Jon Gomm is an extraordinarily talented singer songwriter from Blackpool with his own take on exactly what this should sound like. He merges soulful vocals, drumming and playing guitar into one splendid whole.
InvernessGiGs caught up with Jon at a couple of Highland gigs on his European tour earlier this month. Respect to Rob Ellen and his amazing Medicine Show for promoting these shows. Our roving reporter cornered the man (and the lovely Natasha) and managed to fire off a salvo of questions.
Roving Reporter (RR) So you’re playing mainland Europe as well as Ullapool… (stifled laughs) Are you hoping to break any new ground on this tour?
Lovely Natasha (LN) We are just doing a short burst to Italy before returning next spring. We were in Holland and Germany earlier this year which went well so we are going back again as part of this tour.
Jon Gomm (JG) I am selling a lot of CDs in USA so we are hoping to follow that up with a tour.
(RR) What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you on a stage on a stage?
(JG) I was headlining a one day festival when a stripper from a nearby burlesque show was getting changed behind a backdrop. On realising that she was inadvertently making an exhibition of herself, she did what strippers do best and shook her booty. The silhouette of her bottom will live with me as a surreal James Bond moment, though unfortunately a few children were needlessly emotionally scarred by the incident.
(RR) Your new single is available by either by download direct from your website or from download codes on postcards available to buy at gigs. What was the thinking behind this?
(JG) “Passion Flower” is the first in the domestic science series of singles (all made at home). The idea was to think of a way to add another creative layer to the music. I knew I was only releasing one song, so I was able to focus on recording one song and its video and hopefully allow listeners to really engage with just one piece of music. I almost feel that videos on youtube are adverts for an album. i wanted to make a statement that this song, passionflower, was the whole thing. I’ve also made guitar TAB from the website both in easy and proper (read impossible, guitar geek ed) versions. I’d love to see people posting their own versions of the song on youtube.
(RR) You have a novel approach to pricing the single….
(JG) Yeah, the single is available on a pay what you want basis. Anything from free upwards based on what you think its worth. Some people have downloaded it for free, which is fine. The only thing I would ask is that they tell their friends about it. (Laughs), the lowest actual payment has been 13p with the record standing at £25. I’ve given people the opportunity to be generous cos i need the money. Online music is in a good place but you can see that it is not finished and that people are going to come up with more ideas. You Tube has been great for spreading the word. I even still have a Bebo page that was created by someone else and is scarily still updated. I don’t know who does it as they won’t answer my messages!
(LN) The social networking phenomenon has really taken off since the last album was released two years ago and made people really feel like they know Jon
(RR) What was last CD you bought?
(JG) I, Alan Partridge, lets talk about Alan on MP3 – 8 hilarious hours of listening to Alan Partridge. We are halfway through listening to it in the car. As far as music, I love the tallest man on earth. He’s a Scandinavian Dylanesque singer songwriter. There’s been a resurgence of young singer songwriters who don’t seem to have much to say, they don’t have any comment on any of the problems in the world. In my view its more fun to hear someone sing about something that is real. If I hear the same old chord sequences it just leaves me cold. But there are guys like Frank Turner and the Tallest Man on Earth who are really good.
(RR) When you write songs are you conscious of striking a balance of making music that people will enjoy as well as showcasing guitar technique?
(JG) A little pearl of wisdom I picked up from Steve Vai is that technique is a means to the end and that music needs to have a purpose, say something and have some reason for being played. Whether it is just something as straightforward as something to dance to or whether it has socio-political comment, it needs to say something above and beyond the gratification of the ego.
(RR) So it’s about trying to evoke emotion rather than just 8 finger tapping. Your music is so much more than clever guitar work
(JG) First of all I write a song and that’s the starting point. There then follows the guitar arrangement, which I approach almost as if it is someone else’s song. I am a guitarist and I do want to make nice guitar arrangements and sometimes to be clever just for the sake of it. In fact, I’m sure there are some people who’d rather I just played the songs. But I like it that way, so tough! Maybe that’s how to best describe it, I write the song, even it has no words, just hear the melody, the chords and then find ways to play it, rather than squeezing a song into a new guitar technique. I hear some fantastic guitarists who do just that and while I like to be entertained by great guitarists it’s almost like watching a sport rather than music.
(RR) Who inspired you to pick up the guitar and where did the drumming and tapping come from?
(JG) I got my first guitar at 2 and started lessons at 4. My first teacher was a flamenco teacher so seeing the percussive side of the guitar can be traced back to then. The first guy i saw playing percussively was Bob Brozman as a phenomenal percussive guitarist. There is a long history of percussive guitar playing going way back to Booker White. Booker White played in the Mississippi style where whatever instrument you played had to make the train talk. He used to really thump on his guitar. Michael Hedges then took the guitar on in tapping, percussion and bringing melody as a solo instrument in a way that was truly pioneering.
(RR) You use banjo pegs on your guitar to change tuning midway through songs. do you have a standard tuning for your guitar?
(JG) Almost all of my songs use different tunings. The first guy i saw using banjo pegs was Nick Harper who is one of my top guitar heroes. His arrangements are also an influence on me, using melodies and counter melodies played on the guitar. If I had to pick a combination of two people I might be described as it would be Nick and Preston Reed.
Article by RR aka Jim Kennedy
Thanks to Jon Gomm for his time.