Chico-to-Seattle transplant seeks enlightenment on debut solo album
The Mondegreens were Chico-bred indie-folk rockers who made their mark locally before relocating to Seattle in May 2015. But while co-founder Jack Knight said he enjoyed gigging in Seattle and recording music, his bandmates preferred the road life. Knight left The Mondegreens on amicable terms in late 2016.
Suddenly, the singer/songwriter/guitarist was a solo artist. He built a mini-studio in his bedroom and spent months writing, engineering, recording and mixing new songs that would become Some for Jack, Some for Jesus, his debut solo album released on April 26. Though the DIY approach was a valuable lesson in all facets of the music-making process, Knight discovered some drawbacks as well.
“When you’re focusing on the engineering and production, those technical aspects of album-making, you have less bandwidth for the musical aspects,” he said. “I definitely struggled with that, giving a good musical performance but also deciding which microphone I was going to use and all of the other 10,000 little decisions that are made by an engineer. I took those on, too. I’m proud of what I accomplished by myself, but moving forward I’d rather hire and work with really good people that I trust.”
During the recording process, Knight didn’t hold back in terms of auxiliary instrumentation; layers of keyboard and strings add color and texture throughout the album. But the record’s strength is in the backbone of bass, drums and guitar, which contribute to a sound that’s an extension of the folk-rock/California-soul approach of Knight’s former band. He eventually recruited a drummer and bass player to fill out the sound and added overdubs at MRX Studio in Seattle.
“I knew I wanted a pretty lean live band; I wanted a trio,” he said. “I tried to emphasize that throughout the process so it could be replicated live in an exciting way. Those guys help on vocals and I used guitar effects to kind of flesh out each song.”
Lyrically, the album references Knight’s Catholic upbringing and the contradictions he’s encountered while striving for a moral ideal in the modern world.
“I’m kind of grappling between these two disparate entities,” he said. “The Catholic church is a far cry from the lives we lead in America today, it seems like. So that cropped up in the lyrics a lot, this question of, ‘What does it mean to be good today? What does that look like in action? What does it look like to be bad?’”
Following the Some for Jack, Some for Jesus tour, Knight intends to build on the connections he’s made since moving to Seattle. His vision involves recording and mixing albums and working as a session musician for other artists.
He’ll keep working on solo material, but expects to take his time creating his next album. “I really want to nail something down I think that’s better than what I’ve done before,” he said. And as long as he’s in Seattle, he plans to keep his eye on what he considers the big prize—airplay on Seattle’s powerhouse public radio station, KEXP, which highlights rising and established indie-rock acts.
“I’m going to pester them as much as I can,” he said. “That’s kind of my big plan. If you get airplay, you get offered a lot of new gigs. … You do what you can to get noticed.”