Marianne Chua first heard Irish singer John Brann’s smooth honeyed voice in a basement bar way down in South London. After the gig, Marianne got to know the man behind the gentle guitar and wistful lyrics…
Marianne: Hi John Brann a.k.a John O’Reilly, let’s start with you introducing yourself…
John Brann: I’m from a small village called Glenravel in the Glens of Antrim just off the north coast of Ireland, sometimes known as the forgotten glen or the tenth glen, as folklore generally suggests that there are 9 glens in Antrim but there are 10.
I am currently playing on my own though I do enjoy playing with other people.
M: I heard you recently changed your name, what’s the story behind that?
JB: I had been thinking about changing my name for a while then I came across an old story called The Voyage of Bran and I really liked it. Brann is also old Gaelic for Raven, which in native American mythology represents change and is seen as a communicator from the cosmos or spirit world, which I thought was pretty cool. When I was John O’Reilly, I released an EP under Smuggler’s Records.
M: How would you describe your music?
JB: I’d say it sounds like a bit of a mash up of all the artists and writers I’ve been into. Most people would probably generalize it as folk music but I like to think there’s a bit more to it than that.
M: How many live gigs have you done so far (roughly, name a few of the places you’ve played)?
JB: I’ve played quite a few now and I really wouldn’t be able to say how many.
Well there’s Filthy’s , The Half Moon , The Alley Cat , The Vibe Bar, 93 ft East , The Library , Regal Rooms , The Good Ship , The Windmill just off the top of my head.
M: Which venue was your favourite to play at and why?
JB: I’d probably say The Regal Room in Hammersmith, mainly cause the crowd were really attentive and the sound was great. Also it was the most recent one.
M: Where was your first ever gig and how did it feel?
JB: It was in Cushendall with my 1st band in a pub called The Lurig Inn and it was terrifying.
M: What would be your dream gig?
JB: Probably Brixton Academy, as it’s my favorite venue to watch bands in. And there’s something about the architecture in there, when you take a moment to look around it blows you away.
M: How did you first get involved in music?
JB: Music was always on in the house or in the car when I was growing up. Everything from 60’s rock ‘n’ roll to Irish ballads. Having older brothers and an older sister probably helped too. Though I didn’t start learning the Guitar till I was about 15 or so.
M: What inspires your music and song writing?
JB: People and places.
M: What mood do you try and evoke in your music?
JB: That just depends on how I’m feeling when I’m writing the song. I never really pick up the guitar with a set agenda I generally just see what comes out.
M: How long does it take you to write a song, what kind of process/approach do you go through
JB: Again that depends though I do find that the best ones are done in about half an hour. Some take longer to tidy up but I’ll rarely work on a song longer than an hour or 2. Having said that there are times when an idea can hang around for 6 months or more so it really just depends. Some songs need time to grow and some come out in one piece all finished, but I prefer the later.
M: Which artist would you most like to be compared to?
JB: Anyone who has inspired me would be nice. But I couldn’t really pick one.
M: What does music mean to you?
JB: I’m not sure what it means to me but without it I’d be a different person. Not that that would be any better or worse but it would definitely be different.
M: What’s been your favourite part of making music?
JB: I really enjoy writing and performing but then I also like recording so all of it, but probably in that order.
M: Which of your songs do you enjoy playing the most and why?
JB: I go on and off my own songs all the time so it changes from day to day. It’s always good after you’ve played a new song a few times and get comfortable with it live or bringing back an old one you haven’t played for a while. At the minute it’s maybe Northern Line, that’s an old new one.
M: What one person living or deceased would you most like to do a duet with?
JB: I hear David Bowie is making a bit of a come back, that would be good.
M: What’s going on for you in the near future?
JB: The plan is to record some new songs in the first half of the year and play some really good shows and then see what happens from there.