Music interview: Jon Gomm

Jon Gomm. Picture: Tom Martin
Jon Gomm. Picture: Tom Martin
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Jon Gomm’s renown as one of the leading modern exponents of the acoustic guitar last year led to him being invited to mentor contestants in the TV programme Guitar Star.

Next week the Blackpool-born musician, who settled in Leeds after studying at the city’s College of Music, is set to return to the small screen, as Guitar Star continues its second run on Sky Arts.

“This time I’m mentoring the whole group that are left, rather than just two of them,” Gomm reveals. “It was really fun this year, it was a really different kind of environment. I think they’d found their feet with the show a little bit. It was a very new idea, a very new kind of format. They’ve got George Benson as one of the judges this year and Tony Visconti, the record producer, so it’s looking like it’s going to be really good this year.

“My involvement was I did a masterclass with the whole group. They were all firing questions at me and they were all really enthusiastic. It’s a real range as well, different ages, people from different parts of the world. You had to be a British or Irish resident but people have moved here from different places. So many different styles of music that they represent as well.

“I did the masterclass then I did some one on one lessons with each of them then I did a gig in London which they filmed so it was fun.”

Gomm, who has released three albums and toured the world after becoming an internet sensation, was originally invited to appear in Guitar Star after a number of contestants cited him as an influence.

What I did was try to find that one thing about each of these musicians, some of whom are quite young and starting out in their career, that I could give them that one piece of advice that was going to make them have that epiphany

“They had people auditioning doing percussive acoustic guitar and the producers of the show, not being guitarists themselves, had never seen or done before and were trying to find out who all these kids’ influences were and they were all saying me,” he chuckles, “so I ended up getting asked to do the show last year and the same thing’s happened again this year. They’ve basically got loads of kids asking ‘Is Jon going to be here again?’ That’s really nice to know people are influenced by me, but for me it was completely out of the blue.”

Gomm says the experience reminded him how much I loved teaching. “I don’t teach guitar any more, it used to supplement my income from gigs but I’ve not done it for years. I remembered how much I love teaching.

“There was one lesson with the kids and I was watching videos of them playing before I got to meet them so that I could isolate one element of their playing. When you’re learning an instrument you have these moments, these little revelations, where a teacher or somebody will tell you something. In my experience I’ve had it with just a punter come up to me at a gig and say ‘I really like your playing but have you ever thought about doing this?’ and just a little light has gone on in my head.

“It could just be a coincidence or they might be an incredibly insightful musical person. Those moments are quite rare but it’s kind of an epiphany and you always wish that you had somebody tell you that ten years ago.

“So what I did was try to find that one thing about each of these musicians, some of whom are quite young and starting out in their career, that I could give them that one piece of advice that was going to make them have that epiphany. It was incredibly rewarding to do that.”

He wasmost impressed by the variety of musicians taking part in this year’s competition. “You’d have a really traditional blues player then somebody playing a fusion of jazz and rock techniques fused with music from different parts of the world, so really quite radical and modern. It was awesome.”

Guitar Star is due to be broadcast on Sky Arts on July 5. For details visit https://www.sky.com/watch/channel/sky-arts/guitar-star

For more on Jon Gomm visit http://jongomm.com/

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