Jon McDevitt

Thoughts on Father Christmas

I don't mean to sound sappy although I am told it is a condition that comes with age. One of the benefits of having led a life on the indie road, metaphorically and literally, is that I have had the good fortune to meet many artists from all over the world. Some were eminently forgettable of course and were indeed soon forgotten. Yet others left an indelible mark and demand attention even years later. The latter make the journey special for me.

Fact is, for every well-known musician there exist hundreds of others who are equally gifted but somehow fell through the crack. The history of the music industry is littered with these. They make gorgeous, even brilliant, music for a while, then the vagaries of life means they have to stop making music and deal with the mortgage, or perhaps the car, or simply to do something else to regain a measure of self-respect after suffering years of running to stand still. Most move on and never even so much as mention music again.

Then there are those who persist and soldier on regardless of the odds. They turn and weave through the years, dodging the crap and pushing on with a sense of destiny - never once forgetting the call that they'd heard since small - to make beauty with music. I love these. They are the real special ones.

One of my favourite records in my touring years is "Songs For Your Neighbour" - made by a UK band by the name of Geist. It used to be in my cans when I travelled from one live venue in Japan to another. Driven by great songwriting and the husky everyman voice of its lead singer Jon McDevitt, their work brought honesty and grounded-ness to me at a time when it was all too easy to believe in my own bullshit (or the media's). It's unpretentious, clear-minded, unaffected and rooted in a tradition of British folk music that I love. You could say I wish I could do what they did. I was certain they would become the next big thing.

They didn't. If only the music business is about gift alone. It's not and never was. But through an accident of online sales chart happenstance, Jon and I got to know each other and have kept in touch ever since. Over the years, I had fleeting glimpses of how his life has unfolded through our correspondence - the pride, dignity, struggles and disappointments - and yet the flame kept burning. It is not difficult to feel respect for this man. He is one of the special ones.

A few weeks ago I heard that he will release a Christmas single this year. It was exciting news for an erstwhile fan. I made a note to use this new release to introduce Jon to you degenerates. So here it is - the same husky voice, homemade production, honesty, directness, sing-ability, humour, quintessential Britishness that used to accompany me between tour venues in Japan. In an age where cool has lost its meaning, the lack of "cool" affectations is cool. The same as it was a decade ago. I'll be having it on my Xmas playlist for sure.