Manchester based singer/songwriter Gideon Conn is on a bus when I speak to him, he's on his way to London for a gig in Shoreditch, and looking forward to going to friend's birthday party on Saturday. He's going to be thirty in January too he tells me, and this weekend, on Sunday he's playing a Love Music Hate Racism Festival in Nelson, in Lancashire.
You're quite good at art as well, if you had to pick between music and art, which would you pick and why?
I hope I never have to make that choice, it's a tough one, but since it's a hypothetical question, I would take music because for me it's more interactive, it's a way of communicating with people extremely directly. You can see the response straight away, where as with art, you do a piece of work, and you do get feedback from it, but you don't necessarily get to see people enjoying it as an immediate consequence of you delivering it. They're both extremely rewarding past times, but I love music. I have to have music, there isn't a day that goes by where I don't play the guitar and the piano, and it's just really essential to me.
Is that interaction with the audience the bast thing about performing on stage?
Yeah, I think it's a few things, it's that interaction with the audience, giving people a few minutes of pleasure that they'll take away with them and store up inside, and look-back on them when things aren't so great. A lot of times people have said to me, "I was having a really rubbish day and then I stumbled across your gig on an open mic, and it cheered me up no end." That's a wonderful thing to hear.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn't heard it before?
It's a tough one but what I usually say is that it's acoustic hip hop with a little folk influence, very diverse songwriting, very heartfelt, and quite charming, it makes you smile.
Last time I saw you, you certainly made me smile, are you ever tempted to branch out into being a stand up comedian?
No, it's not an avenue I want to go down, I do do my little bits of banter, but I never prepare anything because I want it to be spontaneous, and if I was to do a routine of just comedy without the music then that would take away any substance to my act, although it's not actually an act as such.
Who has been your musical influences?
well it changes every month and every year. I listen to new music, or new to me should I say, I'm very keen on a lot of older artists, and classic songwriters. This year Gene Pitney is one of my favourite CDs, an early R&B singer Little Willie John - a fantastic R&B voice, and Jackie Wilson is one of my favourite singers, Sam Cooke, Stevie wonder, and lots of classical music. I do a lot of sight reading on the piano, so definitely Bach, Handel, and Beethoven. They're really influential in the way I think about melodies, and I really enjoy a lot of jazz music as well, especially piano. Lots of broad influences. I also enjoy a lot of new indie bands, well not a lot, a few, I love Maximo Park, I think their lyrical content is amazing, and their music is great. I really like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs new album.
I really like the new one, it only takes me one listen to warm into it, and then it just grows on you, and you want to listen to it more and more. Whereas some albums after two or three listens, I think, right I'm done now. but that's not the case with them.
Do you think their more keyboard influenced sound helps that?
Well I did notice it was less guitar driven, but there is a lot of guitar going on especially in the second half of their album where the intimate songs come through. I do like the keyboard on the big 'Zero' single, it's a great catchy song, it just really poppy and good.
Who was the first band you ever went to see?
The very first one was in 1995, I went to see Blur headline at Mile End Stadium, supported by The Boo Radleys, who were also fantastic. Blur were my very favourite band as a teenager, I much favoured them over Oasis. I had to run away from home to go to that gig, because I never would have had permission, and I left a note on the kettle saying gone to London to see Blur, my mum knew who Blur was, back tomorrow. I got the silent treatment for about three weeks after that. But it was worth it, it was a fantastic day out, I've never been to anything like it since, to be honest. It was a landmark moment in my teenage-hood.
Other great gigs that I've been to include the Pixies at Old Trafford. I was always a big Pixies fan, and when I heard that they were getting back together and playing at Old Trafford, I thought, "Yes, I've got to go to that." And, it was amazing! When they came on and Kim Deal played the first bass notes the crowd just lifted, and I got lifted with them, I didn't even realise I was only about five rows from the front, because of the big no man's land, and it was just amazing.
In the same way that you saw Pixies, who else would you like to see reform?
That's a tough one, because in general, the Pixies were a bit of an exception, I don't really like the idea of nostalgia gigs, I think they're overrated. But, I'd probably quite enjoy The Beach Boys, and, err... well you can't really see The Beatles anymore can you? I don't know really, I probably should have gone to Stevie Wonder when he was at the O2, but it was just too expensive, apparently he was brilliant. He is otherwordly in his talents.
When you are on tour what essential do you never leave home without?
My guitar, that doesn't just apply to touring, I never go anywhere without a guitar, if I'm leaving for more than a few hours, any over night stay wherever it is, I have to have a guitar with me, which can be a bit awkward for flying sometimes. I just can't go on holiday without one.
Do you they let you take your guitar on as hand luggage?
Mostly, if it's a budget airline you have to absolutely beg which can be awkward but it's got to be done. I can't go away for a week without my guitar. I take a half size classical guitar, because I've always got something to practice. I'm also always writing songs on holiday if I can, and I have sheet music to practice.
What's the best thing about touring for you?
The best thing is just going to new places, and playing every night, it's so much better for a band to be playing every night in good steady runs, than doing one off gigs just here and there, because you just get the focus and the gig just becomes a lot, lot tighter, and everything improves. It's great to build morale within the band, and it's something to focus towards when you're building up to the tour.
We're touring in December for ten dates, and now that we've got that booked in, and we know that that's on the horizon, we're all focused, motivated and keen. It's fantastic.
The band have been together now for four years, we've done really well to keep going, and go from strength in that time.
If you could have anyone else up on stage with you, who would you dearly love to have?
Stevie (Wonder) would be great on harmonica, if I could write a song that has a part for Stevie on harmonica, something similar to 'There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)' by Eurythmics, they're not my favourite band but what a song that is, that would be magic. Stevie plays harmonica and it's just magnificent.
What about new artists anyone you'd like to collaborate with?
I guess there must be loads of brilliant musicians and singers out there. I like collaborating with my friend Josephine (Oniyama), she's a brilliant singer, and she does her own gigs, and we're having a rehearsal this evening to work on some songs, that's great. I think the most thing is to work with people you really like and get on with really well, and obviously I hope to get to know many more musicians in the future and hopefully I'll get to work with a few.
You played a few festivals this year, which was your favourite?
Oh there's been a couple that stood out for me. Harvest at Jimmy's in Suffolk was on a farm run by a man called Jimmy, who's got a TV show called 'Jimmy's Farm' he's a friend of Jamie Oliver's. The gig there was just fantastic. It went brilliantly, the audience were brilliant, really good, responsive audience and it was a great day. My other favourite this year was Gold Coast Surf Festival in Devon. The location was stunning - on a cliff top overlooking a beach, and it was a chilled Sunday afternoon. Suddenly a few songs into the gig we started to really up the audience. first they were all sat down they weren't sure, but by the end of the set I could feel I'd really won them over, completely, wholeheartedly, and that's a great feeling. you maybe get that bit more satisfaction when you have to win over an audience, as opposed to when they are already there for you anyway.
We'll get festivals for next year as soon as we can really.
Is there anything else you'd like eGigs readers to know?
Yes, me and my band are forming a new record label, called New Bop Sounds, and we are going to be releasing our first single on that label. It's called 'Londonderry' it's a really romantic ballad, it's a charming simple song. the release date for that is December 14th and it's going to be on itunes, and limited edition vinyl. The album is due for release in the spring, with the same name, and also on New Bop Sounds.
Are all the songs complete?
It's all recorded, and mastered, and sounds absolutely brilliant. that will be on itunes, and of course in all good record stores.
Look forward to that.
Thanks very much.
Voice your opinion in the eGigs forums...
article by: Scott Williams
photos by: Sarah Stevens & Karen Williams
| published: 02/10/2009 18:30|