A Letter From... Northern Ireland #1

A month in Northern Irish music...
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Northern Ireland has always lit the music industry alight with little gems of artists breaking into the mainstream UK music scene. From the likes of Downpatrick rockers Ash to the late John Peel’s local heroes The Undertones, the Emerald Isle has always had a wealth of talent just waiting to be discovered. This month Clash focus on Northern Irish Indie/Folk band, John Deery and The Heads.

Deery and The Heads burst on to the NI scene in early 2010 and with the release of their debut album “Smoke & Mirrors” the quartet have been creating a stir amongst the Irish gigging scene.

Formed by singer songwriter John Deery, The Heads laidback folksy anthems caught the attention of renowned Irish Producer David Odlum, recognisable for his work with the likes of Gemma Hayes and The Frames. Odlum invited Deery and The Heads to Black Box studios, in France to record what would later become ‘Smoke & Mirrors’.

The Heads debut album is twelve tracks of melodic, thought provoking acoustic anthems. Opening with ‘Proof’ the heartfelt lyrics sung in Deerys’ soothing voice is somewhat reminiscent of early Damien Rice. ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ continues with Jealousy a track that is truly insightful of human emotion, with lyrics like ‘honesty is now a foreign language that I don’t speak at all’. Deery shows raw emotion and the signs of a truly beautiful lyricist. The album continues with easy listening and deep anthemic tunes such as the acoustic melancholy Little Miss Blue.

However, the album is not all weepy sentimentalist loving tracks, Deery and The Heads show their lighter side with the upbeat ‘All work no Play’. This track is a true high spirited song but still has The Heads underlying social commentary. Lyrics like ‘I can’t find work or money, did they hide it somewhere funny’ keep the listener thinking and reminded of The Heads thoughtful undertones.

Sitting down with John Deery for a chat he gave his own insight into The Heads and what their future plans will be:

Well tell us a little more about John Deery and The Heads. How did it all come to be?
We formed John Deery and The Heads in early 2010 after a number of years of us all playing in various bands and my own career as a solo singer songwriter. I teamed up with my brother Matt and two long term friends Steve Sheridan (drums) and Sean Haslett (Bass) and we all hit it off instantly. We recorded our debut album within a matter of months of getting together; it all just clicked into place nicely. Since then we've been gigging constantly and building up a following for our music through our gigs and our music online.

Who would you state as your inspiration?
We all have different styles and musical inspirations and that's part of what makes us tick I think! We all listen to a really broad range of music so it's hard to pin down. From a songwriting point of view, I was brought up listening to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Hendrix and Neil Young, which had an early influence on me and gave me my passion for music, along with classical and traditional influences from my own musical family. I could list hundreds of other artists from John Martyn and Nick Drake to more modern acts that I admire like The Frames, Iron and Wine, The National and Radiohead, that have all inspired me in one way or another. Everyone in the band comes from a different musical background, influenced by the baselines of Marcus Miller, guitar lines of John Frusciante and drums of Chad Smith and Vinnie Colaiuta among many others. I think what we're left with is a really good range within the band, which allows us to mess about with everything from quiet acoustic songs to bigger and louder crowd pleasers- it's great fun to play in a band like that!

You recorded your debut album (Smoke & Mirrors) with Irish Producer David Odlum, In France. Tell us a little bit about this experience and the recording process?
David had liked the sound of some of my solo material and he said he'd like to work on an album with the full band. So we flew out to France in April last year and spent over a week in the French countryside in a converted farmhouse where the studio was. The setting was idyllic and it was great to have such an intensive recording session in such serene surroundings. All the main tracks were recorded live in the studio within the first two days to capture the true sound of the band; we wanted it to be recording as it used to be! Then we were able to focus on overdubs and the production of the tracks which was great fun. David was amazing to work with and really understood our sound so it was easy to get the album sounding the way we wanted it to.

What are your plans for the future?
We have a load of new tracks that have recently become crowd favorites at our gigs and aren't on the album so we're hoping to record those before the end of the year and release an EP. We are trying to build on some interest we've had from a few labels and hope to be on a label before releasing our next full album, although the DIY approach is a great way to do it too and has worked well for us so far.

And finally, Does John Deery and The Heads have a life philosophy that they and their music live by?
Make Music, Not War and have a good time, all the time.

For more information on John Deery and The Heads visit the band's official website.

Words: Dorothy Lawrence

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