By BRUCE DENNILL
Jack & June is a duo founded by Jacqueline Tolken and Peter Hoven in 2016 in Gauteng. While Jacqueline and Peter continue their solo endeavours, they perform, as a duo, a varied, unique range of music drawing on vocal harmonies and delivering acoustic music and a modern interpretation of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Peter Hoven has been honing his skills in the local music industry for the past 16 years, while Jacqueline Tolken returned to South Africa in June 2016 after 10 years abroad, where she continued to pursue her career in music. Jack & June can be seen performing at various venues across South Africa and are now based in Stellenbosch.
They recently released their first single, Light The Way.
Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
Peter: For me, it was Eric Clapton with his album Unplugged. I heard it for the first time in 1996 and was immediately hooked on the raw, earthy sound. That said, it’s difficult to choose only one specific song or artist, as over the years, there have been so many great songs, albums and genres that has moulded my ability and style. Though I’m still and forever will be the biggest Clapton fan.
Jacqueline: My parents’s LP collection did it for me. Growing up, the only thing I ever wanted to do was lay under our glass living room table for hours on end with earphones on and sing songs, from The Beach Boys, Dolly Parton and the Rocky 2 movie soundtrack to Della Reese, The Temptations and Fats Domino.
Name one song you wish you’d written? What makes that song so important?
Peter: I’d have to say River Of Tears by Clapton. The intensity of this track gets me every time. The biggest challenge for me is to say something in an authentic charming way. How many themes exist that haven’t been explored?
Jacqueline: As I grew, my taste evolved into whatever I wanted to feed my emotion. I will listen to an album until I know every word and every note. When I heard Nina Simone for the first time and fell hopelessly in love with her music, I wanted to bare my soul to the world and glorify God with the talent He gave me. And Clair De Lune by Claude Debussy. I don’t wish that I wrote it – I think that if I were song I would be it.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
Peter: Production value is a difficult one. It’s so vast according to genre, style and feel. We aim to best serve the song and to capture the intent and emotion. Sometimes the simplest groove, coupled with strong lyrics and clear vocals, will go far and beyond. On the other hand, very busy guitarwork and intricate rhythms can also work when you’re going for a Django Reinhardt styling.
Jacqueline: We feel that simplicity works best for the songs we write. Trying to capture emotion and feeling is something I think many artists get wrong. You can have the most perfectly played instrument on your track but it might lack that natural feel and ease. It’s important to us to try and make sure that our music portrays strong melody, good lyrics and above all, that unforced ease in how it was recorded.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
Peter: A guitar string winder.
Jacqueline: Pen and paper!
What is the story behind Light The Way – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
Peter: Melody-wise, Light The Way came about while I was fiddling in an Open D tuning for weeks until it felt comfortable.
Jacqueline: Ultimately, it took shape after the hook line was written: “I will never let you go again.” The rest of the lyrics were built around that premise. It has a strong message of love, hope and moving forward and we guess just looking after what you have before regret sets in. It could also be conceived a spiritual lyric and for us it definitely also has that upward heavenly bearing.