This week, we caught up with Irish singer songwriter, Johnny Bourke to discuss all things music! Johnny has had incredible success over the years from performing all over the world including New Zealand and Australia to working alongside producer Jackson Dimilio-Wood (Shawn Mendes) and Randy Merrill (Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift) on his brand new single, Can’t Do Without which is due to be released on the 3rd July. Have a read below now…
- Who were your musical influences growing up and what drew you to them?
Lots of varied influences! I’ve studied classical music in University and I have a performance diploma in classical piano so I have studied all of the great composers in depth. From a more modern standpoint I love guitar players with great feel and expression. I want to be a player with real character – someone easily identifiable by their sound. Those sorts of players include John Mayer, Brad Paisley, John Frusciante, and Cory Wong to name but a few!
- How would you describe your music to new fans?
Pop music where the guitar provides much more than an ancillary role. I don’t think the two elements are mutually exclusive which is something that looking at charts these days would lead most people to believe!
- You are from Tipperary, Ireland – what is the music scene like over there?
Not a whole lot of the music I’m writing. Tipperary has its fair share of musicians but most of them would be traditionally or folk orientated, alt-indie at a stretch. I gave those fields a go but I love guitar and I love pop music so here we are!
- You are releasing your debut single, ‘Can’t Do Without’ – what was the creative process behind the track?
I demoed the track about two years ago and then brought it to Jackson in London last July where we worked on it and crafted it into a pop banger. I listened to the original demo the other day and was amazed by the transformation! My original demo had a much more rootsy vibe – almost country! Jackson did some very slick programming and turned it on its head, we did a little bit of work on the lyrics to fit the new rubric and I polished the guitar parts but the concept didn’t change much. “If the song is strong the song is strong” a good friend once told me so I try to keep that in mind whenever I’m writing. All the elements don’t need to be there straight away, you can fine tune later!
- The track was Produced by Jackson Dimiglio-Wood (Shawn Mendes) and mastered by multiple Grammy winner Randy Merrill (Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift) – what was it like working alongside such experienced individuals in the industry especially for your debut single?
Humbling to say the least. These guys are at the top of their game and I am so grateful to get the chance to work with such talent on the regular. I learned more about songwriting and production in a couple of sessions with Jackson than I did in 2 years on my own. When you’re collaborating with artists of such experience they bring you up to their level and you will be amazed at what you can achieve when you push yourself.
- What’s been the most memorable gig you have played so far and why?
I played a wedding down in Killarney a couple of years ago and the keyboard player, wielding a keytar, slid across the dance floor during the synth break of “Summer of 69” and up-ended an 80 year old lady onto her backside. He TOOK HER OUT OF IT. Thankfully nobody was hurt but I couldn’t breathe the entire drive home. I think the drummer fell off his stool during the song he was laughing so hard.
- What advice would you give to any bands / musicians starting out in the scene?
Perfect your craft, don’t try to bluff anyone starting out. Ensure you have your art form down to a tee and then proceed to enter the business side of things.
- Is there a particular place you go to write your music? Do you have a specific songwriting process?
All of my songs start at my home studio, I like to demo and record as I go. It’s just how I work, the whole sit at a guitar and write a song to chords never worked out well for me. When I’m writing I’m hearing multiple elements of how the production will be and I need to get those down at least in some form so I can feed off them and continue writing in a cohesive style. Even if it’s just adding a beat and some bass, I need to write to the proper setting I’m imagining the song encapsulating. Songs rarely if ever finish there, I like to bring them to another studio or another producer to get some fresh ideas and feel. “Can’t Do Without” took two years and went from Tipperary to London to New York !
- You’ve played all over the world including New Zealand and Australia- how would you compare the crowds at gig over there to Ireland and the UK? Is there a particular country that stands out when it comes to their crowd at Gigs?
The people of all those four countries are remarkably similar and it’s something I marvelled at a lot during the first half of this year. Irish, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, we all love a good party and we all love quality music. I’m very blessed to be able to travel the world performing and I look forward to doing it hopefully on bigger and bigger stages!
- What are your aims and ambitions for your music career when lockdown is over?
Shows. I want to get back playing live music as soon as I can. It’s the reason I write music so that I can perform it live. I love songwriting and I love producing but my heart lies with being a performer. The feeling you get on stage is something inimitable and it’s where I feel I give the best version of myself as an artist. I always give 110% and aim to leave everybody who listens to me satisfied yet wanting more!
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