Jon Gomm playing guitar

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music (Jazz)

 Top Career Highlights:

  • Over 13 million plays of his song Passionflower on YouTube

  • Has performed in 30 countries and on all 5 continents

  • Three sold out headline UK Tours

Jon Gomm is an English singer-songwriter and performer, and one of our Jazz degree graduates. His engaging and ambitious songs draw on influences and styles in blues, soul, rock and metal, and he creates drum sounds, bass lines and melodies simultaneously with just his acoustic guitar.

Jon has performed at festivals across the world since graduating, including Download, Electric Picnic, The Canadian Guitar Festival, The Italian National Guitar Festival, The Garforth Arts Festival and The London Guitar Show at Wembley Arena. Most recently he was chosen to perform on Sky Arts for their Guitar Star series of expert masterclasses.

In 2012 Jon was hooked by Stephen Fry after releasing a video of his song ‘Passionflower’ on Twitter, which resulted in him rapidly becoming a press favourite. Articles in The Daily Mail and The Telegraph followed, as well as several TV appearances, and new gig and tour bookings around the world. Since then he crowdfunded his third album in just 4 weeks, and has made music videos to raise money for an animal conservation charity, constantly absorbing the support of his global fan base.

Between all this far-reaching activity, he actually managed to take a break and fill us in on his journey through music!

What was your earliest musical experience?

When I was two, all I wanted for Christmas was a guitar, apparently. My mum got me a ukulele, which I smashed up a year or so later out of frustration. So I started getting guitar lessons when I was 4. I actually don't like telling that story though: I worry people who are older will be put off learning to play. I wasn't a child prodigy, I really started to get into playing in a big way as a teenager.

What motivated you to pursue a career in music?

My dad took me to gigs from when I was about 10 years old, so I'd go see local musicians, or some international artists, mostly blues musicians. Sometimes in big theatres but mostly in little back rooms of pubs. And so I always knew music was a possible job, I didn't see it as some million-to-one shot fantasy.

Who’s your greatest inspiration?

I have so many, from the musical heroes I love, to the great teachers I've had, and now my peers and friends as musicians around the world. Quite often I listen to music of people I know, and when you're more aware of the personality and knowledge behind the music, it's easier to be inspired by it. You can see the brushstrokes so clearly.

What attracted you to the course and Leeds College of Music?

Well I'd spent 3 years studying in London already, and I enjoyed geeking out on music every day, but I hated living in London. So I tried to find a college to move to back up north, somewhere less intimidating! And LCoM has such a rich pedigree in jazz and classical, which were the two areas I was interested in learning more about at the time.

What was your favourite thing about living, studying and being a musician in Leeds?

Leeds is a great city. It's a student focussed city, so if you want to be a Freshers’ Week socialite, you can. It's got a thriving scene for bars and small independent venues, which as a musician is vital. And it's got a music community. I'm friends with guys from the jazz scene, reggae scene, acoustic and folk scene, metal guys, indie guys... Each scene tends to be based around certain venues, and it's really easy to meet people. "Networking" is a terrible word, this is music, not finance. Just make music and make friends. Why try to "network a new contact" when you can make a new friend!

How would you describe the challenges and joys of being in Leeds?

Well, Leeds is not crazy expensive, which really mattered to me as a student. As an international guitar hero it still matters. Ha ha! Ah well. I met my wife at LCoM, and we've settled here, and we can't imagine leaving. Leeds that is, we don't live in LCoM…

How did your career develop once you graduated from LCoM?

I started out teaching and gigging as a session guitarist in various covers bands, and also I was writing and developing a solo acoustic set, which was my real passion. I started gigging that stuff in pubs and little venues in Leeds, getting support slots here and there, going to open mic nights. I also started promoting my own weekly acoustic gig in the city. Gradually, over years, I grew my audience, grew a ‘network of contacts’, and started my own record label focusing on online promotion. Now I'm able to tour all over the world. People think it's because I had a viral video. But it's really not, that was just one thing. The many years of work around it were way more important. I managed to book tours in Australia and Canada and all over Europe before I ever had a viral video.

How has your study at LCoM aided your career so far?

OK. There's two ways to approach music college.

One, is to be really driven to be a professional musician. Spend all the time studying music, learning new stuff, adding to your skills and knowledge, and being creative, figuring out what kind of music making suits you. Basically my time at college was like I'd sent myself to jail. I was either in class, or practising. That was it – almost no socialising, just studying. It was hard, but I know it was only a couple of years and it could be the only time I got in my life to focus 100% on learning.

The second, is to just study to get a qualification so you can get a job doing whatever. That's also totally great! Study, get a good degree, have a social life. Be normal! It really depends what you want out of music.

So who you’ve been around the world performing and met some great people – who would be your dream collaboration?

I don't really do collaboration, I'm a control freak.

So instead, what has been your greatest achievement then?

I'm proud of the songs I've written, and the fact that they've had a powerful emotional impact on people all over the world. I also once ate three tubes of Pringles in one sitting.

If you had one piece of advice for a prospective student, what would it be?

Never eat three tubes of Pringles in one sitting.
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Find out more about Jon on his website and get updates via Facebook.

You can also watch his performances on YouTube.

If you’d like to share your experiences of studying at Leeds Music Centre, City of Leeds College of Music or Leeds College of Music, get in touch with us: alumni@lcm.ac.uk

(Photography by Marek Zawrotny)

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