Words by Kate Lockyer
Byron Bay singer-songwriter Jack Botts has just released his debut album ‘Sucker For Sunsets’. The album arrives as Botts starts his Australian headline tour of five shows. Brisbane-raised and currently Northern Rivers based, he has quickly made the transition from busking the streets to a full-time touring musician.
Title song Sucker for Sunsets begins the album with an escapist fantasy that has me dreaming of my next holiday, sitting on the deck watching the beauty of a sunset. Botts demonstrates straight away that the tone of this album is a touch different to his folkier beginnings, with the acoustic sounding a brighter timbre, and a twangy, gliding guitar solo after the chorus. But, delve a little deeper into the lyrics, and there is a wry acknowledgement that sometimes there’s a satisfaction in immersing yourself in the bittersweet moments.
“There are some styles I had just never given a shot before, like country,” laughs Jack. “I wondered ‘it’s one of the biggest genres in the world, but why is it so big?’ So I really dove in and started to appreciate why people relate to it. It became a personal challenge for me then… if I wanted to keep writing the same songs, I guess I could, but there’s no growth in that. I want to keep growing and surprising myself and others,” he said.
A lively, clapping percussion and animated yet steady banjo kicks off All Day. If Sucker for Sunsets commemorates the melancholy moments of love, All Day is a light-hearted paean to the infinite joy that love brings: “When I’m with you, the skies are blue / I could love you all day”. Then, Angel In Disguise finds Botts softly flirtatious, his understated vocals sounding like he sings while sprawled out on a picnic rug, shyly strumming along to an earnestly-penned love ballad.
Mine, Mine, Mine brings out a little of the hot-blooded lover underneath Botts’ carefree exterior. On “I ain’t got time by I make time for her” his voice curls with a slight growl, and the guitar features licks of blues that complement the low-simmering intensity of emotion in the song: “All this time you were mine, mine, mine”.
His next song distils the complicated-ness of life into the simplicity of “sometimes” – life is many things, but most of all it is ever-changing. The idea behind the hook in Sometimes is clever, but not so clever that it doesn’t resonate with the listener. It is one of those songs that is bound to be a sing-along-on-a-road-trip type of song, with memorable, catchy melodies to boot.
“Most of the time I write songs about places or other people, so to write purely about myself was different but necessary…I was scared, but doing it was really freeing,” Botts says of penning his most introspective work yet. “I’ve got high expectations of myself, but this one is about me recognising that sometimes not everything is perfect,” he shares. “I realised that messing up or needing to ask for help, like a lot of things in life, are just “sometimes” and that’s OK.”
Now as a touring musician, Botts is bound to see his fair share of departure lounges, but Airport comes with the optimism of someone determined not to let time apart stand in the way of his love. “Easy to come, harder to leave / So let me know when you touch down / I’ll be waiting in the crowd”, he beckons.
By contrast, his next song Nothing On You is a little more realistic about long-distance, as he sings “I dropped the ball when you were gone / And I never felt so low”. Even in this track though, his steadfast heart shines through, pledging “But we’ve been all the places, seen a lot of faces / Moved south and made a lot of changes but / It’s got nothing on you”. This song speaks to a love that conquers all.
Then, we come to Tough Face. “‘Tough Face’ has the darkest edge to it which I guess I was suppressing,” Botts says. “It was the first song that came to me when I realised I didn’t really have to write for anyone or anything… there was this weight that had no reason to be on my shoulders, but I probably put it there myself thinking that I had to write a certain way.”
Tough Face is a reassurance to a stressed-out self, and as I listen, the calming waves of Botts’ acoustic washes over me and reminds me to take a breath. He sings to the over-thinker, the worrier, the catastrophiser that lives inside us all, reminding us we can get through if we remember that hurt is only temporary. Meanwhile, the upbeat chorus of Hearts Grow is the highlight of a folky ballad dappled in the light shed by hard-won wisdom. “We spend time, learning how to let go / Making hearts grow”, Botts sings.
Dream On is about the fantasies you have about people you’re not willing to confess your love to – “I’ve seen you and me on a boat out at sea / Drinking wine all the time, when the time is all ours”. They live in the golden land of puppy love and perfection that you can never have with a real person. Still, it’s nice to dream on.
I imagine Waking Up is a riff on the theme of the last song, this time the blissful realities of the small moments with someone you love. Botts does small details well; with his gentle, easy-going style, there is time to pause to listen to the imagery he evokes – shared smiles and, of course, glorious sunsets. Paradise is another example of this, a touching recollection and reflection on his memories of a relationship, “paradise” to him.
“I wouldn’t say it’s happy, I wouldn’t say it’s sad… I’d say it’s conversational,” Botts rhapsodises of the record. “It’s about all those conversations I’ve had with myself, realisations I’ve accepted over the last two years working through the highs and lows of international long-distance, touring and understanding myself more in the process.”
Jack Botts’ Australian tour kicked off on March 31 in Adelaide to coincide with the album’s release, and Botts will make stops in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney before rounding out the tour in Melbourne for some of his biggest headline shows to date.
LISTEN TO ‘SUCKER FOR SUNSETS’ HERE
‘SUCKER FOR SUNSETS’ | AUSTRALIAN ALBUM TOUR 2023
Supported by Jordy Maxwell & Janie Gordon
Tickets on sale now
Fri 31 March – Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide
Sat 1 April – The Rosemount, Perth
Fri 14 April – The Triffid, Brisbane
Sat 15 April – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Fri 28 April – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Also appearing at:
Sat 20 May – BASSINTHEGRASS, Darwin
FOLLOW JACK BOTTS
Thanks to Cult Logic PR