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John Reilly - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 15 / 1 / 2012

John Reilly - Interview


Malcolm Carter talks to Sheffield-based singer-songwriter John Reilly about his acclaimed band Boy on a Dolphin and his just released solo album, 'Zebulon'

Originally from Liverpool but now based in Sheffield, John Reilly released his first solo album to critical acclaim late last year. ‘Zebulon’ is one of those albums where, in past times, every song would have been pulled for single release and flown up the charts. Reilly, along with Canadian songwriter Lewis Nitikman, wrote the eleven pure pop songs that make up ‘Zebulon’. Every song exudes class, and it’s the type of album that we rarely hear these days. Reilly is no stranger to music. As front man with Boy on a Dolphin he had already built up a strong following, which can only grow with songs of the calibre of those found on ‘Zebulon’. If Reilly’s name is new to you his songs are probably not. ‘Not Alone’ and ‘Building Avalon’ have both been played on Radio 2 and feature on ‘Zebulon’ while another track from the album, ’Deep And Blue’, which is one of those songs you feel you’ve known all your life even on first hearing yet still fall in love with every time you hear it, has been played on RTE Radio 1 in Ireland. Reilly has also had his songs placed in TV shows such as ‘Dawson’s Creek’, ‘The X Files’ and ‘True North’. We were lucky to catch up with Reilly, who is forever composing while still promoting ‘Zebulon’, and put a few questions to him… PB: You had quite a lot of success with Boy on a Dolphin. Was that your first band? JR: I had a band at school called Force. We did Bowie, Free, Thin Lizzy covers, and when I started writing I put together a band called the Ministers of Inspiration. PB: Why did you make the decision to go solo? JR: I’ve been doing solo gigs for a long time playing songs that are more personal to me and style wise not suited to Boy on a Dolphin, so it’s a continuation of that really. PB: What’s the position now with Boy on a Dolphin? There was a gig in Sheffield on 15th December where you performed both solo and with the band. So can we expect more albums and tours from the band? JR: There is a real solid body of work there and a very loyal fan base, so I will continue to return to the band, but right now there is not a plan for a new Dolphin album. PB: ‘Zebulon’ was co-written with Lewis Nitikman and it’s rumoured you wrote over three albums worth of material together. Was it difficult then to choose the final eleven that made ‘Zebulon’? JR: It was difficult, but it was a great dilemma to have. PB: Presumably you will be releasing the other songs eventually, especially given the attention ‘Zebulon’ has received? JR: Songs such as ‘XL5',‘Cherry Red’,‘Concrete Oceans’ and ‘Little Miss Calculation’ will definitely be on another album. PB: Apart from Lewis Nitikman you have also co-written with other respected songwriters like Jim Vallance and Robbie Buchanan. Your work obviously doesn’t suffer by not having a regular co-writer. Do you feel that working with more than just one writer keeps your music fresh and exciting? JR: I love song writing either alone or with others although I prefer to write my own lyrics. New people and new ideas can only be a good thing, but my writing partnership with Lewis Nitikman is pretty special. PB: There is warmth and honesty not just in your vocals, but also in your songs as a whole. They actually sound like it’s all flows naturally, but obviously a lot of work goes into each and every song. Are you one of those artists who spend a lot of time over every line and has to be told, “Stop, it’s already perfect!” JR: There is no magic formula. Some songs almost write themselves and others I chop and change and re-write before I get there. PB: ‘Zebulon’ is one of those rare albums where every song stands on its own and sounds complete and perfect. Looking back is there anything you’d change on there? JR: Only perhaps the running order of the album. PB: ‘Zebulon’ has a sound of its own while always keeping one eye on classic pop sings from the past. But you’re one of those artists where it’s extremely hard to pinpoint your influences. So who has influenced your music? JR: The music I grew up with. I’d fall asleep with an earpiece in one ear and all this wonderful stuff would be going into my head. I am influenced by songs more than artists; melody, lyrics that mean something and the goose-bump factor. PB: Ray Davies offered you a support slot and you ended up playing in a sold-out Royal Albert Hall. Being handpicked to support Ray Davies alone must have been something; playing the Royal Albert Hall is surely a career highlight? JR: Walking out onto the stage in a sold out Albert Hall, just me and a guitar, was a surreal moment, believe me. PB: I have never seen ‘The X-Factor’ or any of those talent shows, just read about them. They come across as being lightweight and a short cut to an equally short career. But if one of your songs was chosen to be sung by one of those hopefuls would you object to it? At the end of the day it would introduce at least one of your songs to millions. JR: If they wanted to use one of my songs I’d say, “Yes. Knock yourself out!” If it’s good enough for Damian Rice then why should I be so precious? PB: Both ‘Not Alone’ and ‘Building Avalon’ have attracted radio play and they are certainly not the only two songs on ‘Zebulon’ that deserve to be heard over the air. Do you have a particular favourite on the album? JR: It changes, but right now it’s ‘Tightrope’. PB: What are your plans for 2012? JR: Playing live as much as possible in Europe and also hopefully doing some gigs in North America. PB: Thank you.

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John Reilly - Interview

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Zebulon (2011)
Thoughtful and perfectly-crafted debut solo album from Sheffield-based singer-songwriter and former Boy on a Dolphin front man, John Reilly
Deep and Blue (2010)

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