30 seconds interview: Jon Byrne

Jon Byrne

Singer-songwriter Jon Byrne was raised in the tough industrial town of Barrow-in-Furness and, unsurprisingly, the colourful geography of his hometown has found a place in his music.

Jon isn’t afraid to write from the wrong side of the tracks and pulls no punches in his delivery, although he has had a few punches thrown in his direction for refusing to tow the line with his Barrow contemporaries.

His rise to establish himself as a songwriter has been a long and arduous one but it has allowed him plenty of time to finely tune the detail of the poetry in his lyrics. He has grown to be a sharp social commentator with great observational accuracy.

Jon has worked with Mick Jones from The Clash and received the Glastonbury Best New Artist award for his solo performance at the festival. His music has also been acclaimed in Clash magazine and NME, both praising his knack for black humour and drama.

His new album Built By Angels is released on 26 June on independent label Splitting The Atom with a UK tour planned for shortly after. In the meantime, you can catch Jon at Nolias, Waterloo, London on 27 May.

I first started writing music because…
I remember being about six or seven, I was at school and started telling a group of kids around my table a story about a carrot that escaped the dinner table and went on adventures. I was a very quiet child so the class were shocked to see me telling this tale, as was I. Soon the whole class gathered around deep within the story and each day I would go in and they’d ask me to tell them more and I just loved how that made me feel.

As I was growing up in Barrow-in-Furness, I wrote more and more stories about the goings on and the lives of those around me. My dad is Irish and plays the Irish pipes so I’ve grown up around music and fell in love with melody from a young age. My stories soon became songs.

I have been making music since…
I got my first guitar on my twelfth birthday and I hardly ever put it down.

My music is…
I suppose it’s folk, alternative, pop, country, blues.

You’ll like me if you listen to…
Well I’ve been told that apparently I’m the secret love child of Bob Dylan and John Cooper Clarke, but this has been heavily contested by Johnny Cash.

My favourite venue is…
I have always enjoyed playing the Half Moon in Putney, London; you get a great audience in there. Also The Nines in Barrow-in-Furness as it’s always good to play in front of a home crowd.

Music is important because…
Most people’s lives depend on it.

My biggest inspiration is…
My mother and father, certain people, the strange, the humorous goings on and the dark side of the street, mainly in my home town, have always inspired me.

There’s something about living and growing up in Barrow-in-Furness, a working class northern town that lives and breathes in my music. Mental illness is something that is apparent in every town and city and Barrow is definitely no exception. Over the years I’ve been somewhat surrounded by it and sometimes struggling living with it.

My dream collaboration would be…
Probably Bob Dylan or the late John Lennon. I’ve always been a big fan of both.

To try me out, listen to my songs…
Cigarette Song or Scumbags for their humour and upbeat tempo, Loser for its complete self honesty or Because Your Is and Suddenly I Was in Love if you like heartfelt love songs.

If I wasn’t making music I’d be…

In 10 years’ time I want to be…
Living in a nice house in the country with land so I can grow my own fruit and veg and have a few animals. Still playing and enjoying music with some good musical achievements to look back on and be proud of.


Above photo credit: Amanda Coplans

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