Jake Allen is a unique indie rock talent and AXS is pleased to premiere the video for his new video release “If You Fall Apart” today. This singer/songwriter from Michigan first began recording tracks at six years old and was working on his debut album when he was only 13. We caught a live performance of his in Memphis and were immediately struck by his guitar skills. Jake has crafted his own breed of six string wizardry, which incorporates two-hands working the neck combined with a percussive tapping style. Fans who pre-order his new album Deviant Motions (click here) will immediately receive the track “If You Fall Apart.” AXS caught up with Jake recently to talk about how he developed his distinctive approach to music.
AXS: You are known for conceptual albums, what is the backstory for “If You Fall Apart”?
J.A.: I wrote “If You Fall Apart” from an interesting perspective. The song is written from the perspective of two people. Part of it is from the perspective of my former girlfriend around the time we broke up, kind of what she would say to me. It is a bittersweet departure. During that same time my sister and I were in a musical project together that we were really passionate about and she was thinking about leaving. So I also wrote the song from my perspective to her. It is a double-edge song. The way that it fits into the video is under spoken. The video deals with the exploitation of art and the selling of something that is so close to your heart and soul. If the video you see a girl watching me basically going down my path and her supporting me even though the path I am going down may not be a righteous one. The lyrics for the song are from the girl’s perspective in the video.
AXS: Your music is often described as ethereal, how did you find that sound and develop your unique playing style?
Jake Allen: I got into finger-style guitar in my late teenage years and stumbled upon a couple of players such as Andy McKee and Michael Hedges. I was already dealing with alternate tuning on the guitar because I thought that was a cool way to expand and enter new territories. One day I stumbled upon the tuning of a particular Any McKee song and that opened the door to a whole new realm of guitar techniques I didn’t see before. I developed a new focus because of these techniques and turning the guitar into a percussive instrument, trying to get more out of it. To be honest I do a lot of looping and those added techniques because I love playing with a band. It is my way of feeling like the sound is still there even though I am alone.
AXS: How did you get into looping?
J.A.: I picked up an effects pedal that just happened to have the looper on it as an added feature and started messing around with it. I realized it was an inspirational tool for writing. I began to write some songs that were based around the looper. I wondered how far technology could go so I picked up a more advanced looping system. I developed a set of rules for using it actually because I think looping can get a bit gimmicky. If it is done tastefully however and worked into the arrangement of a song it can be really great. I always try to make sure it is involved into the way a song unfolds.
AXS: You look at time in the studio a little differently than many musicians, you have said the studio is an instrument in itself. Can you explain what you mean?
J.A.: I was fortunate to have access to a studio as a child because my dad had a home studio in our house. I grew up around all this recording equipment and synthesizers and was exposed to a lot of instruments and recordings as a kid. So growing up I got really serious about the studio and began taking on clients in my dad’s studio around 15, it was a commercial studio at that time. I realized the influence a studio could have on my music and how it could be harnessed to do things otherwise wouldn’t be expected if you were just writing on the guitar. I started using technology and the studio as a creative tool, that was an analog setting. Then I got into ProTools and really went down a rabbit hole. The digital recording world today is so robust it is easy to over use those tools. I see myself pulling back more at this point now. Deviant Motions is a very studio/artist type album so to speak, there are a lot of production elements to it.
AXS: You are a man of many talents, playing every instrument yourself on your solo records. How many instruments do you play?
J.A.: I play all of the core instruments, so piano, bass, drums, guitar. I also play harp. Those five are my most used in recording. There are other small things, like percussion instruments.
AXS: Your new album Deviant Motions, features vibrant violin and cello performances by Sav Buist and Katie Larson of The Accidentals, whom you have been touring with as well. How did you all get together?
J.A.: The last few years I have predominantly working as a solo artist but The Accidentals took me out on the road as an extra pair of hands to kind of fill out these new songs. They released a new album last year that featured guest players like Keller Williams, Kaki King, Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists and they needed someone who could play live and join them on the road. They asked me to open for them with my acoustic set as well so it was a really advantageous situation for me. It was actually before I joined their band that I had them come in and perform as studio musicians, Sav and Katie are session players by trade so they are really easy to work with.
AXS: We caught your solo acoustic performance in Memphis, do you have your own band as well?
J.A.: I do have a group that I put together to perform the songs on the album as they sound on the album. Typically I will get a group of seasoned musicians that will do all those parts.
AXS: When and where can fans see you next?
J.A.: The album Deviant Motions comes out June 29 and the cool thing about it is it is an instant grab track. When the song and video are release fans can pre-order the album and upon doing so they will receive the song “If You Fall Apart” immediately. I am doing some shows to promote the album leading up to the release such as the Winnetka Music Festival on June 16, which is a free festival in the Chicago area. After the record comes out there will be a regional tour. We are doing the Farm Festival in Michigan in August too.