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His guitar’s called Wilma! He’s from Blackpool! He is, most likely, one of the very best guitarists in the world! His track Passionflower has had over seven million hits on YouTube! He tours the world constantly to his avid fans! And now, Jon Gomm is playing at The Owl Sanctuary for Norwich’s ears only! Let’s see what he has to say while his guitar gently weeps (in a happy way).

How did you start playing acoustic guitar, and how come you didn’t move into electric over the years? I was so young I can't remember, but apparently when I was 2 I was transfixed by Mark Knopfler playing guitar on TV. It was all I wanted for Christmas. My parents bought me a ukulele, and by the time I was 4 I was taking classical guitar lessons. I took up electric guitar when I was 8 or 9 I think. I've played electric guitar and bass in bands, but now when I pick up an electric it feels so small, so quiet and powerless, it's like a toy compared to my acoustic guitar. How did you come to create the techniques you use to make your own particular sound? Some techniques I invented through experimentation, some I copied from other people. My introduction to playing percussion on the guitar came from flamenco, initially, from my classical guitar teacher. But then later I saw blues guitarists who'd play drums on their guitars, whereas my introduction to tapping (playing guitar with both hands on the neck, like a piano) came from rock and metal guitarists like Joe Satriani. So having a weirdly broad input has helped me have a hopefully unique output. What is it about the guitar that you love so much? It's the best instrument in the world! You can play anything on guitar, you can learn 3 chords and with that you can play 1000 songs. It's portable, it's sociable, it's just awesome. I'm really grateful it's so embedded into my life. I can't imagine not playing guitar, it'd be like losing a limb. I’ve loved your covers of songs by Chaka Khan and Te Police. How do you choose which songs to cover? It's different every time. Te Police song is one I loved when I was a kid. When my parents split up, I suddenly went from having my dad's record collection, which was huge and amazing, to only having my mum's, which was... erm... smaller. But she had some Police records and I


loved them. It's perfect pop, but played by a real actual three piece band. Te early records sound raw yet perfect. Te Chaka Khan song was more just hearing the song, and thinking of how to play it on guitar, imagining the kick ass bassline, imagining how I could reach those notes using a weird tuning and some weird techniques. You must’ve worked really hard for so many years to become as accomplished as you are. Do you believe in intrinsic talent or could anyone, in theory, become as good as you are? I don't know. I don't feel talented in the slightest. I don't think talent exists, not in music. Anybody can make music. You don't have to be "good". Someone can be tone deaf and still enjoy singing. I know my music is really flashy and difficult, but that's more about me as a person, as someone who wants to solve a puzzle, then create a new puzzle and solve that. You tour all over the world pretty much continuously. Does it mean you miss out on a personal life? I just had to abandon a tour overseas because of a serious family health crisis. Driving home from Munich to Leeds to care for a loved one, leaving a tour behind me, was literally the worst experience of my life. So yes, it causes problems. In 2012 your track Passionflower went viral after Stephen Fry tweeted about it. It’s now had over seven million views on Youtube! What do you think it was about that particular song that made everyone sit up and listen? I'd been playing the song live for a few months

before I made the video, and people were really loving it at gigs, so I had an idea it might be popular. Plus the guitar playing is really visually interesting in that song, so it's great for a video experience. It's been a slow build for me in terms of how many people know about me - the video success has been a boost but not the be-all and end-all. A 10-year overnight success! Can you tell us a little about your latest album, Secrets Nobody Keeps? Well, it's a compilation of songs I'd already released as singles, like Passionflower, and some new songs, recorded in my house, and mixed by Whiskas, who's a production genius. It's definitely my best work so far, and I've been really amazed with the nice reviews it's received too, because it's just a guy playing guitar and singing - there's almost no other sounds on the album, except for a couple of bits with my wife, Natasha, on sax and vocals (she's amazing). So it's not a normal-sounding album, the arrangements are so sparse. I'm happy with it. Te next one will be better, though. Always.

Who else on the scene at the moment do you rate? I saw John Smith recently who I think’s pretty swell. John is fantastic! We did a gig together, maybe 10 years ago in Liverpool, and I've been into him ever since. Right now I'm listening to Punch Brothers, the brainchild of Chris Tile, who's a singer-songwriter and virtuoso mandolin player. I think he might be the best musician alive.


Jon Gomm plays Te Owl Sanctuary on 8th March.

Read the full interview online at / March 2015 / 39

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