Can you tell me when you first took an interest in music? What inspired you, and how did you begin creating your own music?
I’ve always loved music. I remember being on long car journeys as a child, listening to songs on the radio in the back and sort of making up bits of music in my head to go with the song. I often imagined lead guitar parts that ought to be in songs, long before I could play lead guitar or adding my own backing vocals. I still can’t help myself doing that in fact! The first song I wrote was about my train set, thankfully never released but I still remember the main parts. Once I started playing a few chords on the guitar, more songs just started flowing out.
I prefer really to leave that to others but having said that, you do have to pigeonhole yourself if you’re serious about a music career because that seems to be what promoters and others in the business want. I guess I’m a contemporary folk singer/songwriter, with “folk” in its broadest sense. A reviewer described my band (The Blue Yellows) as being “Lo-Fi Folk-Rock” which I think suits the spacey, stripped-back sound we have in that band.
How often do you write new material? And where does your inspiration come from?
I find songwriting very easy, I can and do write whenever I want, every week at least, or more if I have time. That might sound big-headed but the hard part is writing good songs, I write lots of terrible ones and reject them, a lot start but never get finished. I suppose it’s a bit like a visual artist who might be able to easily sketch something at any time, but they might not be happy enough with what they’ve done to want anyone else to see it! I’m inspired by great musicians and songwriters of course but when I’m writing, I feel as if I’m tapping into a song that really wants to write itself from the ether or somewhere, I’m just the aerial for it. Not sure what’s going on there really but I’m sure most other songwriters experience that.
What subjects do you most enjoy writing songs about?
I don’t know if I “enjoy” writing so much as I feel compelled to do it. I’m a nature-boy at heart and many of my songs have natural features running through them, especially watery themes; rivers, the sea, rain. I can’t seem to help myself, though the songs themselves may be about love, our inhumanity, the destruction of our world or just a simple observation of something.
What draws you to those subjects?
Well, I’m highly motivated by a desire to try to help stop the global catastrophe that is all around us, caused by rampant greed, environmental destruction and war, so a lot of my songs in the past have been protest songs. But actually the solo album I’ve been working on lately is all songs about love, loss and human relationships of one sort or another, but it’s there too if you listen hard enough. In short I’m drawn to any subject matter which greatly moves me.
How long does it take to create a new song and what is the process?
People often ask me this. It can start with a chord sequence, a lyric, a riff. I can wake up with part of a new song in my head. There’s no set way of doing it for me. It can take years in the case of a song I may have left for a while and keep going back to. Funnily enough though, very often the songs I am happiest with over the years are ones I wrote very quickly, even in ten or twenty minutes.
You have chosen Big Low Copper Moon for readers to listen to. Can you tell me what inspired that song and what it means to you?
Well this is an example of a song I wrote in literally five minutes. I was standing on a bridge, looking at this giant, low moon in the sky and the words and music came to me there and then, into my head. The song couldn’t really be more simple and to me it has a sort of 1950s vibe to it, I almost imagined an old doo-wop group singing it. I love playing it with the band where we give it a bluesier feel.
I am about to release my professional début solo album called Attachment Theories which should be out in October…very excited about how it’s sounding. I’ve also been recording with a great under-the-radar songwriter called Tim Lee, doing some guitar parts with him and I might be doing some backing vocals soon too. I’m also planning for lots of new solo shows and starting some song-arrangements with the band ready for some gigs with them.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to record an album for children one day. I have a step-son, and although his mum and me are no longer together, I still see him a lot. A few years ago when he was about 5 I wrote a silly song just to make him laugh. It’s called His Name Was ‘Wormy Squirm’, the tragic story of a hapless worm. Soul, my step-son, wrote some extra verses with me for that and we started writing some other funny songs together. It’s one of many, many ideas on the back burner. Time always being the great enemy.
Where can people find out more about you?
The website for my band and me is www.blueyellows.co.uk. I also keep an online music-diary at www.jtmusic.blogspot.co.uk. My facebook is at facebook.com/tarpleemusic and you can tweet me @JonnieGitAhhr!