Jarryd James on the Journeys That Inspired Him
Travel experiences tinged by the poignancy of war and the power of music have struck a chord with this Brisbane singer-songwriter.
As part of a musical project, I spent 10 days in Afghanistan performing for the troops. That country is like nowhere I’ve been in my life. You know when you see photos of Mars? In Afghanistan there’s so much dust and, where we were, no trees. And the colours are all the same – the vehicles are army green and camouflage or sand-coloured. It was surreal, like we were in a movie. We flew in military aircraft, had to wear body armour and couldn’t go outside of the military bases because of how much conflict was going on. Regardless of your position on the war in Afghanistan, the Australian troops work really hard and they don’t have many days off so when they see someone from their own country performing music and making art in front of them, it’s really special. It was a pleasure to bring something like that into their crazy existence.
One of the most incredible sights I saw in Berlin last year was the Holocaust Memorial, which is officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s about two hectares of giant concrete blocks – thousands of them – that start out around hip height and then get really, really tall. You can walk between them. There’s no writing, pictures or symbols on the blocks, which makes sense because you can’t put into words what the Jewish people went through under
the Nazis. I was in the middle of a promotional trip, visiting radio stations and speaking to reporters, so when we pulled up outside the memorial my head was in a very different place. Once I started walking through, though, it was just amazing.
At the lowest point of the memorial you can’t see anything but these concrete blocks and the sky. I’ll never forget it.
2015: New Orleans
Bourbon Street in New Orleans left a big impression on me – it was very overwhelming to the senses. I don’t like being around lots of people at the one time and Bourbon Street was crazy. But one night, after playing a show, I went for a walk around some other streets. I was just amazed at how many bars were packed full of people listening to bands playing really cool jazz, funk and soul music. It wasn’tlike it is in Australia, where you hear everyone playing the same ’90s rock songs. I didn’t venture inside them for too long because they were so crowded and I geta bit anxious in that kind of environment but I think it’s a really beautiful culture for a city to have – people who embrace music and go out and fill up these places. Very cool. I think I need to go back there.