Music: John can’t wait to get before live audiences

September 24th, 2021 11:50 AM

By Jackie Keogh

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THE final part of John Blek’s Catharsis project – a four album exploration on themes of the sea, earth, embers, and air – has just been released.

‘This record On Ether & Air is something I am particularly proud of,’ said John. ‘It was supposed to be released in February of 2021, but I chose to delay it until the middle of September so I could tour the album properly and not be hindered by restrictions and the ability to perform it live.’

John is speaking from experience. The Embers, his third album in the Catharsis series was released in the middle of February 2020 and he was only able to do 12 shows, which means it sort of ‘slipped through the cracks.’

Around that time, he recalls he was having dinner with a friend in Bristol. ‘He was saying Covid was going to be a big scary thing,’ said John, ‘but I thought – no, they can’t shut down the world – and a little over 10 days later everything was locked down.

‘It was surreal,’ said John who had his own concerns about the virus having been ill, and in and out of hospital with a virus for three months, in 2017.

During the pandemic – July 21st 2020 to be precise – John married Ciara O’Leary Fitzpatrick with whom he shares a love of music.

Ciara plays traditional Irish music, the concertina, and lectures at the Cork School of Music while also managing John Spillane.

‘The wedding was a very small, intimate affair with just 15 members of our immediate family and we had our honeymoon at Dunmore House in West Cork,’ he said.

Another ‘highlight’ of the pandemic for John was that it reinforced what he already knew – namely that family is very important.

He says he and his wife live five minutes from his parents’ house and his sister lives five minutes in the other direction.

‘Our bundle was very easy to define,’ he adds with a grin.

Although John’s loyal fans were keen to tune into his online gigs, he admits they were not exactly to his taste.

He found them difficult, said it was more like being a presenter than a musician.

‘Performing art is more interactive, while being a televisual entertainer is more clinical,’ he said.

Speaking to The Southern Star before his first live gig in Belfast on September 10th, John said he was not at all nervous.

‘I am looking forward to getting back up in front of people and restoring my sense of self, my sense of purpose,’ he said.

‘I had a few warm up gigs thanks to the Government’s Live Performance Support Scheme so I am ready to hit the road.’

The tour will take in 50 venues across Ireland, the UK, Germany, Belgium and Holland, but fans need to know that there are just six concerts in Ireland that will take in Dublin, Dundalk, Kilkenny, Galway, Belfast and The Triskel Arts Centre in Cork on October 16th.

The album – fans will agree – is stupendous. It is his sixth co-production with Brian Casey of Wavefield Recordings studio in West Cork.

There is an ethereal element to the album, something unquantifiable that is threaded between lyric, melody and harmony.

John admits, ‘It is something I can’t quite put my finger on but I’m grateful that it has come.’

He’s also delighted to have collaborated with Brian Casey in his capacity as a multi-instrumentalist and drummer Davie Ryan, as well as the vocalist and violinist Cheyenne Mize. Singer and guitarist Kris Drever and pianist Kit Downes round out the sound.

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