On first impression, Jay Thackery looks indisputably punky. He is heavily-tattooed, and every inch of skin below his chin not covered by jeans and a t-shirt displays colourful, retro-inspired images. He tells me that there are stories behind most of the tattoos, although we don’t have time to delve into any. Given the sheer number of tattoos, we’d have been there all day.
It soon becomes clear that there is a disconnect between his outward appearance and his off-stage personality. He appears nervous, wringing his hands together with shoulders hunched up, touching his ears. He is softly spoken and when asked questions, he responds with a hint of a stammer, apologising when he stumbles over his words.
When we talk about his music, however, he becomes noticeable less tense. He is very keen to hear what we think about his tracks, and watches us intently as we listen to each of the songs from his upcoming EP ‘Rehab Diaries’. When we each in turn compliment his sound, his production and his lyrics, he thanks us profusely, clasping his hands together in the ‘prayer-motion’. He seems genuinely grateful to be here and to receive our feedback.
Indeed, in more ways than one, Jay knows that he should be thankful to be sat there with us at that very moment. Jay has suffered with various mental health and substance abuse issues, and has attempted suicide several times over the years, twice being declared clinically dead before being resuscitated. It is not just our praise he is grateful for, but the very fact that he is alive.
He is clean now and determined to live a life sans drug abuse, but sadly some of his friends weren’t so lucky. Several of the tracks on the EP are dedicated to those he lost to suicide and accidental overdose during his darker times, including ‘Don’t Cry’, the lyrics of which were inspired by the suicide note left behind by his dead friend.
All of Jay’s music is this personal, and he wrote and recorded the EP during his last stint in rehab. He tells of playing his songs to his fellow patients, many of whom were hardened drug-users with criminal records. They were all in tears by the time he’d finished his first track.
It is through his music that you can begin to connect the seemingly disparate elements of his identity. His sound matches his look: think Frank Turner but if you dialed back the folk and turned up the pop-punk. There is a rough, DIY dimension to the production of the EP, which only serves to amplify his punk-edge.
Yet cutting across the rock ’n’ roll is something profoundly emotional, and more in-keeping with the humble, bordering on timid, guy that we met in our office. The lyrics are poignant and heartfelt, and his vocals, whilst punky, display a hint of insecurity.
He is happy to talk about his past and his struggle with his mental health, which is refreshing. He explains that he feels mostly disconnected from the period in his life, having come through to the other side. His attitude is encapsulated in what has become his catchphrase for the duration of the meeting, a resounding ‘I’m back’. Thackery wants to make it clear that he is currently in a good place but that he remains passionate about helping those who might not be. He has expressed his wishes to support mental health charities with his future releases, a testament to his dedication to a cause so close to his heart.
It is clear to me that there is something very unique about Jay Thackery; it is not often that you meet an artist who is as compelling as their music. He seems so full of paradoxes: punky yet timid, insecure yet strong, quiet yet loud. Yet all these contradictions dissolve when you listen to his music, and I haven’t before met someone whose very essence can be distilled into a 5-track EP. Be sure to listen for yourself.
Links to Jay Thackery’s music below: