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This Will Destroy You - Interview

  by Spencer Robertshaw

published: 26 / 6 / 2011

This Will Destroy You - Interview


Winchester-based singer-songwriter Jon Allen speaks to Spencer Robertshaw before a show in Leeds about his latest solo album, 'Sweet Deceit'

Tonight’s a first for me as I am going along to interview and watch a gig at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds by a great new (ish) talent Jon Allen, but I have my new right hand person with me in my wonderful daughter Ella, who is taking everything very coolly in her stride. We arrive on time at 6 p.m. to find Jon waiting for us being reminded by his phone (made by a company that rhymes with dapple) that we should be around somewhere. At the gig later that night there is a full house of all ages who sit through the first act which set the stage well for 34 year old Winchester-born Jon to emerge. This is an unplugged set, which finds Jon performing mainly with just an acoustic guitar, and using a keyboard player for a couple of the tracks. He plans to revisit Leeds in September with a full band. He plays a couple of tracks from his 2009 first album, ‘Deadman’s Suit’, but the main part of this gig is to showcase Jon’s just released second album, ‘Sweet Defeat’. I am impressed to hear that Jon can make such a full sound from just him and his acoustic guitar, but when the keyboards are added by keyboard player Richard Milner it might as well be with a full group. ‘Sweet Defeat’ touches on more emotional subjects including a relationship break-up that Jon has endured, and his lyrics are as strong as much of the poetry I have come across. During the gig Jon makes pleasant conversation, which the audience goes along with and which I think always helps to set the scene. Jon has an amazing voice which comes across in his speech as well as his singing. Think of walking across gravel and you get the gist. I reckon he could do a few voice overs for a bit of pin money if he ever gets the spare time which might not be the case as he is destined for bigger things. Tracks such as ‘Joanna’ and the powerful moody ‘No One Gets Out of Here Alive’ are well received, the latter of which is played brilliantly with the gusto and verve it deserves. Towards the end of the gig the beautifully simple but perfectly worded ‘Last Orders’ is performed in which the song tells of a gentle and caring love for someone with lyrics that any wordsmith would be proud of. Add to that a mastery of the several guitars Jon uses, and the audience have just been treated to a cracking night. The applause is very loud and long. The gig ends, and Jon makes himself available to the audience for a meet and greet. Ella and I say our goodbyes and we travel home. Ella comments that she really enjoyed watching Jon perform, and that is coming from a 10 year old, who listens to music that’s made on a laptop and which is performed by artists who use auto tune software as their stable diet. Jon Allen is a true talent as well as a gentleman,and he is on a steady rise to the top of the folk genre. PB: When you were a child, did you want to be a singer? JA: When I was a child, I was influenced by a lot of things. I played tennis and wanted to do that. Then when I was thirteen or fourteen I got into the Beatles, and at fifteen or sixteen started to write songs. PB: Is that also what started you off in music? JA: Well, I always had music around me. I did a few piano lessons when I was young and used to sing a lot. Then when I was a teenager someone brought an electric guitar into school and it was great, I used to play right-handed backwards but now I have left-handed guitars. PB: How are you finding things? JA: It is building slowly. It is difficult for artists like me who don’t have a big spend. I have to win fans one at a time. The weird thing is people remember my songs. I have had people email me, saying that a particular track I have written has helped them through hard times. PB: What are your musical influences? JA: The Beatles and they were into Dylan so I tried that. It was a hard for me at first because his voice was hard to get into but it paid off. He’s a great poet. I love my rock as well like Zeppelin and also soul music too. I love Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin - the real deal people. PB: Who would be in your supergroup? JA: Ray Allen on piano, Billy Preston on Hammond, Macca on bass, James Gadson on drums. PB: Was making this new album ‘Sweet Deceit’ a pressure as the first album, ‘Dead Man’s Suit’, was critically acclaimed? JA: The first album was a long time in the making. I had a lot of songs that were around for a long time, so it was a very different emotion to record songs that had been written in the last couple of years. When you go through a process of creativity, you make certain choices about how a song or the groove of a song should go. With ‘Joanna’ there was a groove I thought of but we didn’t end up using. There’s a quote - ‘Art is never finished, only abandoned’ - and that’s kind if true. Eventually you just have to sign off on something. Okay, that’s that. Let’s go on to the next one. I’m proud of my lyrics. PB: The song ‘No One Gets Out of Here Alive’ tells a good tale about a girl being young and pretty, but asks what is she going to do when the magic fades and later on in life. What influenced you with that one? JA: It was weird. I was doing a gig and a girl walked across the floor and she had this confidence, this power of youth thing. Maybe I felt insecure or something but I just thought eventually it’s going to happen. She's not always going to look so good. It seems also in the culture of today in my generation that nobody wants to make decisions. They are always putting things off, whereas in our parents’ generation they made decisions that they stuck to. We now live in ‘The X Factor’ generation where they think, “I want this, and I am owed this life and this perfect body.” They want it all and you can’t have it all, and as I am also saying in the song eventually you are going to have to make some decisions. You can’t rely on looks alone. We have more choices now than we have ever had and instant gratification but there comes a time when you have to make decisions. You can’t just wait for it to happen. PB: What are you listening to at the moment? JA: Well, we are pretty tired. This is the fifth gig in a row but a bit of Bernard Purdy drum grooves. He was a soul drummer, the most recorded drummer ever and he played for Aretha Franklin back in the day PB: What are your thoughts on technology in the music industry today? JA: Kids today think it should be free, Spotify is a good example but if a plumber comes round and fixes whatever you pay them. Ultimately artists have to earn a living from what they do. There is good and bad about technology today. The availability is great and you can put a website up and reach everyone around the world but the thing with MP3s is they are compressed. They don’t sound as good as a CD or vinyl. Hopefully people will go back to wanting something to treasure and which sounds as good as it can, and to do that thing of sitting down looking at the record cover and reading the notes. Nowadays you have got a MP3 player, and you are skipping through the tracks with out giving the music a chance. PB: What’s on your playlist now? JA: Al Green, Billie Holiday, the Byrds, Bob Dylan, Chet Baker. There is a guy called David Wiffen who we are fans of. He made one great album and then broke his back. He is a Canadian and has a low country tinge to him. A bit of Zep, Marvin Gaye,Van Morrison. PB: What’s the hardest part in what you do? JA: Well it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s the endurance which is probably the hardest part. It is turning up to a venue and hoping you’ve sold the tickets. It’s the fear of playing to an empty room or when we used to have a covers band playing in a few rough boozers. That was quite daunting and getting a bad review even if you are thick skinned. Having a publication I like or would buy telling me that my music sucks is pretty bad. PB: What’s the easiest part? JA: The easiest part of what we do is playing. The best thing you can do is have a positive impact on someone’s life with your music PB: Thank you.

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This Will Destroy You - Interview

This Will Destroy You - Interview

This Will Destroy You - Interview

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