5 Minutes With… Jack Conman
The Manchester-based singer-songwriter talks to us about his latest album, Seventh Sense Libido, and writing as a form of oversharing
Singer-songwriter Jack Conman has come a long way since his days as the drummer for a Nickelback covers band (aged eight). Starting with the Euphoria Springs EP in 2016 and the Heddison EP from 2018, he’s been honing his craft and developing his sound. That process has led to debut album Seventh Sense Libido which he dropped last month. Intimate and honest, it’s a reflection on relationships and life made all the more powerful by keeping the focus squarely on Conman and his guitar.
We recently caught up with the Manchester-based musician to find out a little more about the album and writing process behind it…
Have you always written songs or is it a skill you’ve developed alongside playing in bands?
“I’ve always written songs, really. I always had quite a lot to say internally. I was quite a thoughtful, insecure child so I didn’t feel like I wanted to tell anyone what I was thinking – writing songs and making poetry seemed quite a nice foot in the door to express my thoughts.
“Playing in bands helped me develop communication between musicians but I always seemed to want more from the music than my peers. I think they were doing it way more leisurely than what I wanted to do. We had some great fun but I feel like fun wasn’t the main drive for me, as silly as it sounds. It was more to create something that reflected my inner dialogue. It can be emotionally stressful creating music based on my inner dialogue but, for some reason, I can’t stop!”
Who are some of your songwriting heroes and do you think you can hear their influence in your music?
“Ry X is one of my favourite songwriters. The simplicity in his music and the honesty in the vocal delivery is something which I think only a handful of songwriters can do. To keep a listener hooked with just a baseline and vocal? That’s a really special thing. I think you can hear bits of Ry X in my music through the vocal delivery and the softness of my vocals at times. But it makes me cringe a bit to compare myself ‘cause I really don’t think there’s another songwriter out there like him.”
Any other significant examples?
“Another one would be Frank Ocean. Lyrically, he phrases things beautifully. You can really visualise what he’s singing about. It’s like the scene he’s describing and the events that are happening are vivid; a bit like reading a book. I definitely try and incorporate that into most of my songs. The way he sings with emotional vulnerability is also something I take influence from. When I started out making music it was something I was self conscious about, to be writing with complete honesty, so hearing his music made me think, ‘Frank Ocean is singing with emotional vulnerability so why shouldn’t I?’”
The Beauty Of Women feels like a key song on the record, what can you tell us about the writing process?
“I wrote this song about all of the women, and those that identify as women, that have inspired me in my life. For example, my mum, friends, family members and my girlfriend. It sounds a little bit like a love song but it’s not fully that, it has sections where I talk about romantic love between me and a significant other, but it’s more an appreciation for women as a whole.
“There’s a section in the lyrics where it says, ‘It’s the beauty of women that gives me this bad luck’. This part is a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that I’ll never be worthy of a woman’s love. Not because I don’t have self worth, and not because I actually have bad luck, but because women are an untouchable force.”
Obviously it’s a very strange time for the world at the moment, does that change your ambitions for the album/your songs at all?
“It doesn’t change much for me. People still want to hear new music and I’ve got more time than ever to write and record in my house. The only thing that slows me down a little is that I don’t have as much money to make things like music videos and merch, but I’ll always try and find loopholes for that.
“For Seventh Sense Libido, the only thing that’s really changed is that I’ve not played a show to promote it yet, but hopefully I’ll be doing that soon. I’ve just got a new session band together and we’ve been practising the songs to death so we’re definitely ready to start playing. Music and arts will be needed regardless of any pandemic, so I try and not think of it as an obstacle at all!”
What are you hoping to achieve when you sit down and write a song?
“I’m hoping that what I’m writing explains something to me. It’s like I’m taking a subconscious idea/thought/belief or trouble and turning it into something that is digestible for me. It’s almost like I’m writing a song to help process my own emotions.
“I feel like day-to-day life affects me more than the average person so I frequently need an outlet for that. I get overwhelmed quite easily and need time to process things and if I don’t process things one by one and song by song, I feel quite stressed out and uncomfortable. Sometimes I think some people aren’t honest about their emotions and they’re more sensitive than they let on, although I haven’t really worked out whether I overshare too much yet. My point is that the reason I sit down to write a song is to overshare.”
How would you describe your sound?
“My sound varies, but if we’re talking about my new album Seventh Sense Libido in particular…I would hope that it sounds like heartache. I think it sounds like the perfect music to cry to. It sounds a bit like grieving for something that you don’t even know and haven’t lost. A bit like childhood trauma that you hopefully never experienced.
“I think it combines the vacant numbness of Radiohead, the hopelessness of Keaton Henson and the existential questioning of Sleep Party People. But I would never compare myself to those three artists because they’re all geniuses in their own untouchable way. I’d just say my songs hopefully evoke the same emotional response.”