This weekend, Ninja Tune signed JonoMcCleery will be playing a headline show at the Shacklewell Arms, supported by singer Milly Blue. Once described by a journalist as the love child of Gil Scott Heron and Nick Drake, the singer songwriter fuses jazz, folk, soul and electronica in his music to create an original sound that continues to attract fans from across the world. His first albums were paid for by his fanbase of radio hosts and music heads, and his latest work, Fire In My Hands, was released last month. Teju Adeleye got the chance to interview Jono for About To Blow. Head to the Shacklewell Arms this weekend to fall under the spell of the “Jono Effect”.
Are you looking forward to this weekend?
Yes, I’m really looking forward to playing new material with my band, it’s always nice to come back from tour and show your home audience and friends what you’re up to.
Random, but from Twitter stalking you, I have to ask, what’s your gripe with the term blue eyed soul/what triggered it?
It’s a term that’s been used to describe my music recently, and so it got me thinking about it.. It just seems to me to be a very pointless and outdated reference to skin type – I think we’ve got over the fact that some white people can sing soul music now so it’s not a particularly unusual revelation any more. But I also don’t want to start thinking about music in these terms, or the fact that all my favourite soul singers aren’t ‘blue-eyed’.. Or that I am separate from other soul artists, and therefore should be judged or listened to differently. The word ‘soul’ represents something much deeper than skin, so I think it should remain ‘soul music’ whoever’s singing it.
You’ve spoken a lot about your jazz and folk influence, but your music (as you would obviously know, you make it!) has a lot of electronic flavours too: dub, electronica etc…When did these influences start infiltrating your sound, and has it changed your approach to/understand of music? Who are your influences here?
I really enjoy collaborating with electronic producers but often leave the electronic side of things up to them, so I can concentrate on the instrumentation and vocals. Discovering Thom Yorke’s solo album ‘Eraser’ and hearing how he managed to infuse both worlds was definitely an inspiration which gave me confidence in the whole process working.
The end result always sounds great, but as an artist, do you find it challenging to marry folk, jazz and electronica – they seem (on the surface) like pretty distant genres, or would you say that they have more in common than we think?
Thanks! It’s challenging to think about, and to conceptualise, but actually it’s been a very natural process for me so far, to marry my influences and collaborate with different electronic producers. I think there is a lot in common with these genres, and artists aren’t so pinned in by genres as they used to be.
What about the challenges of replicating the sound for live performances, talk me through the process of moving your sound from the studio to the stage?
This is probably the most challenging part of the process for my live band, we like to play as a trio, so my drummer has to programme a lot of the sounds into a sample pad and play this live alongside the drum kit. My bassist might need to trigger off samples from a synth, and I even have to learn how to play jazz piano for one song, which I never thought would happen.
Why? You come from a family of jazz musicians, right?
Yes, my Dad played jazz piano, and my brother also plays, so I thought I would just leave it to them and learn other instruments! But now if I’m touring on my own or with a trio, I need to be able to play piano for my new single ‘Fire’ so who knows, maybe I’ll start to write and play more songs this way.
Are there other sounds you are looking forward to experimenting with?
I would like to experiment with more organic productions in the future, live band recordings, with brass sections and maybe learn to play marimba.
What’s coming up next for you?
We’re playing a show at the Shacklewell Arms in Dalston this Saturday night, I have my first trip to Russia, and we’ll be doing some recording and a few shows in Germany. And we’ll soon announce the second single from the forthcoming album with Royce Wood Junior on Ninja Tune.
Venue: Shacklewell Arms 7pm
Tickets: £7.50 (early birds)/£9.50 (adv)/£14.00 (late), click here for more
Thanks to Tej Adeleye for this exclusive! @Tej_Adeleye