Born Philip Harris in Taunton, Somerset, to
Pam, an opera singer, and Tony, a chiropractor and jazz
Pianist. The following year, the family move to Bexhill and
then to Eastbourne in 67 before his parents separate
in 73. Phil and brothers Paul and Pete, move to
South London in 76 with their mother.
Attends Richmond-Upon-Thames College, doing Art,
English and Photography A levels. Fails Photography and also
English, having spent the exam writing a letter to the examiner
asking him for an A grade. Scrapes through Art.
Goes to live in France to paint, first to Arles for 6 months,
then a small village west of Nimes. There he discovers the songs
of Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel. His initial interest from
songs heard on the radio is compounded when he sees Brel on TV
singing 'Amsterdam' in October 1981, the third anniversary of his
death. Inspired by the great man he determines to 'have a go' himself.
On his return to England he is taught to sing by his mother, herself
trained at the Royal Academy of Music, and begins working on his
first songs. Changes his name to Jeays after his maternal
great-great-grandfather 'Grandpa Jeays', a man who had twelve
daughters, thus ensuring the name died out.
Performs for the first time at Hampton Wick Folk Club in 1985,
' and 'The Soldier
', but, although these songs
are well received, he doesn't play again for four years due to nerves. Starts
out again at God's Little Joke, an acoustic and poetry club in Clapham, in 1989.
He releases his first recording, a tape - side one:
Only This High; The Soldier; The Laughing Song; This Is Your Child; Always
- side two: Looking For A Horse To Ride; Squelch, The Poet Laureate; Down
At Harry's; My Friend; Falling In Love Again
The following year he
teams up with Max Warner on guitar, enabling him to come out from behind his
guitar for the first time to try and establish himself as a performer as well as
He inadvertantly drives into a tree and nearly
kills himself. After recovering from this car accident he continues to learn his
trade singing around the small acoustic clubs of London,
Teams up with other musicians - William George Q (guitar and bass) in
January and David Harrod (piano) later in the year. The trio perform their first
gig together in December at the Vortex in Stoke Newington.
January - April
: First 'One Man' shows at the Kings Head
Theatre, Islington, and the Canal Cafe Theatre, Maida Vale, with Dave and Will.
He is spotted by Tom Robinson who invites him into a support slot at the
Borderline in June.August
: Plays the Edinburgh Festival for the first
time, winning a Spirit of the Fringe Award. Performs live on BBC Radio Scotland
and Scot FM. Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph describes him as "a real
find, just the sort of discovery you're always hoping to make and rarely
July - August
: Invited to perform at the
Vancouver International Comedy Festival in Canada. "But, while not being a
comedy act at a comedy festival is a bit of a strain on the expectations of the
audience, Jeays proved you can still win people over by virtue of being very
talented at what you do
." The Georgia Straight.
Three more runs at the Edinburgh Festival,
garnering more good reviews. Will leaves the band after the Edinburgh run in
1998 to pursue his own artistic endeavours, quickly replaced by John Peacock,
while drummer Jezz Campbell starts jamming with the band at certain gigs, and
soon also becomes a fixture.
In 1999 releases his first CD, 'October'.
a major role in the BBC Radio 4 programmes 'Singing In The Wilderness' and
'Chanson', the former being a study of the effects of European songwriting
traditions on British artists, and the latter a look at whether French Chanson
is indeed possible in English at all.
: Invited to sing two of his songs at Songbook '99
at the Wigmore Hall in London. Releases second CD, 'Cupid Is A Drunkard
Continues to write and perform. Records an episode
of the Arts magazine The Verb for BBC Radio 3, finishes his third CD, 'The
Ballad Of Ruben Garcia
', in 2002, and releases his fourth, 'Fame
the end of June 2003.
Takes part in the Radio 3 programme
'Kit and the Widow Cocktails
'. Releases his fifth album, 'Mr
', on Irregular Records.