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Part of Cowes Fringe 2023
John Blek is Cork City born and bred currently residing only a mile or two from his childhood home but listening to his music you can hear the influence of travel and experience. His parents, both of whom were primary school teachers, had to bribe him to stay in school after his 16th birthday with the promise of a new guitar on the completion of his final exams. Such was John’s belief in his ability and chosen path in life that he was willing to forgo the more traditional education sought by his peers.
This conviction carries through to his art. His music is written from such a personal place that it creates the sense that he grew up with these songs, that they are in his blood – and in a way he did, they are his thoughts, his words, his sounds and his stories. Though not all autobiographical, like many of the great painters, an element of the artist exists in every portrait.
It all began for him in the passenger seat of his father's Hiace van. Parked in the driveway running the battery down listening to cassettes from Jim Croce, Willy Nelson and The Beatles. These formative musical experiences unknowingly laid the foundation for John’s self lead musical education. Later the discovery of Bert Jansch, Bob Dylan, Nick Jones and Neil Young added more fuel to his fire. He began writing his own music at 15 for no other reason than that he found it frustrating and false trying to learn and imitate other musicians work. That was the start of his pursuit of his own unique voice.
Blek has a love of music in the real sense, he creates to create. Although only 34 he has a catalogue of music that would represent a life’s work for many musicians. Blek is a career musician, and has dedicated his working life to developing his music. He began his solo career in 2014, and over the last six years has created a reputation as a singer songwriter who is sure to leave a legacy of timeless music that will speak to generations. He has released 7 albums to date [On Ether & Air (2021), Digressions #2 Grounded (2021), The Embers (2020), Thistle & Thorn (2019), Catharsis Vol.1 (2017), Cut the Light (2016), and Cutting Room Floor (2014)]. He speaks about his craft as passionately as he performs and has a dedicated fan base, meaning he has a well-worn path returning to play venues across Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and the UK as well playing to sold out venues in Ireland like Triskel Arts Centre, Whelan’s and The Black Gate Cultural Centre.
In an age when it would be easy to become disillusioned with the music industry John has remained steadfastly positive and unyieldingly creative. Known for being one of Irelands hardest touring musicians the Cork based creative tours relentlessly in Europe and the UK as well as his native Ireland. His live show is thoughtful and entertaining, littered with stories and showcasing his arresting vocals and intricate guitar playing.
While Blek is a solo artist he regularly collaborates, and indeed will write new music with collaborators in mind. As a result, it never feels like another artist is merely gate crashing his music instead it works as a beautiful harmonious meeting of artists who understand each other. Recent collaborations include Cathy Davey and Colm Mac Con Iomaire who play on the soon to be released “Until The Rivers Run Dry” album. Kris Drever & Kit Downes who both join John on his album “On Ether & Air”, Joan Shelley who embodies Laura, one of the characters in Blek’s duet “The Body”, Nathan Salsburg of the Alan Lomax Archive who, with John is currently investigating lesser known folk songs that travelled from Ireland to America in the mid 1800s with the support and funding of the `Arts Council of Ireland and fellow Corkonian Mick Flannery who duets with him on Revived a single from the 2020 album “The Embers”.
“He may refer to it as a digression but it cuts straight to the heart” - Folk Radio UK
“Delicate but powerful album” - 9/10 Maverick Magazine
“A songwriter of rare power and insight and a deliverer of mesmerising and witty liveshows” - R2R Magazine
“Album of the week” - The Late Show, BBC Radio Ulster
“Where Music Matters Playlist” - BBC Radio Ulster
“RTE Recommends Playlist for 3 weeks” - RTE Radio 1“Featured Album” - Iain Anderson, BBC Radio Scotland
“A gem of this new tradition of electro troubadors” - Fatea Magazine
“John Blek’s new album is a thing of great beauty” - 4/5 Folk and Tumble
“Right Moves featured track” - Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2
“What an amazing voice” - Sue Merchant, BBC Radio Cambridge
“I am hugely enamoured with John Blek’s songwriting… An artist you should find outmore about and fall in love with, ‘cause I have.” - Ralph Mclean, BBC Radio Ulster
“A lovely sounding thing” - Roddy Hart, BBC Radio Scotland
“a master of subtlety in realms of folk-informed pop.” - The Thin Air