While most average 13-year-olds are bemoaning school and gluing themselves to their Nintendo DS, UK-born Chris Jones (aka These Brittle Bones), who moved to Singapore with his family four years ago, has been spending much of his time fixated on his passion for music and songwriting. Having picked up piano at the age of seven and started penning originals at eight, he pieced together and recorded Leaving the Woods, his debut EP, in his bedroom earlier this year. Contrary to what you might expect, the recording is a far cry from any juvenile, cut-and-dry pop; instead, his hauntingly ambient melodies lap gently beneath quiet, emotive vocals, while his poetic, reflective lyrics reveal a precocious songwriting mastery. With his debut live show pencilled in this month at Lasalle College’s 15 Minutes gig space, and a new album on the way, Jones tells us about his musical journey thus far.
Your lyrics and melodies have a lot of sorrow and depth – where do you draw inspiration from them?
Inspiration’s quite a general thing for me. I can take it from pieces of art, poetry, even tales I’ve heard from others. I guess I do take inspiration from my experiences, but a lot of my work’s about trying to find an escape from routine.
Are people often surprised by how introspective you are, considering your age?
That’s been quite common when people meet me. I think some are slightly apprehensive to listen [to my music] at first, as they expect my songs to be lyrically weak and have ‘bubblegum pop melodies’. Generally people who’ve heard my music are surprised, and many have been quite impressed that it’s so meaningful. I hope people do see past my age, which I sometimes feel is engraved on my forehead, and listen to my music like it’s coming from someone beyond my years. I believe anyone can be a performer.
Are there any musicians that have a strong influence on you?
I’m absolutely obsessed with a British band called Daughter, who have a similar indie style to me. I grew up listening to mainstream pieces, and the first indie song that really affected me was Bon Iver’s ‘Creature Fear’ from their first record. I’m also quite influenced by acts like Florence + The Machine, Bombay Bicycle Club and Lucy Rose. Leaving the Woods was entirely self-recorded, which is a pretty impressive feat.
How did you go about it, and did it take long?
I recorded some demos off a phone, then realised I was being ridiculous and the quality wasn’t anywhere near what I was hoping for. So I got myself a USB mic, hooked it up to GarageBand and took it from there. The drums on ‘Hollow’ were structured by an iPad app. I started putting the songs together in March, and the EP was released in April. It was quite a quick process – I just wanted to get something out quickly.
What’s the feedback from listeners been like?
The last few weeks have been crazy with the amount of downloads and emails I’m getting praising the EP. Lots of local musicians that I look up to have been really impressed with my lyrics, which has been a real honour as these people have had such an influence in putting my music out.
Recently, you’ve started recording with local producer Leonard Soosay at Snakeweed Studios. Have you been enjoying the experience?
I love recording there. I was really worried going in because I often get put off by studios. They seem quite dull – no windows, no inspiration. But Snakeweed was a completely different experience. Leonard’s cats are about and it makes the studio seem so much more alive, and they’re a breath of fresh air to my worries of claustrophobia. Leonard’s been incredibly supportive and he’s done so much for me on the scene in the last month. He’s made some of the new tracks sound quite magical.
Tell us about your upcoming album, Anchor Bleed – will it be different from Leaving the Woods?
The new record will be quite similar material to Leaving the Woods. There are some tracks that are really quite dark, but other songs are a lot brighter and more reflective. It’s a lot more autobiographical than anything I’ve ever done before. The tunes will have a lot more instruments in them – we’ve worked with guitars, violins, drums, bass and included some cool loops too. I can’t wait to release it.
What can we expect at your upcoming show?
It’s definitely going to be a lot more intimate, very raw and honest. On the record, there’s quite a bit of drums, guitar, violin and mastered piano effects, but on stage, it’s just going to be me with the piano. It’s going to be very personal, as I’ll be playing to a crowd for the first time, so I can’t really predict what it’ll be like.
How does it feel to be performing live for the first time?
I’m really excited but nerve-racked too. Coincidentally, I’ll have some [members of my] family in town at the time, and quite a few people have told me they’re coming. I think it’ll be nice to meet some new fans and I’m thinking of getting some physical copies of the record to give out.
Do you have anything else big planned for your music in the future?
I’ve got a few ties with management companies at the moment, and I’m hoping something will come out of it so I can release the full-length to a wider audience, instead of out of my bedroom. Music’s very personal to me, but after writing for the best part of five years, I’d like people to hear what I’ve been working on. I’ve got a few music videos coming up too!
See thesebrittlebones.bandcamp.com for more information.