Interview: The Jar Family

Where are you from and what inspired you to get together to form the band?
Most of us are from Hartlepool, well all the songwriters anyway. We were all solo artists on the open mic scene in and around Hartlepool. We decided to group together and tour around doing different open mics under the Jar Family name; eventually we started jamming all of our songs together and formed a band. Keith Wilkinson was brought in on bass and Kez Edwards on Cajon/Drums and we started working on the massive stockpile of songs we had written.

Having the word ‘family’ in the band’s name is clearly a strong unifying symbol. How did the name for the group come about?
We used to have a jar we would pass around at gigs and any money we got we would use to move forward. We’re like a family. We lived together in caravans for nearly a year in the middle of nowhere, that’s a story in itself!

Does it feel at times like the band is an adopted family, with all the ups and downs that that entails, or is it more of a symbolic gesture to tie your work together?
It’s even closer than a family – we’re joined together by the fear of not succeeding. We’ve laid so much on the line and sacrificed so much. we just have to keep going now, it’s a way of life and the only people who really understand it is each other.

How influential as a place is Hartlepool and life in the North East in general on the sound and lyrics of the Jar Family?
Very influential but Hartlepool’s not alone when it comes to unemployment, social and drug and alcohol problems. We’ve played in towns all over the country that are suffering the same problems. We can only write about our own roots but the songs are relatable by people from all over I would imagine.

Do you reference particular places, people and/or experiences that formed you as songwriters in your music? Are there any recurring themes in your lyrics?
Sometimes, yeah. Song writing is just story telling so characters and places will always come in to it. But it depends on the song and the theme of the song  I suppose.

One of your songs is played regularly at Hartlepool football matches, and is even chanted on the terraces. How did that come about? How does it feel to have achieved such an accolade in your local community?
Feels mega! It’s a massive compliment and very much appreciated! The town’s been unbelievable to us to be fair!

Five singer-songwriters in the same band must be hard work balancing each individual’s contribution. How does that influence the song-writing process? Does each writer come to the group with a finished product or do you sit down and co-write the songs together?
Each one of us comes back with a song pretty much written acoustically, then the others get in on it and start jamming along. If it works, it works, if not it disappears in to the abyss, never to be seen or talked about again.

In light of the upsurge in acoustic based music in recent times, what makes the Jar Family different to the rest?
Five alternating frontmen, all play different instruments. We have a legend on bass guitar, we were mostly rought up on fish fingers and chips and we don’t sing in fake Irish accents.

What’s next on the horizon for The Jar Family? Any future releases or exciting gigs coming up?
We’re always gigging, always on the road. If we’ve not played your town yet, we will be there soon! We’ve also just released our new album Jarmalade which is getting some great reviews already so that’s all pretty cool. We’ll just keep writing music and loving gigging live around the country and leave the rest to fate. Hopefully one day Glastonbury! That would be crazy!

The Jar Family’s second album, Jarmalade, is out now on Jar Records.

Questions by Renny Jackson