MY INSPIRATION: Northeasterner | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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An eclectic and accomplished musician, in his Northeasterner guise John Homer has been producing acoustic gems since 2022, with some of his material written in the depths of lockdown and featuring a range of talented collaborators, most notably Gustaf Ljunggren, based in Copenhagen, and locally Ian Stephenson, Tony Davis and Steve Gilbert.

Here, he explains the inspirations behind his new collection, Sound Bite…

I have been writing songs for quite a number of years, mainly to perform live in various North East venues, but for the last two years, I was persuaded to release my songs online on Bandcamp.

So, as a predominantly solo, acoustic guitar-playing singer songwriter, I was challenged to develop collaborations with other musicians to add further texture and complexities in the recording process. During the pandemic, I had attended several online songwriting workshops which helped me to develop a network of musicians I was able to work with for the recordings I have now released.

To date, I have released twenty-eight of my compositions and to mark the two-year anniversary of my Bandcamp debut, I have chosen to release a three track EP on April 1st. I have deliberately chosen three widely different pieces of material inspired by a range of ideas.

One of the lessons I learnt a while ago is that you can write a song about any subject whatsoever, and part of the fun with the process is trying just that. (Now whether you end up with a good song is another matter…). The Light From A Star is written from the point of view of a single parent but trying to keep a hopeful tone – hence singing in a wistful tone towards the top of my vocal register. I also fancied writing a song which contained no rhymes – I bet you didn’t notice. I was ably assisted by the talented Ian Stephenson who played bass, cello and harmonium, as well as mixing the track. It was also one of my early experiences with online file sharing during the series of lockdowns we endured during the pandemic. There was a lot to learn.

Unlike many folks, I had a fairly trouble-free pandemic; one of the benefits being that I met up with a dozen or so like-minded musicians on one of those online songwriting courses. More than three years later, the ‘Drunks in a Midnight Choir’ are still meeting up once per month online, setting a challenge each month to write a song for the next month on a specific topic. At the start of the course when we first met, some of the group had written very few songs. Three years on, there have been 8 CDs released, with several more in process. Killjoy was one of those monthly challenges – ‘write a song about joy’ – and being a bit grumpy that week, I started to write an anti-joy song, but didn’t really succeed, ending up with a relatively short song with a bit of a 70s feel. I had two collaborators – Findlay Napier channelled his inner Santana to add some chunky electric guitar and Rob Wood (a contact provided via the songwriting group) added drums and bass.

Track number three is White to Black. I said that you can write a song about anything; well one of my hobbies is writing musical obituaries – but only about singers or musicians. So far, I’ve written a dozen or so. This one, fairly obviously, is about Cilla Black and was the first one I wrote. I wasn’t a huge fan of her music, but without doubt, she was an icon, so I hope this does her justice. The piano accompaniment is provided by Tony Davis who I have worked with for a number of years and feel very lucky to have the benefits of his studio talents.

Coincidentally, I think all three songs started with the title. It’s not always the inspiration for the song, but it does help to guide the process. Two out of the three songs started with a guitar base and lyrics were subsequently added. One started with lyrics. Again song titles come from anywhere – something read, heard in conversation, or misheard – I once misheard the name of an English cricketer and came up with a great song title, Moon Alley. Sadly the song was not as good as the title (but it’s always there to be reworked).

As I said earlier, I’ve been writing for a while, and am still trying to hit the heights of some of those writers I admire (it’s a long list). There are obviously the classics going back to the Beatles, and singer songwriters such as Paul Simon, Randy Newman, John Prine and Joni Mitchell. More recently Paddy McAloon, Boo Hewerdine, Charlie Dore, Karine Polwart – there are just so many talents out there. You be the judge if you hear any of them in my work.”

 

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