This Thursday (August 16th) British singer-songwriter and guitar renegade Jon Gomm will be in town for a performance at LSPU Hall. Gomm is a guitarist who’s invented his own unique style of playing that’s technically amazing, yet has serious soul. I recently got in touch with Jon to ask him about his music, techniques and his trip to Newfoundland.
Is this you first time playing in Newfoundland?
Yes, this my first time in Canada. My first time in North America in fact! I’m hoping to see a whale and try some Screech.
You have an unconventional style of guitar playing — how did that come about?
To me it’s normal, so it’s hard to say. I have a huge range of childhood guitar-playing influences, from flamenco to heavy metal to bluegrass to jazz, so my style is really a mixture of crazy techniques from all those styles, all mixed together.
Playing guitar the way you do as well as singing over it must have taken ages to get right. How long did it take you to perfect this style?
I’m still perfecting it I think. Singing and playing guitar are individual tasks, so you need to be able to separate them in your mind. Anyone who’s danced while singing, they are doing the same thing.
Normally I don’t enjoy virtuoso guitar playing — I find it often lacks feeling and emotion and focuses to much on technical flash — but I love the way you blend guitar acrobatics with feeling. The music is technically great but captivates the listener because it has soul. When you write do you focus more on overall feeling or technical composition?
Again, they are separate things. Some guitar players focus on technique and use that to compose. That definitely exists. But I write music first, and the important thing is that I have a motivation, an idea I want to communicate. Then afterwards I write a guitar part. I never worry that it is “too technical.” That doesn’t really mean anything. If you find it too technical to watch, close your eyes.
Who would you cite as musical influences or inspirations?
There are so, so many… American singer-songwriter Michael Hedges reinvented the guitar and is the great god in the sky for me. My fellow Brit, Nick Harper, who is criminally little-known, is another great hero. I am touring with one of my musical idols next month in the UK, a man called Preston Reed who is a massive influence on my guitar style.
You have a full sound, fuller than many groups can achieve with multiple musicians. Do you ever play with a band or other musicians?
Yes, but there’s no reason for me to play with a bass player and drummer. There’s a zillion bands with guitar, bass and drums, I have no reason to add to that horde! My wife plays sax and is seriously good, and she plays with me when we can fix it up.
Don’t miss Jon Gomm this Thursday (August 16th) at LSPU Hall. Tickets are available at LSPU Hall’s website or call 753-4531.