It is a truth universally acknowledged that when someone you meet has a super- famous parent, you either go straight in with that or completely bypass it. As a long-time fans of Jack Valero’s dad, the eponymous Billy Bragg, we went with the former.
Meeting the engaging, warm and personable Jack before his gig at the Green Note, Camden, we spoke about growing up with a famous dad, having space to find his own road and the journey to new –found independence.
We asked Jack when he realised his dad was- well, known by absolutely everyone. He told us he “grew up knowing- it was just a part of my life,” and that his dad would be away on tour sometimes for weeks at a time, but that he had not minded as he had brought him back “the best toys- I was more than happy for him to go away for a bit!”
Jack, born in Chiswick, London, moved to the Dorset countryside when he was six, ostensibly because they wanted a dog. Growing up in the countryside with his close-knit family of mum, dad and brother, music was all around him. He remembers “guitars lying around the house – but I was the same size as most of them!” Both parents being in the music business, did they encourage him to learn an instrument? Jack recalls having guitar lessons aged eight but, “it didn’t capture my interest or imagination.” After that, he listened to the Kaiser Chiefs and his attention was piqued by a certain riff. His parents told him it was a keyboard and so duly, piano lessons followed. But it was “all a bit stuffy”…
The turning point and beginning of his passion for singing and song writing was the computer game “Guitar Hero”. Jack describes being obsessed with computer games and explains he “just fell in love” with this one. The first of its kind, he recalls how the controller got him “in the headspace of how the hands work together… it was my ‘in’- the crossover from computer games to music. I was like- ‘do you know this song? That song? And (my parents) were like- ‘Of course we do!’ ” They showed him the discography of all the bands and Jack remembers his dad started to teach him the lineage of music.
We wondered whether there was any pressure on Jack to become a musician? He tells us that his parents “waited- they didn’t push me- until I’d found my own avenue into their world.”
Speaking to Jack, it’s easy to hear how his fluid, earnest, evocative lyrics come to him so easily- they are an extension of his personality. He describes how singing is so important; “intimate, because you ARE the instrument-it’s ultimately personal because you are laying yourself bare. You’re singing (which is personal in itself) and you’re singing your own lyrics, your own songs.” We asked if he watches or listens to himself and was surprised with the honesty and confidence of his reply. So many performers will tell you they never do this but Jack is unassumingly positive as he describes how once he has had space away, he can listen back and say, “Oh ok, that’s actually ok- these are good!”
And good they undoubtedly are… we talk about his two recently released songs, Heaven Help Me and his latest release Hollow Warmth (two of the promised trilogy), and how they both encapsulate his love of storytelling through song. Heaven Help Me is a lock down song “more or less- it’s a song about the world at that time.” The astronaut is grounded on earth, doing ordinary things but longing to be back in space- mirroring the desire the desire, the desperation for change and excitement but doing whatever you could to get through. Jack talks of a break up of a long term relationship just after lockdown. This, coupled with the break-up of his band in 2019 was obviously a difficult time but perhaps the catalyst for a change of direction. He describes this time as half spent “moping about” and the other half thinking- “No- I’m going to do it myself”.
And it is this juxtaposition- the self-confessed love of this word and its state that inspires and steers Jack Valero on his road. “I’ve always loved music and storytelling- writing about combinations of very boring, everyday things with something really abnormal.”
And we can see this in the video of Hollow Warmth. Made in the director’s grandmother’s house, it is a metaphor for juxtaposition and what Jack is trying to convey- that this is what life is; boring bits punctuated by amazing bits.
Which leads us to talk about his recent Glastonbury experience. A home from home, (Jack has helped his parents run a stage and been a guitar techie for his dad for the last 11 years) this year he played three shows of his own on two stages and recalls how the experience once again echoed his love of juxtaposition- one minute on stage at arguably the world’s most important music festival; and then at home watching Friends in his flat… “that’s kind of how it is in life…”
We asked Jack if he has any political statements to make (in light of his own lineage) and he talks through lyrics in various songs which do indeed reflect his opinion of the circus that appears to be today’s government. Having played with his dad Billy at Glastonbury, he says me they are going to play at the Tolpuddle Festival together too. He is more cagey about details of his third and final release of his promised trilogy, describing the song as “much bigger, almost an odyssey” than the other two.
And that is the perfect summation of what we want from Jack Valero- more music, more stories, more juxtaposition… and for his journey to go on and on.
Jack Valero interviewed at The Green Note, Camden on 11th June 2022
Jack played on a triple bill with Kelley Swindall and Evan Williams
Interview and photography Copyright of 1st 3 Magazine
Not to be reproduced without prior permission. Social media use only for persons depicted, event organisers and venue. Not to be cropped or altered in any way without prior permission.