ in that song ‘Looking Wonderful’. Because initially I tried to take ‘Your Time’ to producer John Wood and he said he thought that ‘Lefty’ and ‘Your Time’ were a bit contrived, and it triggered a little bit of a breakdown. Haha! But that’s exactly why it ended up on ‘Adversity Breeds”, because the one common denominator between all of these songs is that, lyrically, every song is trying to both confront an issue, a person, or a problem, whilst also trying to see the other side of it in some way. The lyrics to the song ‘Adversity Breeds’ probably sum it all up way better than I can do now. I’m a bit tired.
‘In Odessa’ sounds like a poetic title. Could you talk a bit about what it means?
It really upsets me how things was gone politically in the world since the time I first wrote this song 4 or so years ago. I’m not scared anymore of nuclear war because I feel like it’s completely out of my hands, but I feel very much vindicated in some of my previous little protests now, with hindsight. ‘In Odessa’ refers to a BBC News reporter discussing a violent altercation which had taken place on the fringes between Russia and Ukraine, several years ago when fighting broke out in the city of Odessa. On that day I remember vividly imagining what was actually being reported on this News Channel, namely that a group of people had been trapped in a burning building by opposition fighters. There was talk of ‘who started it’, what had caused it to happen, or what had failed to prevent it. That’s why I wrote that song.
When did you start writing the song and what was the process like?
I recorded a demo version on my phone 4 or more years ago. I remember being on a work trip in Switzerland, this market-research job where I had to fly around all the time. That’s where I made that demo recording. Then I recorded something like 45 acoustic guitar takes at Broadway House in Nottingham shortly after, at the same time that I was doing Lefty, Political Differences, Overflow, all the stuff from Young World. I never finished that mix of the song, because by the time I got around to it, all the stress of trying to get a publishing deal had kicked in. My manager at the time was telling me that we needed better production, and I was fighting him because I liked the sound I was getting from my home recordings – they weren’t by any means sonically perfect but I thought the spirit was right. I often do with home recordings. Nowadays I try to just do stuff as fresh as possible in the studio – nothing worse than when your passion for a song goes stale before you get a chance to put it down. Well, when we finally came to re-record it in 2015, we planned a whole ‘She’s So Heavy’ kinda deal. Strings, loads of guitars, electric post-rock at the end, distorted ebows, the sound of credit cards being pressed in a leather wallet like the head-turning-round-scene in The Exorcist (in fact, THAT made the take, you can hear Louise with that leather wallet right at the beginning, it’s got a bunch of long reverb on it and sounds a bit like a train or a gunshot). But then Benjamin James came in and played one piano take, first time. And that’s the one I chose. Everything else got muted. Not even my acoustic guitar made it. Just the piano and the voice. And maybe to stick up for myself I kept one of the vocals that I had recorded at home, and also decided to manage myself from that point on.
Who is an artist you would die to collaborate with?
Oh, I don’t know, I’m terrified of meeting my heroes. I would really like to work with Norah Jones, Neil Young or Bob Dylan, or Joni Mitchell, or Radiohead, but it’s just not likely to happen is it and besides, I’m not religious, nor particularly optimistic, though I do like to place my trust in fate. Anyway, thanks for reading all of my answers and I’ve hope I’ve made more sense than I feel I have at the moment!