Jon Gomm: New Rhino composition for International Guitar Night 2013

UK-based singer-songwriter Jon Gomm shot to fame after celebrities as diverse as thespian Stephen Fry and glam-rocker Tommy Lee crowed over his song “Passionflower“. Now he comes to South Africa for the winter “International Guitar Night” alongside his “Masters of Guitar” collaborator, Preston Reed.

This Interview by Evan Milton originally appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2013/06/09.

There’s a link on Jon Gomm‘s YouTube channel where interested parties can purchase the transcribed sheet music of his pieces, but he admits it’s not his primary source of income. Not surprising, given his virtuoso double-handed style that involves creating basslines and melodies at the same time, and using the guitar body as a percussive instrument – and singing at the same time.

On a Skype call to his home in England, he laughs about the link. “A lot of my friends who are guitarists rely on transcriptions sales as part of their living, but a lot of my guitar playing is really weird, and difficult for many people to reproduce, so I guess that kindof affects my sales,” he says. “But I think of myself as a singer-songwriter, and I don’t want only ‘super-guitarists’ to be able to share the music so, with something like ‘Passionflower’, I have a simpler version where you don’t have to do all the crazy techniques – an easy version, just for strumming the chords and singing.”

Jon Gomm by Tom Martin - for International Guitar Night 2013

Jon Gomm by Tom Martin – for International Guitar Night 2013

“Passionflower” is the 2012 song that garnered Jon Gomm over four-and-a-half million YouTube views, resulted in mainstream BBC television appearances and propelled him into a kind of celebrity spotlight, even though he has been performing professionally for two decades, and released his first self-published album, “Hypertension”, in 2003.

“I had a video on YouTube and it was going viral, as sometimes happens,” he says from his home in West Yorkshire. “You never exactly how that happens; it’s like chaos theory, or a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere, and hurricanes happening. (Actor, author and TV presenter) Stephen Fry was one of many who happened to watch it and share it and he’s such a popular figure in Britain that the media became interested and I ended up on the BBC over here, and that changed a lot.”

“Tommy Lee sometimes tweets me to see how I’m doing. Will it carry on? I don’t really mind: I’ve managed to get by all my life without being famous.”

— Jon Gomm on life after “Passionflower” went viral.

Fry was not the only celebrity to be entranced by the song. Jon Gomm also received messages of praise and support from David Crosby (of Crosby, Stills and Nash), Rod Stewart‘s producer approached him to appear on the singer’s next album, Yes frontman Jon Anderson approached him about a collaboration and Motley Crue drummer and hell-raiser Tommy Lee helped spread word about the tune. Most meaningful to Gomm, though, was probably the note from Steven Miller, producer and friend to Gomm‘s guitar inspiration, Michael Hedges, who co-pioneered the two-handed acoustic percussive style with Preston Reed.

“It’s very exciting, and quite confusing and baffling,” says Gomm. “Suddenly being a bit popular is weird. Tommy Lee sometimes tweets me to see how I’m doing, and I’ve had these offers to play on different people’s records. I’m just a musician, and I’ve been jobbing independently at that for ages. Will it carry on? I don’t really mind: things never stay the same, and I’ll either be better known, or less known, and I’ve managed to get by all my life without being famous.”

Gomm admits that it’s an honour to be approached by the likes of Jon Anderson, but says he doesn’t get starstruck that often, partly due to meeting musicians from a young age through his father, a journalist and reviewer.

“My dad was a really big music fan and he took me to concerts from when I was twelve, and we’d normally get to meet the musicians,” he says. “We’d go and see B.B. King and then go backstage and meet him. But we’d also go backstage and meet Norman Beaker, a blues guitar player from Manchester, who is not an international star. They were just as good as each other, and I kind of new that B.B. King was more famous, but I never saw him as more important or a better musician. I think I’ve been lucky to be introduced to music as not being about who is more popular.”

This Interview by Evan Milton originally appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2013/06/09.

Jon Gomm (UK) will premier his new composition “The Dance of the Last Rhino” in South Africa when he plays the 2013 International Guitar Night  (Winter Series) from Monday 1 to Wednesday 3 July (JHB) and Monday 8 to Wednesday 10 July (CPT), with South African Music Award winning guitarist Tony Cox, and newcomer sensation David Baudain (Fringe Theatre, Joburg Theatre Complex, Loveday Street, 8pm; tickets R165 from Joburgtheatre.com) and (Concert Hall, Baxter Theatre, Main Road, Rondebosch, 8pm; tickets R120 to R165 from Computicket.com). More on InternationalGuitarNight.co.za and JonGomm.com.

 

Jon Gomm by Ben Anker - for International Guitar Night 2013

Jon Gomm by Ben Anker – for International Guitar Night 2013

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One response to “Jon Gomm: New Rhino composition for International Guitar Night 2013

  1. Pingback: Preston Reed: world’s best guitarist goes photographic (International Guitar Night) | Evan Milton: Words on music (and miscellany)·

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