Jack Colwell: 'Harry Potter mirrored my life, except I wasn’t fighting death eaters'
Jack Colwell’s music manages to straddle a line between haunting and groovy. The singer and composer’s fantasy influences are certainly detectable in his art. More surprising is his new attachment to a “guilty pleasure” beauty splurge.
I feel like this is a really exorbitant thing to say because I realise it’s so expensive and it’s actually even a bit crazy that I own this beauty product, but I have La Mer eye cream. I’m turning 30 and I feel like over the last year I’ve kind of really slipped out of my health and my fitness. I just wanted to make a really big effort to change my lifestyle, and become healthier and fitter. [It’s] my guilty pleasure that I’m absolutely excited about but embarrassed to admit. On every beauty blog that I’ve read they recommend La Mer eye cream is the the best one and that the skin around the eyes is the first place to see the telltale signs of ageing. So I decided to invest.
I’ve become really obsessed with reading biographies. I’m currently reading the unofficial Alexander McQueen biography by Andrew Wilson. I saw the documentary on McQueen about a year ago, just before I went into the studio to record my album. I was just so overcome with emotion when I saw the film and how beautiful his work was. I actually didn’t really know too much about Alexander McQueen personally, and I felt so inspired by his creation that wanted to find out as much as I could about him. I’ve also just finished a book of short stories by Jeffrey Eugenides, the Fresh Complaints, that I’ve been really enjoying. I find that I can often read them on the go, which is good for me.
I don’t even know if they still make this any more. It’s actually a perfume. It’s Crave by Calvin Klein and it was the first perfume that I saved up to buy with my own money. It sounds like a sweet story. I remember that the ads for this fragrance were so sexually charged. It had this Australian model called Travis Fimmel. He was the face of the campaign for the brand and it was a real sexual awakening for me to see these ads. They went everywhere.
This ad, the model and the pose and even the fact that this fragrance is called Crave … everything about it was so sexually charged. It was Calvin Klein and it seemed like this really sophisticated fragrance, and I remember saving up all my money to go and buy it, which sounds like such a strange thing to do for a 14-year-old but I remember buying it and just really thinking that I was kind of coming into my own as a teenager, like having a sexual awakening.
I felt like I was a really precocious teenager. I went to a classical music high school, and we studied classical music basically full time. I was really obsessed with arthouse films and I was really obsessed with reading classic novels, and I thought that over time this stuff together was one day going to turn me into some kind of great artist.
Now I just love to read trash and biographies and just relax. But the one book that I do still really feel passionate about, that I just remember loving as a teenager, was Jeffrey Eugenides’ first novel, the Virgin Suicides. I think I read the book at least 10 or 20 times when I was 16 or 17. I don’t really know what that says about my personality.
I remember I felt really alone when I was a teenager, and that loneliness manifested in some kind of compassion for [one of the the lead characters] Lux Lisbon, who was really alone in 70s in suburban America, and for some reason I thought that there was some kind of parallel between our lives. I remember it so vividly and the sorts of scenes that it painted of this small, suburban American town where everything seemed so shiny and glossy on the surface, but there was this real dark underbelly just below. It just really resonated with me at that time of my life.
Even before that, when I was in primary school, I was always really interested in fantasy books. I would say that this is something that is still with me as an adult today, and has even seeped into a lot of my music writing. In particular I loved this UK author called Diana Wynne Jones who actually wrote the story for Howl’s Moving Castle. I read every fantasy book in her series and also Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda and I was really strongly influenced by the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The pathos and the morals in their stories are things that I still think about today in my day-to-day life, in my personal interactions with other people. I still really draw on those old methods and fables for advice, or to see the world in a certain way.
I have three beauty products that I actually have in my bag with me at all times. I’ve learned that any time is a good time to brush your teeth so I always keep a little toothbrush with a small Aesop toothpaste in my bag, and I also use an Aesop sunscreen every day. I have a wonderful combination Irish skin that is pale in some places and bright red in other places and it’s covered in freckles. So I really need that sunscreen.
It’s either patchy or it’s red, so it’s gonna be one of the two. I also use Sebamed. It’s just a really, really cheap facial cleanser. It’s like a face and body wash. It’s pretty widely available, but it does the trick every time.
I think that cleansing my skin and brushing my teeth and wearing sunscreen are such simple beauty things but they really make a difference.
The only thing I know that I’ve reread multiple times is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series, The Order of the Phoenix.
When the Philosopher’s Stone came out I was about about nine or 10. And then when the final book came out, I was finishing high school. So I kind of grew up with Harry in a way.
A lot of the milestones that Harry seemed to have in the book were also mirrored by things that were happening in my life at the time. Except you know, I wasn’t really fighting a bunch of death eaters. So a little bit different.
I’ve never reread the first two books because I always felt like they weren’t as hard hitting as some of the later ones, although Harry Potter could be considered kind of hard hitting in a way.
There are definitely unexpected things that happen in the novels like the favourite characters don’t live forever.
I think the Order of the Phoenix was the most interesting book in the series because it was when everything changed for Harry and he wasn’t really so much a part of the school system any more.
He was becoming a bit more of a rebel and a punk and pushing back against, you know, the administration like the Ministry of Magic and finding his way forward, and it’s when the book started to get really dark. There’s something about that rebellious attitude of Harry’s that that I find comforting, I suppose.
Jack Colwell’s new single Weak is out now. His debut album, produced by Sarah Blasko, will be released in 2020.
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