For Christopher Jak, Fort Collins is just one in a series of stops on his long musical journey.
He has lived on both US coasts, and nearly everywhere in between.
“I like to see what different areas have to offer,” Jak said. “The music I write and play reflects where I am most times, and the people I meet stick with me and find their way into songs. Even before I was serious about music, I was making up songs about the people I met.”
Jak doesn’t initially stand out in a crowd. He is about 5-foot-10-inches with short brown hair and tranquil eyes. He resembles many of the other artists in his acoustic genre. With no piercings, tattoos or visible birthmarks to speak of, he blends right in with the college crowd around the Old Town pubs in which he plays.
But like his music, Jak stays in your head, and you’re hooked before you know it.
His talent has been developing over all “20-something” years of his life. He has been singing “practically since birth.” By his teens he decided he needed to add a guitar to the act.
“I got sick of singing without the music,” Jak said. “It was time to add the missing piece.”
His wish was granted when his mother gave him her guitar. She had bought the guitar at a garage sale for $1 when she was in her teens. It was a generic acoustic without even so much as a brand name written on it.
“It was pretty beat up, but I love the way it sounds to this day,” Jak said. “I write almost all of my songs on it. I never play it in concert because it’s so beat up, but I would never get rid of it either.”
Now, 13 years later, Jak and his guitar are releasing their first album. “Applause of the Rain” is due out in two weeks on 440 Records.
The album contains acoustic guitar work laced with piano and string backings. Jak’s soothing vocals accent the mellow sound but alternately draw out feelings of love, patience and desperation in the music.
While Jak’s album may bring acoustic light fare like John Mayer or Howie Day to mind, his concerts infuse the soul of past greats like Bill Withers, David Crosby and a bit of the soulful stylings of Al Green.
“I love people who get dirty when they play – people that sweat or bleed – because you know they’re pouring their souls into their music,” Jak said. “I try to emulate people like that in my live show.”
Jak also enjoys putting surprises like cover songs in his live shows. Recently, his cover song of choice has been Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
“When you do a cover song, you should never try to cover the original exactly,” Jak advised. “First of all, that’s nearly impossible to do, because you don’t know what the original artist was thinking when they wrote and recorded the song. And the whole point of doing a cover is to make it your own. I try to make the song something that fits well into my show, and adds something to the set.”
Jak pulls lyrical inspiration from his heroes and experiences from his own life. Living in different places, music, love, pain and chasing music as a career all influence his writing.
“With singer-songwriters, injury leads to inspiration,” Jak said. “Being down inspires the best songs, and even the most upbeat-sounding songs are sparked by pain. There’s joy in the songs, but it’s not meaningless fluff like you have in pop music. There is something more behind the words.”
For Jak, music is a constant process that develops over time. Some of the songs on his upcoming album were written over the course of months or even years.
“Day Past A Child” took three years to complete, and was one of the last songs to make it onto Applause of the Rain. A composite song about several different people, Jak feels it is one of the most personal songs on the album.
“Every song has a little bit of me in them,” he said. “My friends, where I am when I write, what I’m feeling right then – my surroundings melt into the songs.”
Jak will find more inspiration soon when he hits the road, hitting the east and west coasts this summer. You can still catch him locally before he kicks off his tour.
Upcoming Christoper Jack shows:
Thursday 2/6 – Lucky Joe’s 9 p.m.
Friday 2/28 – Archer’s, 10 p.m.
Thursday 3/13 – Linden’s with Matthew Moon