Jon Gomm talks to Mile Spilsbury about the state of the industry, his upcoming tour and, erm, Chaucer?
It seems we exist in an era of habitually celebrated average-ness. Listening to the drivel that seeps out of shows like X-Factor and my car radio when I listen to Radio One doesn't make me angry, it just fills me with bitter disappointment. At a time of economic instability, corporations simply must make a profit margin and thus a diktat is issued by record labels to make us flunkies invest in increasingly generic hokum. And so, as British society plunges head-first into economic despair and gradually descends into a tepid broth of mediocrity, all hope may well have been lost.
But fortunately for us, the UK scene is still churning out some superb music. Not all labels expect us to pay for an image, a kind of pseudo-idol, cowering behind which is the actual artist. A fantastic example of this is Jon Gomm, an incredibly talented guitar player and singer creating unique, captivating music.
Mr Gomm's stringed odyssey began at the age of two, plucking away on a ukulele, then a sojourn to classical guitar at age 6 and as a teen veering towards rock and blues. Jon then turned down Oxford University in order to pursue his passion and study at The Guitar Institute, then jazz at the Leeds College of Music. This broad spectrum of musical dictums has given Gomm all the tools he requires to abscond off; in his own direction, far away from the avenue of antiquated commercialism. The most invigorating aspect of his work is the adoption of crowd pleasing fingerstyle guitar techniques such as string tapping or striking the guitar body to achieve a bongo-like effect.
Today I had the opportunity to parley with Jon, even though he has an overwhelming tour schedule including UK, Europe and Australia over a few months.
Jon has taken a very different tack in approaching the modern day music industry; he avoids corporate festivals and chain venues and has rejected the cut-throat values of some modern musicians. However, as Jon explains to me, this is not at all a modern concept. As opposed to trying to break into stardom, as is the modern dream, Jon believes in the old fashioned way of playing as much as possible and working up. "That's how Chaucer did it", he chuckled, "although my lyrics weren't quite as good as his!" Some musicians seem to revolt against televised talent shows for integrity but as Jon says "integrity is kind of a separate issue". He reckons the old school method is actually far more likely to work: "Musician is too vague; I would describe myself as a troubadour". And as for the throng of arid corporate festivals, the only explanation Jon could come up with is that the government is secretly behind the muddy, trench-like merriment "preparing us for the next world war!"
Jon's eclectically extensive musical tutelage plays a massive part in his individual style. He admits to have had many different obsessions, spanning many genres. However, there are certain musicians Jon singles out as specific influences. These include Michael Hedges who, in Jon's words "revolutionised what steel string can do", and also Nick Harper (Roy Harper's son) who Jon described as "the best live performer I've seen, the man is naturally effusive and sociable, whereas I'm more introverted". Jon described Harper's stage presence like that of certain comedians (Jon's example was Stewart Lee) who have a gentle control over the audience that naturally invites their full attention. His time studying jazz has certainly impacted him as well, but as Jon says, "I won't be breaking out any bebop licks!"
Gomm's career growth has been partly facilitated by the dramatic rise in online promotion - in fact, in February this year Jon was 'tweeted' by Stephen Fry which led to his YouTube videos now having over 3,000,000 views and newspapers writing stories about him. An online presence is incredibly important for the modern musician, this much is clear. However the internet phenomenon gives with one hand and takes with the other. "It should create a level playing field" proclaims Jon, but peoples reliance on sites like iTunes "defeats what's great about the internet," because some people close off to music not available on these sites.
Inspirational artists like Jon are keeping Britain's rich, diverse music scene alive. If you sift through the twaddle there is still so much truly excellent music out there. Be sure to check out his scintillating live act during his upcoming tour. For any live dates, further information or bookings visit Jon's website at www.jongomm.com.
Bodixa are a female fronted five piece from Leeds who produce a blend of emotive and beautiful music. Strong harmonies and a big helping of good song writing talent lie at the heart of their distinctive sound