VCVDLjumpB&WI’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?

Hell yes! We had jazzy moments in my last band, remember?  Gene Krupa though, could listen to him all day.

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.

Then, one day, I’ll die. So I gotta fit in as many styles as possible in this period of grace we’ve agreed on calling life, man.

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.

I wrote music a thank you letter once, basically just thanking it for always being there for me and always knowing just the right way to soothe, compel & breathe. I read it once a week. Music is like my ever-present traveling nurse. When I do get too paralysingly down, it generally seems to coincide with me not scratching a creative itch. And when it’s really bad, and the itch can’t even be found, that is my own, boxed in, deathly hell. Thankfully my travelling nurse tends to catch up in just the nick of time.

You crowdfunded your debut. How did that work out, looking back? Is it something you’d do again?

It worked out great, the record came out didn’t it?! Ha! The simple truth being that I couldn’t have released it without the pledgers’ help. I’ll forever be indebted to them all.
When I left the band I left behind a lot of people too, mostly unintentionally. My circle of friends certainly revealed itself! (and I love every last one of them so dearly, I’m so thankful for them sticking with me). What I’m doing musically is so different, it’s understandable I guess, and I kinda hoped the guys would keep people updated as to what I was doing now, when that didn’t happen a pledge campaign seemed logical, and it was stressful, but completely worth it!
I can’t do what I do without the support, love and interest of people out there. I know that and dearly love the people who have helped me out in any small way. I’d definitely do it again, it was a great way to liaise with my heroes – fellow music lovers. If you ask your audience for some money, the least you can do is offer something in return. Pledgers of the world, I salute you!

Where do you stand on the valuation of music in general?

ha! No comment… Put it this way, technically, I’m homeless. But I’m smiling!

I’ve seen a few Spanish tour photos doing the rounds. How have you taken advantage of things being ‘just you’ to get to new places so far?

I’ve just been there! Gigs & helping out on a movie.
Put it this way… Got a sofa? I’m there. Wanna sing a song? Let’s sing. Wanna dance & laugh? Let’s do it. Wanna set the world to rights and fall asleep mid-sentence on one another’s shoulders? It’s a date. Jeez, I sound like a nuisance, ha! Traveling with a guitar & a bag is a damn sight easier than traveling with a full back line. Wouldn’t you go everywhere you could?

What are the best and worst things about music in Belfast right now, in your view?

Best is definitely things like the GoGirl initiative, encouraging more girls to get out playing in what is largely a straight, male-dominated scene (nowt wrong with being a straight male I wanna stress!), LGBT issues being brought to the fore, despite the recoiling horror of the jingoist buffoonery parade we call government. Worst? See last sentences last 7 words.


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