Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Something of a Journeyman : Singer/Songwriter Jinder

By Carolyn SelbyJune 1, 2012

THE MUSIC ROOM

Born and brought up in Oxfordshire, Jinder first fell in love with live music when he could hear the bands performing at the Copredy Festival from his bedroom window. Now based in the west country, in an area that is home to an “incredible artists’ community” Jinder has more than earned his spurs over the last decade.

After scoring a minor chart hit in 2002 as part of cult outfit Candlefire with Sorrow Spreads its Wings, he recorded an album a year until 2009 when Nine Cents From Benelux vindicated all the critical praise that had been heaped on his shoulders and became his best-selling record to date.

Also in 2009, Jinder split from the harmony driven pop/rock band The Mercurymen, signed to Arista Records. Fish Records reported:

“All three are accomplished guitarists, but it’s the harmonies that really mark The Mercurymen out from the pack. The quality of the material, performances and production is of the very highest standard.”

The major label flirtation was exorcised by ceaselessly touring the roots circuit as Jinder went in search of himself. Sensing his arrival at a crossroads Jinder’s label, Mighty Village, stopped the clock and sent Jinder away to make the album of his life.

The result is Crumbs Of Comfort. Ten songs of love and longing, trials and tribulations, rain and shine, it finds redemption in daily life and hopeful jubilation down the back of the sofa. Everything on this record earns its keep. It’s crafted, honed and understood without ever surrendering its sense of fresh-mown spontaneity. Jinder’s song-writing hasn’t so much matured as blossomed, nurtured by artistic freedom and driven by love.

I believe you’re from the west country originally – is that where you started to play and sing? Tell me a bit about that…. what set you out on the road to becoming a full time singer-songwriter?

I was born in Banbury in Oxfordshire, and grew up in a little village in Warwickshire about a quarter-of-a-mile from Cropredy. My first exposure to live music was through my bedroom window as a very young child, hearing the bands playing at Fairport Convention’s Cropredy festival, which sounded hugely exciting to me as a four-year-old. It was a real formative experience, and something I’ll never forget. I wrote a verse about it in the song Train In Your Voice from my last album.

I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember, and singing from the age of four or so…from a very early age, my Grandmother would sit me beside her on her piano stool and play so I could sing with her. She always encouraged me to write and sing, and was a fantastic musician and singer herself, making various TV appearances as a choral vocalist. I was a pianist first, but came to the guitar at 12 because of its portability and the fact I could take it anywhere to write – not something that’s easy with a piano!

I don’t think there was a point when I decided to “go full-time” with music, as such…I’ve always been full-time with it since I started. If you want to do it properly, in my opinion, you have to dedicate yourself to it in as complete a way as possible.

So, what were your influences?

I grew up in the heartland of UK Folk music, and I suppose there’s always going to be threads of that running through my music. It’s hard to get away from it when it’s been part of your life for such a long time. I think what has been an inspirational factor over my creative life is that I’ve always been in love with records. Rather than zeroing in on an artist and having role models/heroes as many young musicians do, when I was starting out I took my cues from particular records rather than artists.I have a gigantic and diverse music collection, I started buying a great deal of music at a very young age and have amassed something like 3000 CDs and probably 800+ vinyl LPs over the years. Here are some of the records that have been most influential to me as an artist-I think you can hear very distant echoes of these records in my recordings:

Van Morrison – ‘Veedon Fleece’
John Martyn – ‘One World’
The Blue Nile – ‘Hats’
Townes Van Zandt – ‘Flying Shoes’
Miles Davis – ‘Sketches Of Spain’
The Beach Boys – ‘Surf’s Up’
Donald Fagen – ‘The Nightfly’
Tom Waits – ‘Nighthawks At The Diner’
Guy Clark – ‘Old No.1’
Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention – One Size Fits All
Robert Wyatt – ‘Rock Bottom’
Syd Barrett – ‘Barrett’
David Crosby & Graham Nash – ‘Wind On The Water’

How many guitars do you have? What are they? Do you have a favourite and why? Do you have one that you use for a particular sound?

I have six guitars, four acoustics and two electrics. I had a beautiful collection of vintage acoustic guitars for some years, but after my previous record deal with Sony came to an end in 2009, I reluctantly had to part with many of them in order to make ends meet. However, the upside of this is that it’s forced me to whittle down my collection to the handful of guitars I really need to get by.

My main stage guitar is a Gibson Advanced Jumbo. This model is the best-kept secret in the Gibson range, a slope-shouldered dreadnought (despite the “Jumbo” misnomer) with a long-scale neck and forward-shifted X-bracing which sounds absolutely huge. Mine is a 2002, and has matured brilliantly. The Indian Rosewood back and sides give it more of a rich, wet ring, but despite that, it retains that dry fundamental tonality that is the Gibson trademark. It’s superb for flatpicking, fingerpicking or strumming, a real all-rounder. I have a Fishman Acoustic Matrix Natural I undersaddle pickup fitted which sounds great. No onboard EQ, no fuss, just plug in and go. In my experience, sound engineers just know what to do with a Fishman in a live setting in terms of EQ, and it always sounds superb.

I also have a Takamine EAN20C Jumbo which I’ve owned on-and-off for ten years. I wrote and recorded my first album, ‘Willow Park’, with it in 2003/4, then a few years later sold it to a good friend of mine, John Morris, who was a guitar collector-many of John’s brilliant guitars have appeared on my albums in the past. Sadly John passed away in 2010, and, unbeknownst to me, my Grandfather arranged to buy the Takamine back from John’s widow and return it to me as a present. It’s a Cedar-topped guitar with Mahogany back and sides, and sounds really different to anything else I own-very complex, lots of overtones from the Cedar top yet it retains a very light tonality and the dry fundamental tone I favour due to the Mahogany back and sides. It has the stock CT4-BII preamp and Palathetic pickup system which sounds very natural when plugged in, and I use it live from time to time when I fancy a change from the Sturm-Und-Drang of the Gibson-the Takamine has a much lighter, more subtle sound.

I also have an 1893 Lyon & Healy parlour guitar which is just wonderful. It has a very specific tone, ghostly and otherworldly, and it’s by far the oldest instrument I’ve ever owned. I use it most often for session work when that unique tone is needed. I played guitar on Henry Priestman’s brilliant forthcoming album and the Lyon & Healy was used a lot for that project. It’s a rare guitar, but I’m not precious about it-if it has survived for 119 years, it must be good for another few yet!

A year or so ago I was given a beautiful Epiphone EJ200 as an unexpected gift by my Dad-he had come into a little bit of money, and very kindly bought it for me. it’s a fairly straight copy of a Gibson J200 and looks beautiful. It’s one of those rare instruments which just happens to be the perfect combination of the right pieces of timber at the right time. It’s not an expensive guitar but it sounds incredible, really huge, bright and radiant. I owned a real Gibson J200 at the time I was given the Epiphone, but the Epi sounded better (much to my immense surprise as the Gibson was no slouch!) so I kept the EJ200 and sold the Gibson. I had a Fishman Matrix Infinity pickup kicking around which I’d bought for another guitar but disliked, so I threw it in the Epi only to find that the pickup was perfect for the guitar too. A real tombola job, but a guitar that is just beautiful in every way. You can hear it on various tracks on my new album ‘Crumbs Of Comfort’, most notably ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘Westcountry Love Song’.

Electric-wise, I’ve got a LAG Roxane RM200, which previously belonged to my much-missed chum John Morris who I mentioned before. LAG are a French company who are quietly making incredible guitars. This is a brilliant guitar for session work. It has EMG humbuckers in it, which wouldn’t be my first choice of pickup normally, but they sound so good I haven’t got the heart to change them. They have a very high output so can nail rock/metal work at the bridge and Santana-esque tones at the neck, but both pickups are coil-tapped so you can get deep into Strat and Tele territory with a bit of cunning, too.

My other electric is on long-term loan from my pal Neil Collins of the band The Stay. It’s an early-‘90s Epiphone Les Paul Goldtop, which has a really grubby, garage-y and lo-fi tone to it. The electrics are shot and the pickups are microphonic as hell, plus it really needs a refret, but it has tons of character! You can hear it’s snarky, sassy self on the riff and solo on ‘Paper Planes’.Amp-wise, I’ve got a few, but it’s Fender for everything as far as I’m concerned. Most people associate Fender amps with that trademark glassy clean tone, but they’ll do rock or heavy music as well as anything-after all, those high-gain Mesa Boogie amps are built around the classic Fender circuit. I’m a pedal collector and have an array of brilliant pedals, modern and vintage, which are the key to making a Fender amp rock. Vintage MXR and modern Analogman pedals are my go-to units.

My favourite amp, oddly enough, is a Fender Deluxe 90-a solid state amp produced for a while in the 1990s in Fender’s Mexico factory. “solid state?” I hear you cry, “solid state amps suck, don’t they?” Not this one. It’s got a great clean sound, and the overdrive channel, whilst in need of some front-end push with single coil pickups, sounds gigantic with humbuckers.

I bought it from Steve, who I record with, for £90-it needed some work, but I ravished it with my soldering iron and ended up with a great amp. It just works. I later found out that Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead uses the Deluxe 85, it’s little sister, for all his overdrive/distortion sounds in the studio. It’s great for hauling around on the road, too-no valves to worry about, and it’s light as can be.

How do you compose? Do you find the words and the music come to you quite easily? Do you have to work hard at it? Do you start with the words or the music or both together?

I have no set method. Often I’ll find phrases, lines or choruses pop into my head at random (and often quite inappropriate) moments, but more often than not I’ll find a chord sequence or phrase on the piano or guitar which will turn into a song. The best ones come quickly. My approach on songwriting, to paraphrase an Al Stewart song, is “if it doesn’t come naturally, leave it”.

I’ve been writing songs for so many years now that it’s a reflex more than anything else. I find inspiration and ideas everywhere – my antennae are always up!  Just the other day, my 2yr old daughter came up to me with a toy motorbike, gently put it to my lips and said “Motorcycle Kisses” and walked off…talk about being gifted a song title!! Fate, or whatever you want to call it, has a funny way of sending songs my way. I’m always bumping into them. I guess that’s why I’m a songwriter and not a bricklayer!

For a time you were fronting a band, Mercurymen…. How was it playing in a group instead of solo? I gather the band got rave reviews for the songs and especially the harmonies….  Was it good while it lasted? Tel us a bit about that time and why the harmonies were so good.

The band was incredible, and it was an incredible time. I’d been working solo for eight years when we formed The Mercurymen, and suddenly I had these two wingmen, Si Johnson and Gavin Wyatt, who are nothing short of geniuses. We wrote some great songs and made an album, ‘Postcards From Valonia’ which everyone went cock-a-hoop for.

We toured with some incredible artists, got to play at The Royal Albert Hall, Liverpool Echo Arena, tons of festivals, signed a four-album deal with Sony in 2008…then got eaten alive by the failing music industry and economic slump, and it was over before it really began. A sad end, but worse things happen at sea.

I’m still good pals with Si and Gav, and both feature on various tracks on my new album. Si produced several tracks, too. Lovely guys, and I wish I could play with them more often. One day perhaps an insane, reclusive dental floss tycoon will offer us an Abba-sized cheque to re-form, and there will be more Mercurymen records…

Do you have  a particular studio you prefer to use for recording? And is there a particular sound engineer who you work with? Why?

I’ve recorded with Stephen Darrell Smith at Room With A View in Ringwood, Hampshire for twelve years, on and off. Steve has the perfect combination of ears, heart and spirit, and always brings the best out in me as a performer and co-producer. He also has some incredible mics and a fantastic desk. Several tracks from the new album were done there, several I recorded in various locations with my own DAW, and several were done with Si Johnson at his studio. I like to vary things as much as possible, but when I’m fed up with wandering about recording in strange places, I always come home to Steve’s wonderful facility.

How do you get your stuff produced and on the market at the moment? Do you have a label you are signed up to? Or do you do it yourself?

I’m signed to Mighty Village, a satellite label of Universal. I do run my own label, Din Of Ecstasy, as well, which I released my last album, ‘Nine Cents From Benelux’ on whilst I was in-between deals with Sony and Mighty Village, but that is mainly for side-projects at present.

Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your new album.

I spent a long time writing my new record. When I signed with Mighty Village, they sent me away to make a record and take my time over it – however long I wished – and I ended up spending three years on it, three times longer than I’d normally spent making a record. It was refreshing to let the songs come to me.

If you compare record making with beachcombing, whereas before I’d spent 9-12 months busily digging in the sand looking for shells, this time I spent three years strolling along the shore and waiting for the brightest and most attractive shells to grab my attention before picking them up.I think a large part of my change in approach has to do with my relocation to The West country. ‘Crumbs Of Comfort’ is the first record I’ve conceived and created since I moved here, and I think you can hear the change of environment in the music. Whereas ‘Nine Cents From Benelux’, my last record, was quite diverse and rooted in my experiences of touring internationally and travelling in America, the one before that, ‘Postcards From Valonia’, was very much a London record, more tense and structured with a record label’s approval in mind. ‘Crumbs…’ is just the sound of me making music and finding some peace and quiet in my life.

‘Crumbs Of Comfort’ is released nationally on 11th June, but you can buy a copy now from my website at www.jinder.co.uk

Are you ever really satisfied with what you produce? Or is the live performance perhaps more satisfying in a way than the recorded? Tell us a little bit about what you feel – the buzz of a live performance by comparison with recording.

I think that the moment you feel truly satisfied with yourself, as a creative artist, is the moment you should retire. You have to be hungry and striving to improve what you do and who you are, in order to push what you do forward.

Live performance is my native tongue, so to speak. I’ve spent the last ten years travelling all over the UK, Europe and USA playing shows…well over 2000 of ‘em, so I’m well rehearsed! I do love the sense of connection that a live show allows you to establish with the audience.  Sadly, fuel costs are strangling live music at a national level, and unless something changes in the next couple of years I can’t see myself touring for much longer. I’m the kind of artist who can draw 100 or so people at £5/6 per head, but once venue hire, sound and lighting is paid for and you’ve driven from Dorset to Glasgow and back, there’s nothing left in the kitty for mundane things like paying rent and feeding kids.

I can see live music going underground and developing into a primarily online thing in the future. Due to the proliferation and widespread condoning of illegal file sharing, people are starting to resent having to pay for music, recorded or live, and I think something is going to have to change to allow musicians to keep making records, playing shows and making a living from it.

What are you working on now? What’s next on your horizon?

I think ‘Crumbs Of Comfort’ brings a phase of my career to a close in some ways. I’ve been working on my next record for some time, as ‘Crumbs…’ was completed six months ago, and it’s definitely a left-turn from the very song-based approach of my last few records. I’ve always been keen to make a more textural record, and I’ve been whittling away at a more soundscape-driven approach for some time. I’ve never wanted to just be “that guy with the acoustic guitar”, I’m a record producer and multi-instrumentalist and the next record will reflect that more than anything I’ve done before.

Song-wise, I’ve been composing (rather than “writing”, as it’s more instrumental) the next album almost entirely at the piano. My Grandmother, who I mentioned before, passed away two years ago and left me her wonderful piano, at which I first discovered music, in her will. It’s an incredible instrument, and I play it every day.

Lyrically, it’s very different. I’ve taken the approach of writing words first, the only time I’ve ever done it this way, and letting them be whatever they end up-lyrics, poems, short stories, haiku…as a result, I’ve ended up with reams of written word pieces-so much so, that I’m planning to release a book of poetry before the next album is released. I’ve also been using lyrics written by a rather maverick chap who disappeared in 1969, leaving behind 25,000 words of incredible philosophy, insane streams-of-consciousness and incredible, dark poetry, written over a nine-month period. Very inspiring stuff.

Link to you tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaJ_YKc8h34

Link to JinderTV: http://www.youtube.com/user/jindertv?feature=results_main

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