I’ve got an unbelievable amount of time for Tony Wright, because he always seems so genuine. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a touch stunned when he walked out on Northern Irish legends ASIWYFA a few years back – I’d always seen him as a kind of de facto frontman – but what followed convinced me of two things: that Tony was doing nothing but following his heart, and that the little bit of his heart that was clearly invested in angsty, edgy rock is nothing compared to the soulful outpourings and poetic edge that were lost out on because his old act were instrumental.
Wright’s gone on to form ‘VerseChorusVerse‘, which is both the obvious Nirvana reference and an ironic nod to the fact that despite becoming a songwriter, Wright’s tracks are rarely delivered in that format. Perhaps it’s apt, then, that he’s formed a partnership with a man sat in a genre that pointedly rejects conventional musical patterns.
David Lyttle is one of our island’s finest jazz artists, an imaginative drummer who’s also Northern Ireland’s first ever MOBO nominee (vote here). They pair are producing a collaborative work that will focus on “percussion heavy, guitar-driven soulful songs.” They’re beautiful, and as usual, Tony has a whole lot to say about what’s going down. I love this man’s profound ability to express himself, both musically and in his words, so I’ve decided to leave this interview in its rawest form, and let him do just that:
Obviously it takes a while to adapt from being in a heavy rock band to standing on stage and bearing your soul acoustically. Do you feel like you’ve made that transition your own now? How long did it take to get there?
Yeah it feels like a whole lifetime ago I was thrashing about with the lads, there’s certain smells that never leave you though…(check me out. Metaphors already!). I do feel like I’ve made the transition, I’m always learning now, I felt like I’d creatively plateaued before I opened my mouth to sing/yell, & it was quite literally killing me. Though it may read as that, I assure you, that’s not hyperbole. I was on a road that was running out of miles ahead of me, I was in the darkest of places and treating myself in a fashion that no human should inflict upon themselves or any living thing for that matter. Sorry to go all dramatic on your good self, but it’s the truth. Now? Now, it’s all good and life is sweet. If I smoked cigars now would be the perfect time for a hamlet. Bask in smokey smugness.
How did you come across David Lyttle, and what pushed you to work together?
I’d known of David’s work for a while and was intrigued, fascinated and mostly impressed with how prolific he was and how he’d done it all totally separate to the circles and – for want of a better word – “scenes”, I’d known in the past. He was (and still is) the musician in residence for Derry. I happened to be in the city one day and called into the Nerve Centre (Derry’s creative hub) and the gentleman that is Marty Magill was telling me about him. He suggested we work together, he said he’d heard David, “make the drums sing”. I thought that was a friendly bullshitting job at first, then I met David, we talked a little, laughed a lot, had a lot of common ground and similar goals. Then I heard him drum, & holy shit, that guy really can make the drums sing! It started out as a one song thing, then I suggested the album. Here we are!
Are you a jazz fan?
How has your sound developed since you started out as VerseChorusVerse? Have things developed in the way you expected?
It’s constantly evolving, and developing! I actually can’t stop writing, I must have about 150 songs demoed that have been unjudged by third party ears. To me VerseChorusVerse was a chance to explore as many genres as possible. I think folk was expected since I was strapped to an acoustic. That’s a fair enough assumption I guess, but I change styles a lot. The way I write, the sounds I make with my voice, lyrical viewpoints, always morphing, getting hairier and bolder.
What’s your live band set up today – how many gigs are just you, and who do you work with when they’re not just you?
Mainly, it’s just me. I think I needed that after the intensity of my previous incarnation. Band wise, I mean! I tend to collaborate with whomever I’m on the road with at the time. Jesse Malin, Tim Wheeler, Jonah Matranga, Bronagh Gallagher, Therapy? and so many more, they’ve all braved the stench of stage sharing with my tour boots.
I’ve got a cool thing coming up after this record, it will be a live band, and it fuckin’ jams. Hard!
You’ve talked quite a bit about mental health in the past. Where does music fit into your own view on mental health?
I have, I’m bipolar, and I came out, as it were, on Ray D’Arcys old show on TodayFM a few years ago. I figured that way I’d only have to say it once if I just told everybody on the island! I work with the incredible people in Dublin’s First Fortnight festival, challenging mental health prejudice through the arts & creativity.
I can quite factually state that if it wasn’t for music & my other creative outlets, I would not be talking to you or anyone else today. I’d never have made it out of my teens.