INTERVIEW: Jake Houlsby | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Amicable folk singer-songwriter Jake Houlsby sits opposite me, probably poised to be asked about his new EP, Yannina. Having recently changed his moniker from Suntrapp, I couldn’t help but quiz him about the decision behind it. “I’d gone through this period – I wouldn’t say I was depressed – but it was this sixth month stretch where I’d lost all passion and I had no creativity left inside me,” he explains. “I was desperately looking for something to fulfil me.” During this period, Houlsby all but abandoned music. He attempted to embark on a maths degree, then began taking online tutorials in French. “I think I eventually had an epiphany that I wanted to do music,” he says. “When I look back on that period, I just felt as if I couldn’t not be Jake Houlsby anymore…I thought that if I was Jake Houlsby then I couldn’t distance myself from the music that I make, it’s always going to be mine.”

Embedded somewhere between a deep-rooted folk storytelling tradition and the technicality of classical guitar music, Jake’s work is often laid back and calming, minimalist yet intricate and technically accomplished. He never comes across as if he’s trying to show off with his guitar-playing skill, but it’s difficult not to be impressed with the amount of deft on display on the six-track Yannina. From the gentle picking and Fleet Foxes-esque harmonies of the title track to the minimal, blissed-out instrumental Spring and the cavernous, atmospheric Beyond All This, it’s often amazing what he manages to achieve with just his own voice, his guitar and minimal production. He cites numerous iconic musicians as influences – Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone – but has ended up sounding almost nothing like them.

“There’s definitely a cathartic experience in writing. I think it really helps you to make sense of the world. It’s like an excavation of the subconscious”

There’s something particularly homely and comforting about Yannina that suggests Jake is in a much more comfortable position spiritually. “Because my mam was so poor when I was growing up, I always wanted to be really successful, I wanted to have a lot of money,” he says. “But the EP was much more about me realising that I’d rather have a rich life than have lots of money. I realise that seems a bit clichéd though!”

Jake seems particularly emotionally invested in his writing, and I wondered if there was something deeper or redemptive behind his passion for music. “There’s definitely a cathartic experience in writing,” he says, “I think it really helps you to make sense of the world. It’s like an excavation of the subconscious.” As he continues to discover himself, Jake’s new EP is just another beautiful step on the road to inner peace.

Jake Houlsby releases Yannina on released on 8th June. The EP launch show takes place at St. Anne’s Church, Newcastle on Saturday 6th June.

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