Liverpool based singer-songwriter, John Joseph Brill, has recently shared new track, ‘Muscle and Bone’, which has been described as an “immense moody anthem filled with a bitterness and angst to rival Kurt Cobain”. Having previously fronted London ‘doom-folk’ band, Burning Beard, Brill is now going it alone, with his upcoming EP – Pieces – set for release later this month. We caught up with John Joseph himself to ask all about it.
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name’s John, I’m a singer/songwriter. I want a dog but think it’s probably a bad idea. I fluctuate between being excessively grumpy to being embarrassingly enthusiastic.
How do you think living in Liverpool has affected your career?
I moved up to Liverpool from London about a year ago but it took no time at all to fall in love with the city. Aside from it being an incredibly welcoming place, there’s a really inspiring amount of creativity here. From the arts right through to the food and bar scene, it seems that people are constantly being encouraged to come up with new, exciting ideas. I thought it would be quite difficult to put a band around this project in a city where I only knew about five people but I found my guys straight away, which I think is just further testament to what a creative hub Liverpool is.
As the son of a music producer and pop singer, can you tell us how you came about emerging onto the music scene?
It was… interesting. We always had music on in the house and touring musicians from all over the place sleeping on our couch. It wasn’t a particularly traditional upbringing but it gave me an education, early on, in the importance of learning your craft. I was never expected to go in to music, but I think there was an expectation of “If you’re going to do it, then do it well”.
What are the main inspirations behind the Pieces EP?
At the time of writing the record I was going through some pretty serious transitions. I was living in a house in Shepherd’s Bush in London with a load of other musicians and people working in the industry who in one way or another were kind of smashing it career-wise while I felt sort of static. I’d just left a band that I’d been in for four years, then my parents split and sold our family home, I got quite seriously ill and couldn’t really leave the house for a time; I’d stopped supporting a football team that I’d been pretty fanatical about my whole life because I decided they were morally bankrupt and then, in and amongst all of that chaos, I fell in love. With all of that going on I was writing a lot, not so much as an outlet but as a way of sort of looking at myself and examining exactly where I’d been and who I was becoming. Most of what I wrote was pretty bad but I took the best of it, which happened, as it tends to, to be the most honest of it, and made this little record.
Where would you say your own personal inspiration comes from to write songs?
It’s genuinely a compulsion. I get depressed if I’m not writing. Even when I’m writing badly (which is often), I kind of feel like you need to wade through all the shit to get to the good stuff.
You used to be in a band, Burning Beard – how have you found the transition from band member to solo act?
Yeah it seems so long ago now. I think to the detriment of the band I always sort of wanted to have more control – it’s hard when you have four people with different ideas trying to each have an equal slice of a creative pie. I am happy writing on my own, it allows me to indulge my megalomania.
During your time with Burning Beard you worked alongside some wonderful folk musicians in West London – do you have any memorable stories about this time?
West London is a pretty exciting place for music and has been for a while, so you meet some pretty exciting people when you’re rooted in the scene there. I lived below one of the Staves for a time and they used to meet up and rehearse in her flat in the mornings. It was pretty nice waking up to angelic three part harmonies coming through the ceiling.
Have you got many live shows planned for 2015?
YES! And I’m fucking excited. I’m really proud of the record but working with the band up in Liverpool, I’ve grown even more proud of the live show.
We’re doing a London launch of the EP on the 25th Feb, which I think there are still tickets for. Then we’re off on tour with BC Camplight, who is quite excellent, and that wraps up in Liverpool which we’re all really looking forward to.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I try not to think about it! But if I’m happy and writing and earning enough to survive doing it then I don’t really see how I can have any complaints.
And, finally, Desert Island Disc – which album could you not live without?
I hate this just because I kind of think it’s impossible, so I’m giving myself 3. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue with breakfast, Songs Ohia’s The Magnolia Electric Co. in the afternoon, and then probably Led Zep IV in the evening but Christ it’s hard to decide. I’ll change my mind about all of that in a minute. Except the Miles Davis bit. Screw it I’ll just say Kind Of Blue.
Thanks to John Joseph Brill for answering all our questions!
Brill’s debut EP, Pieces, is out 23rd February via Killing Moon Records. And catch him live:
25th London, The Islington (EP launch)
27th Bath, The Boater
March Tour w/ BC Camplight
8th Bristol, Louisiana
9th Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
10th London, The Lexington
11th Liverpool, Leaf