Jake Isaac talks to Sarah Olowofoyeku about singing, supporting Elton John and staying grounded
‘SOMEONE encouraged me to give singing a try, so I did. They said my style was “different, but it’s all right”, so I just went with it,’ says singer-songwriter Jake Isaac.
More than ten years later, Jake has recorded five EPs and an album, boasts more than 20 million streams on Spotify, has toured the UK and Europe and last year was the support act for Elton John, who described him as ‘a great guy and tremendous talent’.
The south London singer is no stranger to the showbiz life. At the age of 16, after getting his grade eight in drums, he began to teach and then work as a session drummer, which included playing for the singer Duffy.
Today he is a full-time musician in his own right, juggling a busy career with family life. ‘Whatever I’m doing,’ he says, ‘I try to get back in time to have dinner with my family and put my little boy to bed.’
When he is away on tour, Jake finds that FaceTime is his ‘best friend’, as it allows him to keep in touch with those he has left at home. ‘I try to make my family a priority no matter where I am in the world,’ he explains.
As well as facing the challenges of being away from home, Jake acknowledges that the music industry can be quite a ‘dark place’, but he has discovered ways to deal with that side of it.
‘The reality is, darkness is all around,’ he says. ‘But I feel the best way to approach darkness is to focus on the light that you’ve got to shine.
‘Music is powerful. I make my art for others and try to use it to contribute to the emotional and spiritual health of people.’
Jake’s music has been described as ‘feisty, powerful soul pop’. The songs he writes are about love, hope, life and death – issues that he believes resonate with everyone regardless of what their faith may be.
Faith is closely linked to music for Jake, who grew up playing drums in church. ‘At times,’ he says, ‘playing was the only thing that kept me in church.’
Although he grew up as the son of a pastor, he wasn’t always keen on church. ‘I didn’t care for it, though I knew “how to do it”,’ he admits. ‘I knew God was real, but I was disconnected from church. Then there came a moment when I realised that I was rubbish on my own. I needed God.’
Since then Jake’s faith has developed and he believes that being a Christian helps him in everyday life as a family man and a musician. ‘My faith keeps me balanced. It helps keep my relationship with my missus healthy and it keeps me grounded.’
It can be difficult for musicians to stay grounded, especially when playing to thousands of people and even more so when opening a gig for an icon, such as Elton John.
‘It was a privilege, but it was hard work,’ says Jake. ‘We were performing in stadiums and arenas. It was a real workout every night to impress people, because the reality is they’re not there to see you.
‘I learnt so much in the process, though, and I’m so grateful for the experience. Having to play in front of between 8,000 and 13,000 people each night stretches you and makes you stronger as an artist.’
Jake has also played on Glastonbury Festival’s second biggest stage, describing it as ‘a massive experience’. But he adds: ‘When you come off the platform the first thing you think is: Thank God we didn’t tank!’
He is not fazed by the big audiences or the many who buy tickets to see him perform. ‘The way I see it is, I’ve made a couple of tunes and I go out to sing them. I try to have a good time and we have a party onstage wherever we go as a band.’
Opening for Elton John, playing a renowned festival and performing to thousands were great experiences, but Jake says they weren’t necessarily the most significant moments in his career.
‘One Christmas I went to play songs for kids who were having cancer treatments,’ he says. ‘It might sound bizarre to say, but that was more intimidating than any arena I’ve ever played. However, I was confident because my heart is always for the people who are listening to my music.’
Jake has a few plans lined up. One he says is ‘a secret project, which will involve an orchestra and a couple of songs’ and a potential tour.
Ultimately, he wants to keep sharing his music with people. ‘There’s a part in the Bible that says it is better to give than to receive,’ he says. ‘I’ve been on my own journey emotionally and spiritually, and I want to share those experiences with others and encourage them.’
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