Before opening the doors at The Brunswick in Hove, I caught up with Nizlopi frontman and travelling troubadour Luke Concannon to see what his future plans are, the recent changes in the musical climate and whether or not the JCB song was based on playing truant at school.
TOM: Hi Luke. Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with me before the show. Do you have any hidden musical talents?
LUKE: I can play the bones. You play them kind of like the spoons, but they’re just cow bones. It’s a very Irish instrument.
T: Why did you decide to do these songwriting classes as a part of the tour?
L: With my music, I’ve got to love and believe in what I’m doing, but it can be hard to draw people in to gigs sometimes, particularly mid-week. My idea of doing the songwriting workshops came from Fiona Bevan and Kal Lavelle when they did workshops on their ‘Song Sisters’ tour. I wanted to encourage songwriting, to engage with the audience and from a PR point of view, radio stations really like it.
T: How has the standard been so far?
L: It’s been good. There haven’t been a lot of people turn out so far to be honest, but those that have all had some previous experience. It’s nice to work together with people, so that you don’t feel alone when you’re writing a song. One song that I wrote with a guy was to be performed at an intimate family occasion. It’s really special to be involved in something like that.
T: If you could pick one musical festival to headline, which one would it be and why?
L: Oh that’s a tough one. Glastonbury, for obvious reasons. But actually also maybe the Willie Clancy Festival in Miltown Mabay. It’s a tiny festival. I once saw a travelling bagpiper performing in a church hall there and I think it was probably the best gig I’ve ever been to. I’d love to be a part of that.
T: When you’re not hitch-hiking to Palestine, touring and songwriting, what do you like to spend your time doing?
L: I like to go to Quaker meetings, I practice meditation and I spend time with my girlfriend . We hitch-hiked to the mountains recently, sleeping under the stars. It was just the best thing. I also watch an unhealthy amount of boxing and MMA. My dad used to fight so from the age of about 5 up til I was 12 I used to fight with him each day for around an hour. We had boxing gloves and he just let me spar with him. I had some troubles at school with being bullied from a young age. There was one particular bully who was a couple of years older than me and I’m ashamed to say that I did get into a fight with him. I probably shouldn’t have done that.
T: If you could achieve just one thing with your music, what would it be?
L: I love to see my friends together and engaged, creating a community to work around and a harmony amongst people. I like to sing for justice. It nourishes you. It creates a sense of empathy, a sense of values and makes your work great when it is believed by others. It’s all about making music of the people for the people.
T: How do you feel the musical climate has changed since your success with the JCB song back in 2005?
L: I feel there is a real expectation of artists to use social media these days. I find it hard as I like to focus on what I am doing and social media take the essence away from that. Distribution wise, it is great that a lot of talented newcomers can make it without a big label behind them. It’s good that somebody with a really authentic voice, like Ed Sheeran, has thrived in this new generation of technology.
T: What are you views on music streaming services?
L: I feel kind of pressured into them really. It feels a bit like the days when you would play a gig for no money, even though the promoter was charging on the door, so that you could get ‘exposure’ for your music. Thinking about it, I might take my music off Spotify.
T: Have you ever considered using crowdfunding for a record?
L: I’ve thought about it before and people have asked/offered before but I guess the answer is I don’t know if I would. There’s part of me that likes to be able to go away and make a record on your own, but then again if people want to help then that’s really nice.
T: Going back a while now, I was watching the clip of you playing the JCB song on Top of the Pops and the audience looked pretty unsure what to do when you were playing. How did it feel to play to such a staged audience?
L: We were brought on as this underground act and the producers just decided that we would play in the middle of the audience and it would be very different from what they were used to. It was very strange playing to such a staged crowd and I don’t think anybody really knew what to expect from it.
T: So was the JCB song written about playing truant with your dad when you were just 5?
L: I wasn’t always in school you know! The song was about remembering a time in my life when my dad was working on that machine, that and his vibrant Irish charisma.
T: Finally, what is next after the ‘Love & Revolution’ Tour?
L: This is Jimmy’s last tour for a while, but I’ll be carrying on with more tours soon. My album Give It All is out on iTunes and there will be more new music soon!