DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Joe Allan | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists that we have right here in the north east. This time, singer-songwriter Joe Allan tells us more about his plans and the difficulties that sometimes come with being a solo artist.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

I’m Joe Allan, a grumpy little singer-songwriter from Cramlington, Northumberland.

What inspired you to first start making music?

Well both my parents are pretty musical. My dad’s played in bands since he was a teenager, and my mam has always loved music, so being surrounded by musical people probably inspired me subconsciously. Also, I just think writing songs is by far the best way to express a bit of emotion and get things off your chest. So I think the fact that writing songs is such an effective outlet for emotion inspired me to take it up. If that makes sense!

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

I think my main two influences would have to be Frightened Rabbit and The National. They’re two bands that specialise in making music that is both bleak and brutally honest, yet still very melodic and enjoyable to most. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I also really admire and take influence from the writing styles of the likes of Guy Garvey from Elbow, and Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie.

How would you describe your sound?

I’d say “weird and wired alternative pop with a dreamy yet dark twist” is the most fitting description I’ve ever came up with. I like combining very twee, twinkly guitar lines with very honest lyrics, which at times can be hard to stomach. It’s a strange combination that I don’t think people expect when they see or hear me for the first time.

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

Well there’s tons of sublimely talented singer-songwriters in the North-East at the minute (Charlie Dancer, Ryan Bird, Immy Williams etc), so fitting into that little cluster of artists would be amazing, and is kind of feasible I suppose. But I think due to my kind of left field writing style, I wouldn’t be too out of place playing alongside some of the more alternative artists on the scene as well.

“I like combining very twee, twinkly guitar lines with very honest lyrics, which at times can be hard to stomach”

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by Joe Allan?

My live shows are incredibly minimal visually, I tend to just shuffle about a bit. Musically, though, due to the honest nature of the songs, my live performances are almost opportunities for me to “lay all of my cards on the table,” and nine times out of ten, the audience understand that. I try to convey as much emotion as I can and provoke as much thought as I can at live shows, whether that is evident or not, I don’t know. Just come along to a show and see for yourself!

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?

Well May was kind of my “busy” month; I played a bunch of shows supporting the likes of Charlie Dancer, Paper Aeroplanes and Hyde & Beast, and then played Evolution Emerging. So this month, aside from one show with Picture Frames and Shades at Think Tank on Saturday 13th June (which is going to be MINT), I plan to stay relatively quiet, and to work on polishing off my recent recordings with the intention of putting out an EP sometime soon.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as an artist?

There’s been a few things over the past year or so that have really made me feel very proud. Last summer I was asked to go down to Broadcasting House in London to perform on The One Show (completely out of the blue); that was both surreal and amazing. Being deemed talented and interesting enough to earn a place on the Evolution Emerging bill this year is also something I’m super proud of. I’ve also been asked to be on the judging panel for Northumberland Live Rising – a talent competition which I won last year – which is just a tremendous honour and again, makes me feel very proud and confident that people value both my music and my opinion on music. Getting played on BBC 6Music was wicked as well!

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

I think just being a solo singer-songwriter is challenging in itself. The sort of camaraderie and good craic that comes hand in hand with being part of a band just isn’t there when it’s just you on your own. Also, if you’re in a band and you do a show that sucks, there’s four or five of you around to discuss it, there’s a bit of weight lifted. If it’s just you on your own after a bad show, it can often lead to feeling a bit disheartened. I’m starting to play with a full band pretty soon though, so hopefully that problem will be alleviated in the near future.

What else have you got planned for the future?

Well I’ve got this EP which is almost all recorded, which I’m going to put a lot of effort into properly plugging it and making its eventual release a big deal. Unlike my last EP, which I just dropped online unexpectedly, and which as a result was listened to by absolutely no one. So there’s that. That aside, I’m just going to gig relentlessly and try and make new friends and contacts along the way. A tour of the UK alongside my friends from other local bands would be the absolute dream like, so hopefully one day in the future I’ll make that happen as well. I can’t see that happening for a while though!

Joe Allan plays alongside Shades and Picture Frames at Think Tank, Newcastle on Saturday 13th June.

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