I first met Jared Haschek in Sydney in 2001. I was 19 years old and had arrived from New Zealand all bright eyed and brave about six months earlier. Jared was not much older and was holidaying in NSW with his new bride, Bec. They arrived to have Sunday lunch with their friend and my flatmate, Prue Carlton, in the student homeliness of our Beacon Hill flat. I came with the furniture.
The four of us broke bread (sun-dried tomato pull apart bread from Baker’s Delight, to be precise) and chatted about life, church, music. Jared and Bec were 2/5ths of the Melbourne based band, Compliments of Gus – Bec on bass and Jared on keyboard, just to invert the assumptions.
Prue had told me in hushed tones that Jared was a bit of musical genius and as I took in his bespectacled Melbournian persona and unassuming, intelligent conversation, I surmised that she was probably right.
In the years that followed I heard enough of Jared’s musicianship to confirm those early suspicions.
When I discovered his talent for string arrangements, I mentally tucked away a little promise to myself that when I eventually got around to doing an album, I would make sure it included strings, and that those strings came courtesy of Jared Haschek and the Melbourne String Factory.
Which is how it occurred, many moons and winding paths later, that when the two piano ballads that wrote their way into my debut album, ‘Not All the Leaves Are Falling’ were at production stage, I made good on my promise and Facebook messaged Jared out of the blue. Jared wrote the cello parts and recorded them with his talented friend, Blair Harris, in a Melbourne studio on an autumn Monday while I lay in bed, sick, in New Zealand. It was my happiest sick day ever.
Putting strings on this project was my little indulgence to myself, a touch of Australia on my New Zealand project. I cannot now possibly imagine ‘Aubade‘ or ‘Not All the Leaves Are Falling‘ without cello, and I can’t imagine having had them arranged by anyone other than Jared.
The communications manager in me can’t help but interview people who I admire and am curious about, so without any further ado, ladies and gentleman…..Jared Haschek.
Jared, was music always your thing?
Music has always been my thing, and has always been the plan! When I was in grade five I knew that I wanted to be a singer/songwriter or a teacher. I did get a Bachelor of Education many years ago, but never quite got around to using it. Music was always just the thing that came easily and naturally for me, and I am very blessed to be able to call it my job.
What are the different facets of your music life?
I spent 17 years playing in, and writing and producing for Compliments of Gus, which gave me an enormous breadth of studio and creative opportunities. These days I spend my days songwriting, producing for other artists, writing film scores, and putting dots on paper, either for sheet music publishers, or for string or horn sections for recording sessions. Oh, and now and again I play keyboard on an album or a stage. Basically I’m a music nerd!
How did the Melbourne String Factory come about?
Strings on a song or an album are like the icing on an already really delicious cake. They can really bring a production to life, and when done well, can add a professional sheen to a song that might not have been there otherwise. In the independent music scene, good string section recordings are rare as it can be difficult to do well and within budget, so when I found some great players that I loved working with and always sounded great, putting it all together in a package seemed to make sense in the hope that it would be appealing to people looking for that on their album.
Where did you develop your skills in string arrangements?
It all comes back to Compliments of Gus. Ever since our debut album Neon Show in 2001, we had strings on a lot of songs. It was very much a case of learning on the job, and fortunately the band trusted me quite completely to write great parts and make it all happen. It was a fantastic creative environment, and along with listening a lot to recordings that I loved with great string lines, gave me the space to try and learn (and discover what didn’t work as well!).
One string part I have always loved was the strings on the Jars of Clay song Frail – the outro is just gorgeous, and written by the genius arranger Ron Huff. On our last Compliments of Gus album, I managed to quote a few bars of that string line on the song Work Of Art in the turn around leading into verse two – probably not noticed by many, but gave us a thrill to be able to tip our hat to Jars, and me in particular to Ron’s beautiful writing.
Can you describe the process?
Basically, when I am writing for strings, horns, or orchestrating in general, I sing the parts first. So I will play the track, and imagine the instrument I’m writing for in my head, and then sing the parts as I create them. For me this is the best way to really hear and feel how the arrangement is going to fit with the track – if it’s not singing right, then I need to re-write it. The funny thing is that I can transcribe without making a noise, and often work on production work with headphones on, but writing parts and orchestrations is one thing I can’t do without making noise!
How can people get in touch if they want strings on their next project?
The best way to contact me is on email – I’m a pretty reliable (some would say obsessive) responder. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
You created the music book for Adele’s ’21’ album right?
Yes, I transcribed Adele’s 21 album, although at the time I had no idea that she was about to become a global megastar. I have worked for Hal Leonard (a print music publisher) for the last 10 years, and through that connection have transcribed thousands of songs, from top 40 pop hits through to obscure South American jazz (well, obscure to me!). Transcribing is a great way for me to stay current with what’s happening in music without needing to listen to commercial radio, which is great for the writing and production side of my life. A great song is all about a great melody and a compelling lyric, and Adele has loads of both.
Out of all the things you do, what is your ‘home base’ in terms of musical identity?
I am most at home when I am free to be creative. It is a great honour when I am asked to work for someone who truly trusts me to make good creative decisions, and gives me a bit of rope! This puts me in my element, and is probably why producing is one of my most favourite things to do. I think that first and foremost I am a songwriter, but there is an enormous amount of crossover between writing and producing a song. It’s all about finding the nucleus of an idea, bringing out the best parts of it, and dressing it in such a way that shows it off in all it’s glory.
What do you value about being a musician?
The joy that you can bring to other people just by playing your instrument. I grew up being a bit embarrassed when Dad would say “Come on Jared, play the piano” for whoever was visiting the house, but in more recent years I have become quite comfortable with my gift, and very willing to use it just to bring joy to whatever room I’m in. I have got over the “they might think I’m showing off” kind of thinking, and accept the fact that people like listening to good music, and playing good music is something that I can do!
How do you balance family and music life?
It’s a constant juggle and refining act, to be honest. Once you think you’ve got it nailed down, something will change, which could just be how much work I have on in a particular week, or what one of the kids is doing, or what Bec has on. I’m doing this interview on the train on the way home after leaving home at 5.30 this morning and working in the studio all day so that I could leave at 4pm and get home in time for dinner with the family!
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?
My mum, sisters and I started a little book club at the start of this year. In term one we read Dickens’ David Copperfield which I absolutely adored, and this term we are doing a collection of Roald Dahl books, which my kids have joined in with as well. Looking forward to my next Dickens though – I think I’ve got a bug, just love the way he writes, even 150 years on.