While millions sat glued to this year’s Britain’s Got Talent final, I was pondering whether to sue the Cowell Corporation under the Trade Descriptions Act.
Watching the background stories of misty-eyedhopefuls on BGT (or WTF as it’s called in my house) elbow-deep in turkey guts, bemoaning that this is their only way to get out of the twizzler factory and onto the stage of the local Megadome, always makes me feel nauseous. And not just because I’m allergic to offal.
“A really great talent finds its happiness in execution,” said the German philosopher Goethe – in more ways than one, as far as some of those contestants are concerned.
Flying the flag for a more muck and brass approach to music is Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter Jo Bywater. Currently gigging two or three times a week, at venues and festivals around the North West, Jo must hold the title of Liverpool’s hardest-working creative talent. As well as writing and performing her own songs, teaching guitar, and designing and painting a variety of artwork, this year she released her self-funded debut album, Cycle Grace Pulse Break.
Full of twists and turns, it’s an exhilarating exploration of Jo’s lyrical witticism and emotional range of voice, combined with someslick strum ‘n’ bass guitar bashing – bristling blues and folk riffs that suddenly withdraw, weaving raw honesty with a flirtatious, dark twang.
It’s a world away from the rock and grunge influences she cites on her website – Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Nuno Bettencourt, Courtney Love and Joan Jett.
“You can only go so heavy with an acoustic guitar,” she laughs. “But I love the fact that being a solo artist you can just jump on a bus with your guitar and go somewhere and play a gig.”
Her commitment and enthusiasm for what she does is refreshing to see, and she gets a mischievous smile when discussing something that excites her – mostly music, but anything and everything from saving the dolphins in Japan to TV talent shows.
“Would I go on X Factor? Not on my fucking life!” she says. “I couldn’t, it’d ruin me, it’s like the furthest thing from what I’m about at all. I’m a bit more of a foundation person – I’ll work and record and gig and I’d rather put my time and work in and if something comes of it then that’s awesome.
“I work hard because music is what I want to do,” she says. “I workedin a coffee shop for four years and managed to do ridiculous hours for a few months and save up some money. Then I decided to finish work and invest the time and money in the music and artwork, and just went for it with the album.
“Instead of sitting around trying to find the right people to work with, I decided to just get on with it. I didn’t know a lot about record labels but I knew that I could get the album up and running myself. So I just launched into it and spent some time working out where I could get CDs printed and where I could sell them, and designing and painting the front cover.
“I spent 6 months, literally, all me days, getting the album completed. Putting a chunk of money into releasing it was a bit of a risk but it’s a massive personal achievement for me and now I’ve got something I can share.”
Originally from Wakefield, Jo came to Liverpool in 1999 to study Music Performance at LIPA. So do students of Macca’s ‘fame school’ have it any easier?
“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” she says. “It’s down to how much you want it, how much you’re gonna work hard to get it, how much passion you’ve got for what you do – and then what you do with that passion. Liverpool’s great because it’s dead nurturing of talent.
“The music scene is really diverse and I find myself seeing loads of different bands and being really impressed with how amazing they allare – people like John Head, David Masson, Fabian Rothschilde, Will Maitland and We The Undersigned, are all awesome.”
Jo’s passion for music has seen her gigging in Canada and the USA and she now has her sights set on a tour of Europe.
“For me, I’m interested in travelling and inspiring people. I meet a lot of people that have sat at home and written songs but they’re too scared to gig even though they’re actually really good. I want to show other musicians that you don’t have to have loads of money and be signed by a mega label – you can get out there and do it yourself. If you enjoy what you’re doing you should just do it.”
You can also catch Jo live this summer at the Brasilica, Above The Beaten Track and Mathew Street Festivals.