Interview: Jay Watson Talks GUM and His New-found Confidence

Friday, June 12, 2020
Photo by Sam Kristofski

It’s a fact, there’s no stopping Jay Watson. Constantly in-between projects, he wears many hats as a multi-instrumentalist, producer, songwriter and vocalist. Even in the lead-up to the release of his impressive fifth studio album Out In The World under the moniker GUM, Watson has been busy working on POND’s next album.

Before the world was hit by the pandemic, Watson was amidst touring America. He’s now been at home for approximately two months. Being back in Fremantle has meant that he’s been able to spend more time with his newborn son as well as work on various recording projects. Though touring is indefinitely on hold, working in his home studio in Fremantle is something that brings Watson solace.

Working in his studio gives Watson the creative freedom to experiment with whatever he’s working on. “I just like being in my own world creatively, and I'm super passionate about recording, and recording gear, and the process of making music. I lock myself in a room for half a day, and just play with all the toys I've got. It's quite a childlike joy for me. It's the same thing I've been doing since I was 14.”

“I'm just obsessed with music and recording. I get a bit depressed if I haven't actively listened to stuff for a couple of days, and I'm always trying to find some song, even if that's an old song that I've never heard before that blows my mind, because after this long, after this many years, and just digging and discovering music, you start to think that you might have heard all the cool things. But there's no way that I have.”

Over the years, he’s also become accustomed to working on music in-between touring. Even when he’s on the road, he’s working on music constantly, but never for big portions of time. “I never really have big chunks of time to do stuff. If I have a day off here and there, I’ll do a few hours. I’ll often record heaps of stuff at home and then when I go on tour, I’ll mix it in the bus or on a plane.”

When mixing, he often finds himself making alterations — and at times for his new record, Watson found himself working on all ten tracks at once. “I won't commit to finishing the mixing. I think for me, the mixing of it, and the recording of it, go hand in hand. As I'm mixing it, I'll be like, "Oh, I might add a harmony in there. I might queue another drum part in there," or something like that. So when all the songs are pretty close to being done, that's when I start bouncing off mixes, and finalising bits of recording, and change lyrics last minute and things like that.”

He finished recording Out In The World approximately two years ago but it took a while to have it mixed and mastered. Though he admits that he sometimes feels a little impatient waiting to release GUM material, it’s something he isn’t too worried about.

“I think as the records have gotten better and I’m more proud of them, it doesn’t matter having to wait. It used to take so long that by the time the album came out, I didn’t really like it very much, but I’m still quite proud of this album this time around.”

Across Out In The World, he draws upon his fascination with how other humans live. Thematically, Watson prefers not to limit his songs to an overarching theme — he’s not opposed to other artists who do that, he’s just found that he rather write songs that are much more abstract, therefore encouraging listeners to draw their own meaning from his words.

“I like things that are a bit more abstract. I like things to have a point but I also like when you can generate your own meaning or even multiple meanings out of things, rather than being bludgeoned over the face with a single theme. I mean, there’s a lot of people who are exactly the opposite, they like really clear points to the song existing. I like things being a bit more cloudy, but in an interesting way, that’s just me though.”

The main thing Watson says that he’s taken away from his experience of working on his new record is to feel more confident about what he’s created — it might have taken numerous years and a series of albums, but he admits that he finally feels like he’s at a point where he's much more assured about the music that he’s releasing under GUM. “I guess it's about learning to trust your own instincts, and your own taste, and realising that if you like it, then that's all that matters. But that frame of mind is easier said than done.”

“I think I’ve learned to have a bit more confidence in myself and my voice and the way I write songs. It’s taken four or five albums to believe I’m any good at it. And with that new-found confidence, I can try a few different things that I would have never done, for example making the vocals easier to hear or just different styles of music. I think what is really exciting for me is having the confidence to try things that are outside of my comfort zone.”

When listeners embark on their listening journey of Out In The World he hopes they can enjoy it, even if it’s only part of the record. “They don’t even have to like the whole thing,” says Watson. “Honestly, I’m stoked if people like one song off of the record and keep replaying it. That’s enough for me.”

Written by Amy Smolcic

Listen to Out In The World below:

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