“Heaven Help Me” cries Jack Valero in his debut single. A sombre song that explores the peaks and pitfalls of everyday life, Jack lends a warming melody to soul-baring lyrics — making for a cathartic listen on those days when we feel like giving up. Through strong lyrical prowess, Jack Valero’s monotone vocals help emulate a feeling of positive defeatism — he accepts the harsh realities of the world and rides them out over a sparkling beat.
In his own words, Valero explains, “I think every songwriter at the moment has their lockdown song. I suppose this is mine, but it covers far more for me than what the world was going through. It also covers what I was going through personally at the time, so it all wraps up into one and is presented in a way that can apply to any age and any time. It’s a song for lockdown, it’s a song for me and it’s a song for anyone struggling with the reality of their own existence. I like to be inclusive.”
Making a strong debut with his signature folk-rock instrumentation and style, Valero injects some much-needed change into the world of British pop. To celebrate his latest success, we spoke with the rising artist about his journey into music, the concept behind the tracks music video and some surprising new facts.
To stream the visual for “Heaven Help Me” and for the full interview, head below…
Hey Jack! How’s life been treating you?
Pretty good thank you, been keeping busy.
Let’s start at the very beginning… Why music? How did you first get into it?
I grew up around music as both my parents were very involved in the British music scene. Even when I was a baby, I once attended Glastonbury festival and they would play Trojan reggae records and dance with me round the kitchen to help me fall asleep or stop crying. Still works on me actually. I first really got obsessed with music though when I got ‘Guitar Hero Legends Of Rock’ on xbox. Using the guitar shaped controller, it showed me the basic idea of how to use both your hands together on a guitar and I fell in love with all the songs on there. I then started asking my parents about it and they showed me more music and started really getting into the history and culture of it all. I also met other kids at school who loved the same music, but could also play guitar. So of course, I became desperate to learn too and between my Dad and the friends at school I started playing and then writing songs. I was always creative but was originally interested in film making, but music felt like it had this much more immediate hit or reaction and also more freedom as you could write your own song about whatever you wanted in a single evening. So dropped out of film school and now here we are.
And what made you decide that now was the time to make your debut?
Well it wasn’t entirely my own decision, it’s due to a few factors. I was actually in my band called The RPMs originally for a few years which did quite well and got to SXSW. It then ended pretty abruptly one day and after sulking around feeling sorry for myself for a few months I just decided I was gonna keep going by myself. Then not long after that the pandemic began and of course put a screeching halt to everything. I spent that time working on new songs and doing live streams as well as working at a covid test site and once I was able to go out and gig again, I was saying yes to everything and anything. Did every gig or colab etc I could for the whole of 2021, I then finally got a chance to record these songs I’m putting out now. I also feel it’s a good time as I’ve lived enough and been through enough to really write from a place of experience.
Onto “Heaven Help Me”… You’ve described the track as your lockdown song, but what went through your mind when writing it?
Well, I feel this song covers so much for me that the lockdown and state of the world is just a part of the picture I was painting. The lockdown and everything else are a large feature, but I was also going through a lot on a personal level. My life had been turned upside down by a rather difficult break up so along with everything else happening around me it felt like the ground had given way and swallowed me whole. The song for me is almost like being the narrator to my own destruction. Standing in calm resignation as it all comes crashing down around you and struggle to find any meaning to it.
What was it like hearing your work back for the first time? How was it received by friends and family?
It’s difficult hearing your own work, cos all you can hear is the ways you think it can be improved. I also didn’t really show it to too many friends and family at first as I always want to wait until it is absolutely finished and ready to go. However, it did get a good reaction from those who heard it. I think it really connected with people in a way my songs haven’t before because as I previously mentioned it was coming from more of a place of experience and evoking emotions and imagery that we’d all felt together as a planet. I suppose as well this time I wasn’t trying to write something I thought everyone would want to hear, I just dug deep and was totally emotionally honest. I think the pessimism I was feeling at the time allowed me to just say ‘Doesn’t matter if no one hears this, I just have to get it out’. Became less about getting attention and more about me giving meaning to what I was experiencing. Always the best way to go, but it’s such an unconscious thing you can’t really just make it happen.
And how did you come up with the concept for the music video?
That idea came from the filmmaker Dylan Friese-Greene. We wanted to portray the feeling of sadness and isolation in an abstract way and what’s sadder than an astronaut stuck on earth and desperate to go back to space. He can’t relate to anyone and no one can really help him. He’s stuck physically and emotionally. It also has a humorous side to it which is always such a great way to convey emotional situations. I’m all about juxtapositions and the imagery of an astronaut all dressed up in a spacesuit doing boring everyday things is so fascinating. Can also be a comment on the difference between how we see ourselves and what we dream to be, but your world around you doesn’t reflect that and how crushing that can be.
What do you hope people will take away from the track?
I hope people will feel less alone after hearing the track. Feel that someone has contextualised the complex emotions they’ve had over these past two years and feel that someone else feels the same. I don’t offer any solutions particularly, but that’s often not what’s needed. I don’t know what’s going on and I often struggle with that worrying feeling of that lack of control, but it feels good to know you’re not on your own in that.
And your EP is coming later this summer, what can we expect from it?
The other songs for me (like “Heaven Help Me”) are still pretty emotionally raw. I wouldn’t listen to them to cheer yourself up necessarily haha! But if you’re going through a hard time with a pain that feels overwhelming, these songs might help you give some meaning to it.
Finally, what’s one thing you want people to know about you, as an artist or otherwise?
I don’t really know what I’m doing and that’s ok. I don’t think art comes from a place of purposeful thought, it’s almost entirely unconscious. It’s that emotional honesty I was talking about, warts and all. I’m all about bringing out the uncomfortable subjects, putting a spotlight on the things that scare us and facing up to them. Cos that’s the only real power you have. So when I create a piece of work, it’s less sitting down and plotting it out and more letting it take me by the hand and seeing when we go. Almost reflecting the inherently chaotic nature of existence itself. I’m very philosophical too as you can tell haha.