“It feels weird to be back,” says Jack Garratt, on the eve of releasing his first new music since 2016.
“I’m really looking forward to it but also, at the same time, I’m terrified, and I want to quit.”
He’s not exaggerating. The last time Garratt released music, it triggered a crippling episode of self-doubt from which he’s only recently recovered.
His virtuosic debut album, Phase, saw him hailed as a mad musical scientist, chopping up genres and stitching them together in weird new forms. Soaring above it all was the singer’s gorgeous, aching tenor.
But the attention didn’t sit well on his shoulders. Garratt, who’d always suffered from anxiety, found himself spiralling into self-hatred and self-sabotage.
Over the course of a year, he recorded an entire album then scrapped it.
“It was trash. It was awful. It was all bad,” he says. “I wasn’t willing to accept myself in that moment, so I wasn’t willing to have a good idea.”
The problems began with those awards from the BBC and the Brits. At the time, he was one of only four people to win both accolades in the same year. The others were Adele, Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith.
“The world knows of three of them and it doesn’t know who I am,” says the 28-year-old. “That’s true. It’s not unfair. It’s not rude. It’s not mean. It’s just true.”
Unlike his predecessors, Garratt wasn’t making mainstream pop records. He had a place on the Radio 1 playlist, for sure, and was eagerly pushing sonic and compositional boundaries – but he didn’t have a Rolling In The Deep or a Love Me Like You Do store up his sleeve.
But being put in the same bracket as Adele meant being subjected to a level of expectation and scrutiny he’d never expected.
“It screwed me completely,” he says.
All I ever wanted to do was make music that I wanted to listen to. And, at a time when I was figuring that out, I got put into a corner where I had to defend myself for winning awards that I didn’t ask for.
“I’m still figuring it out, I’m still dealing with it. I think I will forever.”
The first symptom of his discomfort was a physical one: He lost the ability to dance.
“When I was a kid, from the age of 12 to 16, I used to dance and I really enjoyed it,” he says. As an adult, he’d still go out dancing with friends, flinging himself around the Notting Hill Arts club-like no-one was watching.
“But when I put out the first album, I stopped dancing in public. I just stopped moving. I stopped feeling comfortable in my body.
“My wife loves dancing and that was part of the reason we fell in love – because we were able to just be like that with each other.
“And the saddest thing for me was knowing that, one day, I just stopped doing it. I didn’t know why and neither did she. But that was the first red flag that I missed.”