Jared Celosse’s “Hold” is almost six minutes long, which is a bold, risky choice for a young songwriter. There’s nothing inherently good or bad about long songs, but in a world of impatient listeners, taking your time to build your song up could result in a roll of the eyes and a press of the skip button. But the Glasgow-based singer-songwriter knows that the best way to keep the listener’s attention is simple when you get down to it: just start off good and get better.
“Hold” is a piano ballad, and although it starts off soft you can already tell that this is a cut above the rest. Rather than taking a lean-on-the-saddest-keys-and-whine approach, Celosse uses rich, moody chord progressions that sound like mahogany and catch the ear. Meanwhile, Celosse’s vocals are clear, warm, and refreshingly unaffected; he doesn’t throw in bluesy groans or falsetto moans, because his natural voice carries enough gravitas on its own.
Celosse uses evocative imagery, like “I heard they walk miles and miles each day” and “steam is rising slowly from the ice”, to paint a picture as the song progresses. “Hold” isn’t a straightforward story-song, but you can tell from the care with which he’s constructed this song that it’s personal to him. The song builds gradually, but never obviously; the drums come in, then the strings, then a blooping little synth, but it all feels neatly paced, and it never feels like it’s trying to wring catharsis out of you. After all, it doesn’t need to try very hard.
“Hold” is a fairly long song, and it’s impressive that a young songwriter like yourself would have the confidence to let it spread its elbows, so to speak. How would you chart your development as a songwriter, from where you started to where you are now?
Thanks very much! I’d say you could chalk most of the development up to an increase in confidence. In the past, because I was uncomfortable with my own singing I would write solely instrumental music, spending hours creating layered sound-scapes in Audacity. I then started writing with template songs in mind, telling myself things like “I should write my own ‘Guinevere’ or ‘For No One’” and by using the same tuning or borrowing a chord shape here or there, I would try to replicate a song’s feel. Now I go into songwriting with no reference points and no real expectations, seeing where the first chords or ideas take me. This has led to consistently more organic, original and perhaps more personal pieces than my earlier works.
What struck me about this song is how timeless it feels—it doesn’t feel too trendy, but at the same time it’s not a self-conscious throwback. How do you strike that balance?
It’s interesting that you mention that, because I had the idea of a ‘contemporary’ song in the forefront of my mind a little more than usual when writing it. My writing approach has always been based on 60s or 70s songwriting styles – trying not to repeat yourself too often and going down multiple musical avenues or tangents within a song. While the tangents remain, and the verse chords seem a little Lennon-esque, I did consciously try to repeat myself more with ‘Hold’. You can certainly hear that in the heavy repetition of the verse melody throughout, as well as the repetitions in lyrical content. Further, I do try to embrace modern technologies, synthesizers and recording techniques. They provide so much colour and textural variety that you’d be amiss not to make use of them. With ‘Hold’ I feel like the song could have sounded a little dated if I hadn’t included the synthesizers throughout. They give the final minutes a more open, contemporary feel, inspired by some of the sound qualities of Gorillaz and Andy Shauf’s work.
If you had to pick a song that’s had the most influence on you as a person and a songwriter—not necessarily your favorite song—what would it be?
I’d probably say ‘A Day in the Life’ by The Beatles – I’ve always loved the drama of the orchestral builds within the piece, the dissonance and the uneasiness that builds with it. Combining that with the darkness and strangeness of the lyrics just compounds that feeling. It’s like great cinema, you feel like you’ve learnt something about the human condition by absorbing it, but you’re not sure what. I’ve always tried to chase that sort of feeling with my songwriting, how can I tell a very human story in a creative way that merges lyrics, shape and music?
How has the current pandemic affected your career?
It’s certainly put a dampener on things! I had just played a live show on BBC radio Scotland and was looking forward to playing my first festival in May, but the lockdown started and the momentum fizzled out. I have managed to release 2 songs that I had recorded at Christmas last year (‘Hold’ and recently released ‘Faded Leaves’) so that has still been very exciting. But the lack of clarity in terms of future recording and performing has been frustrating even if it is understandable. Others may have also experienced that self-imposed expectation of increased/higher productivity during quarantine, I have struggled with that on occasion! But I have kept writing and recording (at a similar rate to usual) and have spent some time recording a video series to show off some new demos over the coming months whilst gigging remains impossible.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to continue writing good music at a good rate! It would be wonderful to grow my fanbase and do a first tour, but writing is in itself very rewarding, so, to keep creating pieces that I am proud of is the main goal and hopefully the rest will follow (quickly) behind.