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“Waking up is the best thing ever”, we speak to up-and-coming artist Jace Campbell about life and inspirations

Written by James Young.
Posted May 23, 2024.
Jace Campbell is an up and coming artist and this is the cover for his new single Ballard of the Dirty Irwell
Credit: @lucywag_jpg

It’s a Friday afternoon at the Old Pint Pot in Salford, workers begin to arrive in the (for once) warm beer garden after a long week. The sun-drenched tables overlook the River Irwell, the scene for Jace Campbell’s debut EP, The Ballard of the Dirty Irwell that was self-released earlier this year. Jace is unapologetically Salfordian, a regular on the terraces at Salford City FC and the influences are clear from Paul Ryder to Tim Burgess with catchy riffs and choruses. Still in his early 20s, he’s got everything still ahead of him.

After a swift apology for being late, we’re straight into the chat.

How did it begin Jace, did you always want to be a musician?

“I went into care when I was 6 and got fostered by my sister’s auntie and uncle when I was 8 and my now dad had a guitar and I remember just obsessing over it and looking at it and wanting to play it. We’d always have music on in the car, Oasis, Stone Roses, Fleetwood Mac, Muse and Stereophonics mainly. I used to just sit there as an 8-year-old just bobbing my head and that. When I was in Year 9, so 13 I started to get into music lessons. I didn’t really listen before that, I’d just sit at the back of the class and throw planes or whatever.

“I did music at college but dropped out after two weeks. I was being taught sh*t I didn’t want to know, scales on a piano, how to read music and I just wasn’t interested. They tried to teach me how to write a song, songs are feelings, you can’t teach someone how to write that.”

“I was driven from that age, wasn’t interested in girls or drinking, just playing guitar in my room and football. I wrote an original tune and I played it to my dad and he said it was my gift.”

Do the tunes fall from the sky for you, how does writing a song work?

“It comes naturally. The first single “Lost”, I was 17 when I released that but 13 when I wrote it. I had a chord progression and a few lyrics. The Manchester bombing happened around the same time, so the story took on a new meaning. It’s big on mental health, maybe about my life. Noel Gallagher said guitars have songs in them, it’s true. One of my latest tunes, Nicotine, I wrote off a riff. I couldn’t write that on an acoustic. The chords come after and then the story. I wrote a fever dream one about New York too which was the same thing. Songs come from anywhere. Could be a film or something you overhear.”

Is it Escapism?

“Yeah, I said this when I was 16. Morrissey said Manchester is grey and gloomy and full of moany students. It’s not changed has it? The escapism is the weekend. Seeing your mates or your missus. The reality is Monday morning.”

Is that hard to do in Manchester now when the city has become a bit of a caricature of itself? People just want to hear the hits and that’s it.

“I’ve always thought that, if you go into the Freemount or any bar and the singer does Wonderwall, Not Nineteen Forever etc, do people actually like those bands? Could they name any other tunes by those bands? It’s about being authentic. If you sat me in a room with other songwriters we’d all come up with different tunes. Say for example me, Alex Spencer, Megan Wyn and Charlie from the Rolling People. If we all wrote a song in one day, we’re all going to write about totally different things. It’s that subjective, we can write totally different.”

Jace Campbell playing at the Lion's Den

Do you feel boxed in?

“A bit, I was trying to write Wonderwall when I began but then I thought you can do other sh*t. I’m into rap, grime, I like the Prodigy. Blossoms cracked it by being a synth band. All my tunes are different, but I also wear Adidas, a mod haircut. I’ve got a strong accent and all I get is Liam Gallagher even though I don’t write like that all the time. I don’t like modern day indie with black jeans and Doc Martens.

“All those students that you see walking around with a book in their hand, I’m not that and I never will be. I think life’s good. Waking up is the best thing ever. You still have a life no matter what you do. If you’ve got a job, a missus and good mates you can still be happy without the guitar shaped swimming pool. Some of them have no life skills. They live sugar-coated lives and have never been on a bus before they’ve got here. Then they’ll look down on me because they’re afraid to admit they’re the same as me.”

Do you see that in the music industry as well? The economics of it?

“You’ve got to believe in yourself, you need the drive but if you’ve got sh*t tunes and money you’re making it. They’ve got all the money to put into marketing, merch and gigs. I think bands like Inhaler are only where they are because of money. It’s not about the tunes anymore as such, just more about how much money you’ve got. I’ve heard other people’s stuff and I just don’t get it.

We’re all our own artists, we should be able to do what we want.”

Jace Campbell playing at Lion's Den

What’s next for you?

“A new tune called Pep Talk, I wrote it around December when I was at home on the dole and didn’t like the place I was in. I wrote a song about it, it’s about escapism again. It’s based on your deepest thoughts coming to you when you’ve had a drink.

“The past few gigs have been mint with Shambolics at Lions Den and Illicits and Off the Sq. Gullivers in October is our first proper headline and the band can’t wait. We’re looking to sell it out.”

Jace Campbell headlines Gullivers on the 19th of October.

For more interviews with the souls of the city, keep an eye out on our page here.