Magical journey in store with UK guitar virtuoso Jon Gomm

The Groove Tube with Jimi McDonnell – tribunegroove@live.ie

Using his voice, a guitar and loop pedals, Blackpool-born Jon Gomm is more than just a one-man band. The multi-talented musician, whose fans include actor Stephen Fry and Tommy Lee from Motley Crue, plays the city’s Róisín Dubh venue on Friday, April 12.

Jon’s distinctive guitar sound is his calling card and he says the moment he fell for that instrument was a life-defining decision – although he was only a toddler!

“My Dad says I was watching TV, and there was someone on playing guitar,” he recalls. “It was Mark Knopfler with Dire Straits, playing his bright red shiny Stratocaster guitar. I was two years old, and my Dad said all I wanted after that was a guitar.

“I started having guitar lessons when I was four,” Jon adds. “After that, I started getting into the blues and going to gigs with my Dad. I was a pretty early starter!”

Rumour has it that Jon Gomm once received a guitar lesson from the legendary BB King. Is this really true?

“It was a brief one!” Jon laughs of the lesson. “I was backstage at gig in the Wintergardens in Blackpool, and my Dad used to write reviews of gigs for a local newspaper. So I got to go backstage and play Lucille, BB King’s famous guitar.

“He was lovely. Sometimes, when I meet these famous guitar players they’re not really interested and they find you a bit annoying if you’re a little kid. BB King was like Santa or something! He’s also the best live performer I’ve ever seen.”

Jon Gomm’s guitar style takes in a variety of influences. One his earliest teachers was a flamenco player, so Jon’s music has that flavour. But he’s also a big fan of eighties guitar wizards like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. There’s also a strong percussive element to Jon’s sound – at times, he uses his guitar as a drum.

Passionflower is Jon’s best known song to date, with over four million views on YouTube. Jon, who turned down a place at Oxford to pursue his musical career, explains how the song came about.

“I think you can get inspiration from anything; I can’t think of many songs about plants, though!” he says. “It’s about a real plant that I grew in my backyard. It was in Leeds, West Yorkshire, [a place] like Coronation Street, with loads of terraced houses all in a row. A little yard, with a brick wall around it.”

Jon threw seeds from a discarded passion fruit into a small pot and the plant grew from there, coming to life while he was away on tour.

“I came back, and the whole yard was just covered in this green plant, like a jungle,” he says. “I traced it back to this tiny little pot. Then on the one day of summer we get in Leeds every year, the sun came out and all these buds all the plant burst open within hours of each other. All these tropical flowers, it was an incredible thing to see. So I wrote a song about the unlikely nature of it.”

How could a song about a plant clock up such a huge amount of hits?
“It was just people sharing it,” Jon says. “It’s still going, as well; people will keep discovering it because it’s a popular thing now. It had been online for two months, and then it was posted on Reddit. You either vote it up or down; eventually it ended up on the front page of the site.

“But there are other things as well. There were celebrities tweeting about it, a really strange mix – like Stephen Fry and Tommy Lee from Motley Crue [and ex-husband of Pamela Anderson]. You can’t really think of two more diverse celebrities! I think one day, I could have a very strange dinner party!”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.