Vegan. Toronto. Musician. Three words that caught my interest and prompted this interview. I “met” Jake on the Toronto Vegan Facebook group. He posted asking if anyone knew of any vegan restaurants where he could play live. Of course, I had to check out his music right away! I have to be honest, folk-alternative music is not really my style, but Jake’s songs are beautiful and heartfelt. His latest single, Evaporate is really nice.
Evaporate (Single) – 2021
Sunrise (Single) – 2021
Pipe Dreams (Album) – 2020: Pipe Dreams, We Used to Float, Memoria, Jane, I’ll Get Halfway, Mooring, Ageless Storm and The Hall.
Calling Cards (Single) – 2020
No Headlights (Single) – 2019
From Toronto, Jake is a singer, songwriter, guitar player and music producer. He produces his music in his bedroom studio and enjoys performing in front of live audiences. Jake had an early start in music – with his first recording at age 8 in his father’s home studio. At age 18, he won a finalist award in RBC’s Emerging Artists program.
Me: Jake, thanks for taking the time to participate in this interview. You paint a very nostalgic picture recording your own music in your father’s studio. I read online that your father is a country music producer, so it seems like music is in your blood. Can you share one of your favourite memories in the studio as a child?
Jake: Thank YOU for doing this, it’s my pleasure to answer your thoughtful questions. Music has definitely been at the forefront of my life since I was born. My dad Joel did a lot of his work in his home studio, so I would have to say my favourite memory would be sitting on the carpet in the room next to the studio, playing with Lego and mini sticks. My dad has mentioned that the sound of me rummaging through the Lego box showed up in some of his recordings. Not sure if these takes made the cut, but those were lovely times.
Me: I can totally picture you sitting there. I would imagine that the sound of shifting Lego blocks would be edited out lol. You’re one of my younger interviewees. Congratulations on winning a finalist award at the RBC’s Emerging Artists program. I’m happy that programs like these exist because they give musicians an opportunity to showcase their talent. How did you get involved with the program and what are your plans (including new music) going forward?
Jake: Thank you! I’m happy that they exist too, and I honestly didn’t know about this one until they contacted me. The principal at my high school (Etobicoke School of the Arts), Rob Mackinnon, had submitted my music to RBC and that’s how I got involved. I am so grateful he did, because I think that experience gave me a lot of confidence and excitement about a career in music. My plans are to simply keep creating music that is authentic to me. I am also becoming more involved in other projects like writing for others and session work. The goal has always been to inspire others like my heroes do for me – so however I can do that, I will.
Me: Sounds like you have a great plan mapped out. I like the distinctive sound of your fingerstyle guitar. I read on your website that you’re a self-learned guitar player. When did you pick up your first guitar and do you play any other instruments?
Jake: I picked up guitar around 13 after playing piano as a kid. I dabble with bass guitar and love to still play piano when I’m around one, but guitar is my main squeeze – I can’t get enough. I would play as many hours as I possibly could when I was younger and had fewer responsibilities. Being late or half asleep in high school because I stayed up too late playing guitar, was a very real thing. Discovering John Mayer and his playing was a huge inspiration to me.
Me: What, sleeping in class? Unheard of lol. Well, you certainly had a good reason for it. My favourite song of yours is “Calling Cards”. It’s hard to explain, but somehow it takes me back to a less complicated time in my life. What is the source of your musical inspiration for your songwriting and style?
Jake: That’s really nice, I love the different effects songs have on people. Songwriting came first, likely because I wanted to be like my dad. When I discovered guitar, I felt like I found my instrument and the right way to deliver my songs. I like to write songs about my life, but ones that can be interpreted individually. That’s why I don’t like to label a song as specifically about this or that. I think that’s why I love slightly more impressionistic songwriters, like Bon Iver and Gregory Alan Isakov. I’ve always gravitated toward mellow, melodic and emotion-heavy songs. That kind of expression is what comes naturally to me, so I try to embrace it as much as I can.
Me: That’s one of the things I love about music – people can interpret the same song totally differently. For me, certain songs are emotionally loaded and take me back to a specific moment in time. As someone with stage fright, I really admire your confidence to perform in front of crowds. Do you get stage fright? And what kind of challenges have you come across promoting yourself and your music?
Jake: I do get stagefright. Maybe a little less each time, but I’ve never not felt it on the day of a performance. I like the nerves though, because I think it means I care, and want to do a good job up there. After the first song, a lot of it dissipates.
Promoting yourself as an indie musician is definitely challenging, and there are a lot of amazing musicians fighting the same fight. Sometimes I feel like the biggest challenge is trying to find your own angle. A lot of the time it feels like the music isn’t enough, and that you need a compelling story to really cut through the noise. While I do agree that this helps, I think it still comes down to writing a good song that will speak for itself. So more often, the biggest challenge is writing that song.
Me: I can appreciate how hard it is for musicians to find their spot on a highly competitive metaphorical “world stage”. I agree that staying true to yourself and your style is important. In your case it definitely comes through. It’s obvious from your posts that you are smitten by your girlfriend Julia (who happens to be on the singles cover of “Sunrise”). In one of your posts, you wrote “my crush on her grows embarrassingly bigger and bigger every day.” Awww…young love is so sweet. Did you write any songs specifically for her? And does she ever sing along with you?
Jake: Absolutely I’ve written songs for Julia. It’s hard not to. She does sing along with me! She is a very talented singer and I’ve heard some beautiful songs that she’s written. We sing covers together a lot, and it always leaves me smiling.
Me: Amazing to have a partner in crime! If you had to pick one of your songs – which one holds the most meaning for you and why?
Jake: I think it changes – but right now, my newest song Evaporate definitely holds the most meaning to me. I think it’s because it came from an honest and vulnerable place, and it’s about feelings I deal with constantly. It’s a reminder to me that it’s okay to let go of a thought. This is something I need frequent reminding of.
Me: It’s amazing that from vulnerability comes beautiful music. Letting go of things is something that I write about often. Music shapes and influences us in so many ways. Here’s my usual “get to know you” question: who are your top 3 favourite musicians?
Jake: This is very tough… but I’ll try to narrow it to 3, in no particular order:
1. John Mayer
2. The Tallest Man on Earth
3. Frank Ocean
Me: Frank Ocean and Thom Yorke are probably the most popular fav musicians named by the other musicians I have interviewed so far. Pandemic life has changed people’s lives in so many ways. What are your plans now that things are finally opening up?
Jake: I am slowly getting back to performing here in Toronto, which feels great. My rule has always been to say yes to every gig (if it’s feasible) so I will continue to do that, and hopefully the ball will keep rolling. I’m also recording and working on releasing more new songs.
Me: Amazing! I know this is a music interview, but it stemmed from your vegan group post, and I get really excited when I meet a fellow vegan. I’m glad that there is a huge global movement right now towards ending animal cruelty and saving the planet. This November marks my 3rd veganversary. You mentioned that you’ve been vegan about 2 years. What’s the story behind why you became vegan?
Jake: I’m glad there is too. It feels like I came into it during a big surge, which is very exciting. Julia had a lot to do with me switching to a plant-based diet – but not through persuasion, just education. I was inspired by her and I learned so many things that changed my perspective. The switch was a bit gradual at first, but as I learned more, I became more passionate about the movement. Now it seems being vegan is a no-brainer for me, personally.
Me: Cheers to a more compassionate world! Jake, it was great getting to know you. Thanks again for your time. Hopefully, I’ll catch you performing when I’m out enjoying vegan food. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Everyone – check out Jake’s music and support local Canadian music!
Jake: Thank you so much for doing this interview! I’d love to see you out at a show. The support you give to upcoming artists is so valuable and admirable, and it goes a long way. I hope your readers can find something that speaks to them in my music.