Continuing the series of questions and answers that I sent to various people, whom I’m either in contact with, admire or just wanted to be nosey with. In fact many fit all three.
Today we have Warwickshire born, John Garrison who’s travelled the world playing his own and others music. He’s played on a number one single, been in a band I thought could match Coldplay, in the shape of Budapest. He’s swapped Lady Godiva for The Little Mermaid. He also knows how to write a great song too. His first encounter with me was my review of his then band’s debut album many years ago it seems now.
1. You come from a musical family, I sure I read your father was a musical lecturer at Warwick University? Was it always going to be a life in music or did you want to do something else? I can’t remember wanting to do anything else. I grew up on the campus of Warwick University and my earliest memories are going to see my Dad and playing all these wonderful orchestral instruments right next to my home. I loved football and had a few training sessions at Coventry City as a teenager. Plus played golf for Warwickshire Boys. But it never gave me the same thrill as music and I was never really good enough at both. Music is the only thing that feels 100% comfortable. We won’t mention Coventry City!
2. I first came in contact with you when you released the first Budapest band’s album, ‘Too Blind To Hear‘. Were you disappointed in the general reaction to it? Not at all. It was very well received. Especially by the press. I don’t know the exact figures now, but it had sold 50,000 world-wide by 2005 so it was a success. Unfortunately, none of the money ever filtered down to me which was the main lesson learned from the whole experience. I have to admit it wasn’t much fun. Those moments on stage with Budapest were wonderful or course. But the off the stage goings on with the management, the band and the record label were a very bad memory for me. It was never going to be fun after Mark the original guitarist committed suicide a week after we finished recording. Not the best start for a new band..!! But I am still immensely proud of the album and it has aged very well. Well it has to be still one of my favourite debut albums that I’ve ever heard.
3. Saying that you went on to release a further album, primarily in Spain, ‘Head Towards The Dawn‘. Were you surprised by the response in Spain and how did it go over there? I wasn’t surprised actually. We were on a great record label over there and they worked it hard. I knew that if people could hear the music, they would like it. It was just a matter of getting them to hear it. With a good label, that is what they do. Unfortunately they were the only good label we were with and our UK label decided for whatever reason, to not bother trying anywhere else in Europe. A decision I still don’t understand to this day. But hey, I’m sure they had their reasons. For those out there interested it can be still found on the internet to buy or download at Bandcamp.
4. Going solo is a daunting thing but as you’re a multi instrumentalist it must have helped? Also you moved to the United States too, those were big changes in your life? Going solo was actually relatively easy for me. Budapest was always my baby, I wrote all the songs and I played most the instruments on the albums. But I never had the confidence to be a “solo” artist. That’s where New York came in. I was very deflated after the split and lack of success with the 2nd album for Budapest and needed a new start. Through my Budapest contacts I managed to find a floor in New York to crash on while playing at open mic nights. I then got offered my own gigs and within 2 months I had residencies at many established spots across the city. And what’s more…I was getting paid (shock horror…!!). I guess a lot of people don’t realise how many musicians actually don’t make a penny it’s quite frightening actually. The beauty of New York is that everybody is there for the same reason. To get in, get what they want and to eventually get out. That is why it has such positive energy and it truly is the city that never sleeps. The only limitation there is your own imagination. You can do whatever you like. You could say “I want to see some Belgium Reggae tonight” and with a glance in Time Out, you’d find it. A far cry from Coventry and Leamington which is all I’d known up till then. And in New York the people take no bullshit. If you are not good, the people will tell you. But the opposite result of that is that when they say you are good, you know they mean it. New York totally changed my life. Well it does seemed to have rubbed off on you very well.
5. Now I know to fund your own work when you did some session work. This included backing some X-Factor contestants, how did that come about? I actually started out as a session player many years ago but gave it up as I found it very un-fulfilling and I wanted to do my own thing. But I still had many of my old session contacts. One of which was Karl Brazil who by now was James Blunt’s drummer. He was playing in New York and I went along as his guest. After the show he told me of a session he had coming up and asked if I was going to be in UK. As I was, I did the session. That session was Leona Lewis on BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. The cover version of “Run” that we did was a big hit and so I got asked to go into the studio and record the track and it went to No.1. The producer was happy with what I did and started to ask me to play on other sessions. At the same time, Blunt’s old bassist left the band and I was asked if I wanted to audition. I went along and got the job. It was tough to leave New York but the subsequent two world tours has made it possible for me to continue making my own music whilst still being involved in the industry. The experience with Blunt has been incredible. An amazing privilege to play all over the world to millions of people with a small group of musicians and crew who are now life long friends.
6. I’ve had to endure all those wonderful photos you have been blogging on your world tour with James Blunt as bassist. Apart from the money, has that helped you develop too as a solo artist? Not really. James’ music and my own music are very different. Its great fun touring the world with him and he is a great boss. But we actually rarely talk about music outside of his as obviously that is what we are all there to do. I haven’t changed how I write because of playing with Blunt. But the experiences of touring the world have been fantastic subject matter for songs. Hopefully we’ll see you soon touring the world performing your own music.
7. Have you ever tried to get him to play a track of yours live or even record one for his output? No. I keep my session world and my writing world completely separate. I am hired as a professional musician. If he ever asked me to write then that is a different job completely. If he reads this, he may well do.
8. You’ve relocated to Copenhagen, a city I did enjoy visiting myself, and started family life. Are you still enjoying it? Yes very much. I love being a Dad and I enjoy Copenhagen enormously. A beautiful place and fantastic vibe. Plus the girls are quite pretty…!!! That is, after all, how I ended up here. I must say I did notice that too.
9. You also started a new project called The Satellites, can you tell us more about it? Who’s involved? It’s actually just called Satellites. It’s a project I started while on the road with Blunt. There is a lot of down time on the road so I decided to start a new project. I have a few friends from Denmark involved also. I decided to approach my own music differently. I approached it like a movie as opposed to a song. My vocal is very dead-pan and just narrating the story. I am trying to make the music do all the drama and scene setting. Its been very fulfilling for me and I plan to focus on this for some time. Hence the 1st album simply being called 01. First of many (02 is 80% finished). I have to say I do like the new vocal approach it works well indeed.
10. What has the next twelve months got for your good self planned? Satellites 01, 02, maybe start 03 and being a Dad. I do hope you will tour as Satellites too.
My thanks again to a good friend, John Garrison, he’s actually one of the most modest people you could meet. But it’s only a matter of time when the world wakes up to his legacy he’s compiling. Apart his website you can find him on Facebook, Twitter and his blog too. I will look forward to seeing him playing live in 2013 and I guess I’ll have to buy him a beer or two then.