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Stay at Home Comforts: Jon McClure

Reverend and the Makers frontman is keeping busy with private Zoom gigs and poems.

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Many punters are currently clutching out-of-date tickets and wondering when crowds will be allowed back to concerts. But what are performers doing in the meantime?

Keeping busy, in the case of Reverend and the Makers frontman Jon McClure. When not writing poetry or riding his bike, he's playing private gigs for fans on Zoom, saluting health workers through duets with his relatives and offering to play at postponed weddings.

Hi Jon. How are you and what have you been up to today?

I'm all right. Today my wife was off doing a bit of stuff for herself. When you're a busy mum, those moments are few and far between. So it's been daddy daycare trying to give her a bit of time for that.

It's wonderful getting to spend so much time with the kids, but striking that balance with being creative isn't always easy. You always feel like you're neglecting one or the other. But I can't grumble. I'll be crying my eyes out when they eventually go back to school 'cause I'll be missing them.

If you had to sum up your lockdown experience so far in one sentence, what would it be?

Started trying to do good things, quickly realised everyone was doing similar things - live streams and acoustic covers - and gradually retreated into writing loads of poetry.

Are you doing anything in particular to keep your spirits up?

I've started riding my bike and stopped smoking. You wouldn't recognise me now.

I go off into the countryside, come back and hang out with my family and write poems. What a nice life. There's no better feeling than standing on the lip of Sheffield and looking at the city below you. It's beautiful. And it's downhill all the way home.

Do you have any music, book, film or TV recommendations you'd like to share?

I've been reading Marlon James, a Jamaican author. I read his book A Brief History of Seven Killings, which is about CIA involvement around Bob Marley's death. It's unapologetically patois in the way I'd like to think my lyrics are unapologetically Yorkshire. And it's stunning, so I read a couple of his other books. He's a bit like Faulkner but Jamaican. I'm reyt into him.

Is there a particular restaurant, cafe or pub you're missing, or a local delivery you've enjoyed?

It's not my local, but I fancy a pint of Guinness in Fagan's. With Richard Hawley, if I could, to talk some wisdom at me. That'd be lovely.

After asking for nominations, you've played several private Zoom gigs for individuals during lockdown. How have they been selected and what have their reactions been like?

Some of them were health workers, some were followers I saw online. I just tried to pick people where it might bring a bit of happiness if a band they liked rang up and played them a gig. The first one I did was a bit weird, because it was just me and one guy. I was punctuating all the silences and thinking, "Is this geezer enjoying this?", because obviously you're a bit deadpan on Zoom.

But when I finished the song, he said: "Nice one." I quite enjoyed it, in a way. But after that I said people could invite their friends. I'm still doing the gigs, just [going about it] quietly.

How has the Zoom gig experience been different for you as a performer?

The fact you can talk to people makes it more personal and special for them, I hope. Without being a bighead, you can tell people are fans and that they're buzzing. They might have been to see us at big gigs in the past. As a musician, to think you're making somebody's day - it's the best feeling in the world.

And I love doing it. I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile with my day. You just use whatever tools are at your disposal to try to make people feel all right. There's a lot of rock stars who are more famous than me, and I just think, "You could make people's day easy. Wouldn't cost you nowt to do it. Why don't you? Be nice if you could take an hour to phone Kev in Darlington and play him a tune."

Have you had a chance to work on anything new or revisit old ideas during lockdown? If so, has the current situation influenced the songs?

With the poetry, I've been trying to concentrate on the words and not get distracted by acoustic guitars. I'm really happy with what I've come up with and I'm going to end up writing a dead lyrical album. I've sent poems to a couple of people to see if they want to make a song, because obviously I can't jam with any musicians. It's a different way of working but you've got to work with what you have. [The themes] have been a bit of both. I've been trying to write more humorous lyrics and trying not to overthink it.

I'm looking forward to giving people a party after all this, because it's been a grim time. Next year everyone and their nan's going to be playing gigs, aren't they? But luckily we've got a solid fanbase, and I'm thinking, "Let's give you some live gigs and smash the shit out of it."

Which place in Sheffield do you want to visit most once lockdown rules are relaxed?

I miss being in the studio. Just being there and not having to worry about sitting next to Eddie [Cosens, Makers' guitarist] and playing guitar, being a musician in that way. And it'll be nice to just hug people again! I think it's probably that, more than physical spaces. That's me in 2021. I'll just go around cuddling everybody.

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