BELFAST MUSICIAN Tony Wright is a real enigma of the Irish music scene. Once at the absolute heart of breathtaking instrumental act And So I Watch You From Afar – a swirling tornado of rock so successful they toured arenas alongside Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters – he quit, picked up his acoustic guitar instead, and currently lives the life of a troubadour, hopping homelessly between friend’s couches, and strumming for a living.
Not that he has any regrets at all: what Tony’s become sits better with him. It’s closer to who he is now, and allows him to step away from the commercial side of music and explore at his own place.
“For all the And So I Watch You From Afar albums, we really had a deadline from the labels to produce the record,” he recalls. “It was very much a product; a commercial process. That didn’t sit well with me. Now I’m making music when I want to make music. It feels so much more natural.”
What Wright sounds like now is hard to define. He hops between gloriously emotional guitar-pop songs – performed under the moniker VerseChorusVerse (a nod to Nirvana, though largely a sarcastic one) – and fiery collaborations where he seems to absorb a part of the soul of his musical partners. He spits out delicate and heart wrenching interpretations that wildly differ in style depending on who he’s working with.
Naturally, doing this homeless, and with mental health difficulties he pointedly speaks about publically in an attempt to end stigma, is not the easiest. “I’m lucky enough to have a lot of friends who’ll put me up, so I’m not literally on the street,” he says of his situation. “It’s partly circumstance and partly Tory government that have me here. But mentally I’m doing well now. Some days it’s like walking a tightrope, and you have to keep your eyes on the horizon to be sure you don’t fall off, but I’m doing okay, I’m allowing myself space.”