Spotlight of the Week: Jack Tell

Jack Tell is a singer-songwriter residing in Milwaukee. He was known back in the day for his band Animals in Human Attire but in recent years has focused on solo work. He studied finger-style guitar performance and composition at UWM.

ME: So my first question that I ask everybody: how did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?

JACK: It was something that I saw Allison posting about for a while, and then me and Orlando Pena were playing together for a little bit where I was sitting in on some of his stuff. I asked him about it and found out that they had this thing where they would guarantee to book you one show. I went in on it and took a chance, and I was pretty surprised by the quality of gigs I was getting from it. They’re all very nice people and well-organized. The one I got to do at the Wilson Center this summer was a very awesome surprise; I was not expecting that many people to be there. Being a solo performer, it’s kind of tough doing all this stuff on your own, so if you’re not involved in a bigger organization then it’s really easy for your mind to go astray. This way it’s easier to know who to talk to.

ME: That’s dope!

ME: You were in the band Animals in Human Attire, which was well before my time in the music scene. Was that your last proper band?

JACK: I did play bluegrass in a band called Thistledown Thunders for a while also, and that band was more of a residency-type band where we played at one venue every Wednesday. Right around the time that band started getting booked for festivals, I had the option to go back to school, and once I did I kind of fell off the band wagon for a bit where it wasn’t my number one priority. Solo performing took the front seat, and I got really into instrumental guitar music. I think it had a lot to do with growing up in teen angst. I was trying to do something that had a bit more longevity to it.

ME: Around what time was that, when that band dissolved?

JACK: It was probably around 2014-15. It was a bit ago. I have some days where it still feels like yesterday and then I have others where it’s definitely in the past. When I see old band members all those memories come flooding back. We played our last show at Turner Hall, and I think that was kind of my penultimate goal for that band, so once I reached that goal I didn’t really know where else to push it in the city without moving somewhere else. That wasn’t on anyone’s plate at the time.

ME: Sure. I didn’t realize it was that long ago.

ME: Here’s a random question for you: Jack, how do you feel about snow?

JACK: Well, I didn’t like it the first couple years I lived in Wisconsin. I realized that every winter I was always wearing a pair of skate shoes or something, and the snow would just melt through and my socks would get all wet. I always hated that, but I did get a nice pair of boots last winter. That completely changed my perspective of Wisconsin winters. I’ll have the pajama pants on underneath the jeans with like three coats, and then you’re pretty much good (laughs).

ME: The first few times of the year it snows is always exciting, just because you haven’t seen it in eight or nine months. It’s pretty when there’s accumulation, but my birthday is in January and by then I’m usually sick of it and ready for it to go away. I feel like that’s a lot of peoples’ take on snow.

JACK: After a few years of it you find hobbies, like going sledding. I do like when it’s snowing and you have a bonfire going, like when everything gets quiet around you. Those moments are awesome.

ME: That’s always fun, yeah. Let’s do that sometime this winter, Jack!

JACK: For sure, I’ve got the bonfire pit set up and everything.

ME: Not too long ago you said you think it’d be cool to play a show in a planetarium. What gave you that idea?

JACK: I was listening to a lot of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast while I was at work, and then I started just thinking about planetariums and stuff. When you have nothing to do at work you just have time to learn way too much about one subject, and you think “how could I make this apply to me?” so I thought it’d be cool to play guitar in a planetarium. I think generally with the instrumental guitar stuff too, you can get away with making spacey noises and using more effects pedals; you can stretch notes out and have longer ambient sounds. I’ve always been into the idea of my music being meditative or relaxing, where you’re not focused on the words but more on the ambience, and it’d be cool to play in a place with a backdrop like that. I have a gig at this cafe called Bluemels and they have a waterfall going in the background. So playing in a planetarium would be awesome, but I don’t even know if there’s one around here.

ME: There is the one at UWM. Hey, Allison does know people, and she finds way to secure outlandish gigs. She got Cullah a gig at Adventure Rock, so who knows.

ME: My last question is, what’s to come in 2022? What are you working on now?

JACK: Right now I just have a Soundcloud page that has like ten tracks on it. Two of them are improv tracks, so I’m going back and actually relearning those and recording them on a better microphone. I want to rerecord all of them on decent equipment and it has been taking a long time to do this; my work schedule always picks up in the middle of the winter so I end up working like seven days a week, so I’m trying to do my best to get that done hopefully before the new year. I’ll make CDs of it and hopefully get it on a chill station on Spotify. That’s the goal.

Visit Jack Tell’s website here.

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