INTERVIEW: Jon Gomm

Growing up in Blackpool as the son of two journalists, Jon Gomm was one day faced with a decision about his future.

I had a choice between following an academic pathway and doing English at Oxford or concentrating on guitar and being a rock star. To me it was an easy choice," he says. "To my mum it was a little bit less obvious."

The young Jon – a budding musician from the age of two, who'd spent his teenage years following his dad to blues concerts – plumped for The Guitar Institute in Kilburn, London. Luckily he's never looked back.

Since relocating to Leeds in the late 1990s – to study jazz at the city's College of Music – his musical career has gone from strength to strength. He's just about to release his second album and gigs widely across the UK and Europe.

Last month he played a five-date tour of Italy. "I played in theatres and big rock venues," he says. "The last gig there was a house concert. I drove to this tiny village in a valley surrounded by mountains. I thought, 'This is a great place'. Then I found out the gig was in a house just outside the village, up the mountain.

"The house was owned by an artist, who was quite well-known locally. He had invited about 30 people to be the audience. There were 30 Italians and me and my wife. It's safe to say we could not get a word in edgeways. You've got no chance with Italians around a kitchen table."

Italy seems to be one of the country's where's Jon's blend of acoustic blues, folk, jazz and country goes down best, though he admits being disconcerted when a middle-aged man once held his head in his hands during an emotive, quiet tune. "After the gig I said to Natasha (Koczy, his manager) who was with me, 'He hated it'. She said, 'No, he was crying'. I was trying to imagine that in Yorkshire – just because of a silly tune!"

The day we speak Jon had just arrived back from a late-night show in Alsager, Cheshire. He finds himself at home in towns that might be considered a little off rock's beaten track. This month he's planning to launch his new album Don't Panic with gigs in Lincoln and the Derbyshire town of Glossop. "They are two towns where I seem to have made the most friends and get the best response," he explains.

Jon's local fans needn't fear. He's also playing at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds tomorrow with two acts that he's particuarly fond of. The members of Hope & Social he's known since from their early days when their band was called Four Day Hombre. He invited them to perform at an acoustic night he was running at Dr Wu's and "they were just amazing, they're my favourite band in Leeds, I'm a proper fan – I always want to see them and get things signed".

Then there's Johnny Solstice, a performance poet. "As poets go he's incredibly rock'n'roll. People won't be able to ignore him. He's got this scary Glawegian voice and dreads down to his waist."

The album will be available from Jon's website from Monday, as well as from Crash (where he's playing an instore on Saturday) and Jumbo Records. For the first time he's also making his music available digitally via iTunes. Jon sold 10,000 copies of his debut CD Hypertension mostly at his gigs – indeed he must be one of the city's best connected musicians.

"I tend to know a lot of people from a lot of sections from the Leeds music scene. There's the DIY scene – people putting on their own gigs; the indie bands – occasionally one of them will be flavour of the month in the NME; the folk scene, which is based around the Grove pub and the jazz scene. I like to think it's because of my broad taste in music."

Jon Gomm performs at the Brudenell Social Club on Friday December 4. Tickets are available in advance from Jumbo and Crash. Doors open at 8pm.

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