Question: Hi, First of all, Jac Xé is a very unusual name, is it your real name and how do you pronounce it?
Jac: It's pronounced 'Shay'. It's a Mayan pronunciation as in Xela which is the nickname for the city of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. I have a strong connection to Guatemala after spending two years there on and off. It's a magical place and has had an enormous influence on my life. Jac Xe is my stage name – It took a long time to find the right one and it ended up being so unusual because of the internet. Every time I picked a name that sounded good I would google it and find loads of other musicians and singers with that name – so in a way I ended up having to pick something that nobody else had. So if you don't like it you can blame google.
Question: Sounds like trying to get a good email address.
Jac: Yes, but more fun and also it feels really weird at first as if you're becoming a different person when you introduce yourself.
Question: So why did you start writing songs?
Jac: It was one day as a kid when I was listening to the top songs of the year pop chart in my room. I remember being pretty unimpressed by the vast majority of the songs and then I suddenly thought 'I can do better than this' and that's when I first decided to write songs. I wrote about 200 songs as a teenager – most weren't very good and I couldn't play them very well but it was a start.
Question: That was some time ago have you been writing songs since then?
Jac: No, I was put of writing songs at university because some other musicians were very critical. I wasn't mature enough to realise that no matter how good you are there's always some people who are just waiting to shoot you down in flames if you let them.
Question: So how did you start playing music again.
Jac: I was in this amazing place called San Pedro de la Laguna on the shores of lake Atitlan in Guatemala. I'd just had an incredible epiphany about life and synchronicity and I was in a yard listening to someone play guitar and a thought I should get a guitar. I got up and saw this guy walking past with this old beat up guitar so I ran after him and asked him how much he wanted for it. Turned out he was on his way to Panajachel – that's the main town across the lake – and the amazing thing was, that he was going there because he wanted to sell his guitar. So I saved him the trip – I think I paid about $5 for it. It had a splinted hole in its side and didn't tune very well but it worked! It couldn't have been more than five minutes after I'd decided to get a guitar that he walked past – I guess that's synchronicity for you.
Question: That's an amazing story.
Jac: There's a lot more where that came from – I've had a pretty interesting life – sometimes too interesting. But I've met a lot of other interesting people too. In fact I think almost everyone has something that's really fascinating about their life – it's just that often they're hidden away.
Question: So did you bought the guitar did you start writing songs again?
Jac: No, I was just learning and playing covers. I did start performing though, whenever I could – often in the street. I learnt a lot about music doing that. One time I was playing in the middle of a field up in Todos Santos and all these kids came out of nowhere and started dancing. Todos Santos is in the middle of nowhere up in the Guatemalan highlands – they didn't even have TV there so the kids didn't have the cultural baggage about what music is cool and what isn't. I learnt that some songs are just naturally infectious – it's a human thing not a cultural thing. I think in the west we often need some sort of social permission to enjoy great music. I think fashion and trying to be 'cool' are what's harming mainstream music at the moment. It was when not having to be 'cool' really sunk in that I finally gained my confidence to start writing again.
Question: So when did you start writing again?
Jac: In 2009, It was after a really hard year. I started writing poetry at first – it was pretty therapeutic putting all my feelings into words. Then I started writing songs again and a lot of things in my life started making more sense.
Question: Where do you find your inspiration do you have any big musical influences?
Jac: I really don't know. I mean I like a lot of different music and I think that's reflected in my songs, and then if I'm writing a song with somebody they have all their influences too. Sometimes a song can metamophose when I come to record it. 'All Out Of Anger' for example started out as a very 'Dylan' type of song but I just decided to change the key up a few notes , speed it up and play it to a basic drum track and it turned into something entirely different - it can be a very organic thing, and I guess that's what makes it so exciting.
released October 13, 2011
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