Music interview – Jon Gomm on the return of Leeds Guitar Night

Jon Gomm. Picture: Tom Martin
Jon Gomm. Picture: Tom Martin
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Touring commitments might have prevented virtuoso musician Jon Gomm from staging one of his Guitar Nights in Leeds for several years, but the event is finally due to return this week.

“It’s just a great opportunity for me because the world that I exist in, virtuoso guitarists that tour internationally, there’s not hundreds of us and opportunities for them to play in the UK are not enormous,” says the Leeds College of Music graduate. “It’s one of the hardest places in the world to tour, the UK, unless you’re from it, and it’s mostly pop and indie and rock and being a virtuoso guitarist doesn’t get you as far as it does in countries like Germany, Russia and China. So when somebody is coming over to Europe I grab them in, if possible, into my gravitational well and get them to do a gig in Leeds.”

Leeds Guitar Night 2017, at the HiFi Club on October 5, features Gomm and friends Thomas Leeb and Stuart Ryan.

“Thomas Leeb is from Austria but he lives in Los Angeles now because he went to CalArts, the famous Californian music and arts school when he was younger. He’s one of the best guitarists in the world. He’s cited as an influence by Newton Faulkner. If you’re in the know Thomas is just the one. Every single one of his albums is just instrumental finger-style guitar, with just one guitar, nothing else. When he plays live you get what he’s the master of that very particular craft.”

Stuart Ryan is based in Bath. “He’s probably best known for being the go-to guy for guitar magazines. When they want to have tab in the magazines that people can learn but it’s something that’s impossible, that nobody can play, they go to Stuart to transcribe it and teach it. He’s really well-known for that, but he’s also a great guitarist. He’s different to Thomas, who’s a master of one particular style, whereas Stuart plays everything. Any kind of guitar-playing any style he can do it, he’s extraordinary.”

The trio recently shared a bill at a festival in Germany. In Leeds they’ll each play a solo set. “Then we’ll get on stage at the end and have a little play together as well, just because that’s a moment you’ll never get at any other concert,” says Gomm, “You’ll never see those three guitar players playing together any other time.

Thomas Leeb

Thomas Leeb

“In Germany we did two songs together at the end of the concert, one of which we’d prepared backstage, then the other one was just because I foolishly made it so that was the encore. I left the stage then went back on and took Thomas and Stuart with me for the encore but then they wanted another song so we had to continue and do something that we didn’t know. It was fine, we’re all pros, but we’ll be more prepared this time.”

Having become a father, Gomm had scaled back his touring, but he says he now feels keen to go back out on the road. “Also I’ve got new songs,” he reveals. “Because I’ve been at home a lot with the baby I’ve been writing so I’ve nearly finished another album. I’ve got really big plans for it in my mind. I’ve already signed up a producer that I’m going to do it with, he’s actually a friend of mine from Australia. He’s an absolute genius and we really have this bromance going. He does synth music, he’s into Peter Gabriel’s 80s synth stuff which I love, and Imogen Heap.

“It’s going to be really different to what I’ve done before. In terms of the sound, it’s going to be much bigger and there’s going to be a broader palette. I’ve even got an artist that I love who’s a painter that has agreed to do a work for each song. Because people don’t buy CDs so much any more I’m probably going to produce a book which will have all the lyrics and this amazing artist is going to do these paintings, and it will have photographs in there as well, so it will be a nice artefact that people might like to have.

“It’s funny, he reflects, “I took some time out but having the time out has actually given me all this mental space to be really creative and now I’m ready to just dive back in again.”

When somebody is coming over to Europe I grab them in, if possible, into my gravitational well and get them to do a gig in Leeds.

Jon Gomm

Leeds Guitar Night 2017 takes place at The HiFi Club, Leeds on Thursday October 5.

Stuart Ryan

Stuart Ryan