Keane’s Jesse Quin: ‘We just knew Suffolk is where we should be’
- Credit: Nick Ilott and Craig Girling
Venture out deep into the Suffolk countryside, and there you will find Bentwaters Parks.
Once known as RAF Bentwaters, this former air force station just outside of Woodbridge is now home to a number of facilities - including a museum, preserved military buildings, and a few filming locations.
But perhaps its star attraction is Old Jet – a one-of-a-kind arts centre that gives creatives from far and wide the space needed to work on their projects and really let their inspiration flow.
From painters, photographers and musicians, to writers, designers, and anyone in-between, all are encouraged to come down and bounce ideas off each other in this artistic safe haven.
It boasts a number of studios, offices, workspaces, a 5,000sqft soundproof hangar, shared lounge, kitchen, and even a library. What more could you ask for?
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And who is the mastermind behind this creative hub?
None other than musician Jesse Quin, best known for his work with the chart-topping indie band Keane.
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But what brought the bassist of one of Britain’s most prolific groups to this part of the world?
The multi-instrumentalist actually has roots here in the county, and returned to the region a few years back following life in London.
“We came back here as some family stuff came up, and originally we planned to go back to London - but we realised quite quickly Suffolk is an amazing place to live.
“There’s loads of cool things going on, there’s interesting people, and it’s a great place to bring up kids. At the time, we had a one-year-old when we first moved back, and we just knew Suffolk is where we should be.”
With his family happily settled in Woodbridge, Jesse soon got to work and began putting the wheels in motion to get his venture off the ground.
Explaining the motivation behind Old Jet, he says: “I was looking for somewhere to set up my own recording studio when I moved back to Suffolk, and I actually started meeting all sorts of interesting artists and musicians who were all working from home, or wherever they could find.
“And I thought it would be nice to try and set something up that helped add something to the local art community.”
Jesse’s father, who worked as a sound engineer, introduced him to the landlords at Bentwaters Parks – and it didn’t take him long before he became enamoured with the location.
“There were loads of buildings, with lots and sizes and layouts, so I thought it would be a cool place to have it anyway. I then had a look around and fell in love with two of the buildings.”
And thus, Old Jet was born.
Established in 2014, it has since welcomed an array of people who have harnessed its spaces for a variety of mediums. Some of its most famous visitors have included the likes of Adele, Mumford & Sons, Noah and the Whale, Bastille, and of course Ed Sheeran.
A now integral part of the Suffolk arts scene, it also holds weekly life-drawing sessions. And before Covid, the centre hosted a vintage and makers market on the first Sunday of every month – with 100% of the revenue created going towards local causes.
But one of the most important things for Jesse when establishing his studio was its strong sense of freedom and individuality - with no false pretences, frills, or airs and graces permitted.
“The two things I absolutely can’t stand in the arts are any kind of cliquiness or snobbishness, so I wanted to make somewhere that was homely. Somewhere that people could feel like they were being supported, and encouraged to support each other - especially young artists.
“It’s intended as a place that’s emotionally quite wholesome, so people can come here and really feel like they can do their best work.”
And who better to guide the next generation of creatives than Jesse?
At 40 years old, he has spent the majority of his life surrounded by music and musical people.
His mother, Charity, is a folk singer, while his father, Rob, was a sound engineer.
Born in a hospital just outside of a Bedfordshire music festival where both of his parents were working at the time, one could almost surmise that he was destined for a life in the arts. The first instrument he tried his hand at was the drums – and it didn’t stop there, as he can also play guitar, bass, keyboards, and vocals.
“I’ve been in bands since I was about 11-years-old, and it’s something that was very formative for me. When I started putting bands together in London, it felt really serious all of sudden.”
His first break came with his eponymous foray into rock music, Jesse Quin & The Mets. Formed in 2007, the five-piece went on to release their one and only EP, Always Catching Up.
Soon after, he began touring with the likes of Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons as a multi-instrumentalist.
Fondly recalling his early days on the road, he says: “A lot of those sorts of tours back then were done in minivans, so you’re all squashed in the middle, with all of the equipment in the back.
“But it’s just the most thrilling thing, travelling around the UK, going up and down the M1. They call it a ‘toilet tour’, as you’re playing these dingy venues, but you’re just so excited to be getting paid to do what you love. It’s something you never forget.”
But it is his time with Keane that propelled Jesse into international stardom - an opportunity he is forever grateful for.
“I had a job in London working for a company that hired out musical equipment, and through that I became friends with a lot of roadies. Then when I left that to concentrate on music, a friend of mine was working as Keane’s production manager and he invited me on tour as his assistant. Through doing that, I met the band and their management, and it all went from there.”
In 2011, just three years into his stint as a session musician with the band, Jesse was invited to join as an official member.
“It was an honour and very flattering to be asked to join a band that’s basically comprised of three lifelong friends. Those guys have hung out together since they were kids, so to let me into that was quite amazing.”
Formed in East Sussex in 1995, Keane was founded by original members Tom Chaplin, Tim Rice-Oxley, Richard Hughes, and Dominic Scott who left the band in 2001.
The band first hit the scene in 2004 with their debut album Hopes and Fears - and soon went on to become one of Britain’s biggest musical exports in the indie department.
Topping the charts, playing festivals and selling out arenas across the globe, Jesse spent his 20s and 30s making some amazing memories – and living a life most of us can only dream of.
“One thing I was really surprised by was how the Keane fans welcomed me once I joined the band. I remember the first time we toured South America, and our tour manager said ‘you’ll have your own security guard’ and I said ‘what for?’
“But once we got there, we were being mobbed like The Beatles. It was crazy, and I just remember thinking how different it was to playing in bands in London, pottering around on the toilet circuit as we were.”
From humble beginnings in some of the Britain’s most intimate music venues, right the way through to some of the biggest capacity festivals on the planet, Jesse has seen it all.
“The two things I love when it comes to festivals are either when it’s a lineup I’m really excited about and there’s loads of other bands I want to see, or sometimes we get booked for a festival where it’s a bit of a strange match and we have to win everyone over – I always love those ones. I remember when we played a huge heavy metal festival in Germany – we went on stage and all of the crowd were facing away with their black hoodies up, looking at the ground. So we went out and played as loudly as we could, and we eventually won them over. I love things like that.”
But for someone who’s got roots here in Suffolk, nothing beats gracing your home turf.
Playing the main stage at Latitude Festival during that golden hour as the sun sets has to be on the bucket list for any musician from round these parts – and jumping on stage with Mumford & Sons during their 2017 headline slot is definitely a career highlight for the Framlingham native.
“Because I’d known the band for a long time, I went over and said hello before they went on, and their drummer Chris said ‘will you get up for the finale and play the other drumkit?’, as they have two, so I said ‘yeah that’d be great fun.’
“Then the lead singer Marcus came up and said ‘oh will you play guitar during the finale?’, so I jumped up and played on the last song of the set, which was a Joe Cocker version of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’. It was absolutely awesome, and so much fun.”
However, little did we all know that the joy and ecstasy that live music brings was to come to a halt just three short years later.
In March 2020, the entire world was plunged into lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Festivals, shows and gigs across the globe were cancelled - forcing creatives across all sectors to hunker down and weather the proverbial storm.
Jesse, who spent all of lockdown here in Suffolk, juggled his roles as a musician, a dad and a husband. Understandably, being unable to tour and play live for nearly two years took its toll – but he certainly saw the bright side.
“It was quite frustrating of course, but generally speaking, a lot of the last year and a half has been quite nice. There’s been no dates in the diary, and no working towards anything set in stone, so in a way it’s been great to feel the pressure ease in that sense.”
The enforced hiatus that lockdown put everyone under enabled Jesse to pick up where he left off with one of his many musical ventures – Mt. Desolation, a side project that consists of him and fellow Keane member Tim Rice-Oxley.
Formed in 2010, the band has released two full-length studio albums - with a third on the horizon.
“We’ve just been putting the wheels into motion for another album. We’ve written it, we just need to start recording it which we’ll hopefully do in the next couple of months. It’s a really lovely band as we’re all good friends and there’s none of the pressure to succeed like there is when you’re making a Keane record. We’re not worrying about whether something will sell or work on the radio. We can just go in there and have fun making a racket - which I love.”
And thankfully, just a few months ago restrictions surrounding live events lifted, meaning bands could get back to doing what they do best. And Keane certainly dived in headfirst.
The quartet have hit the ground running and played to packed out crowds of revellers at a handful of large-scale events, including Scarborough Open Air Theatre and TRSNMT Festival in Glasgow.
“There was just so much excitement around it all, and it was such a big deal to get back out there again,” he explains.
“It was like eating a big meal and still being really hungry afterwards – we just want to do loads more shows now.”
In regards to an upcoming Keane tour, Jesse adds: “We actually decided to get out of the habit of making plans, because we all have kids now. We used to be on that cycle of recording an album, touring it, recording another one and going on another tour. But now it’s so much better for us all emotionally to be able to be a bit pickier about what we’re doing.”
With the music and arts scene slowly opening back up after what feels like forever, we’re incredibly excited to see what Jesse and his fellow cohort of creatives get up to next.
Watch this space.
To find out more about Old Jet, visit oldjet.co.uk