J.P. Kallio: Northern Boy
By Walter Price
In a sea of singer songwriters thrives a voice someplace between Dave King, Johnny Cash and Tom Waits or perhaps within the sonic walls these names have built up.
This voice belongs to well traveled Dublin based Finnish expat with the name J.P. Kallio. A man who finds comfort and, seemingly, ease in transitioning between music genres. Frontman of the beer stained garage punk outfit Boneyard Bastards and the veteran folk greatness Sliotar.
Then there is his prolific solo works which will find a new album, Northern Boy, coming 25th March.
“My problem is that I write more songs than the both bands put together can put out. And not all of the songs I write are suitable for neither of the bands.” -J.P. Kalio
Kallio is an artist after my own musical heart. Not letting falsely imposed boundaries inhibit him in navigating varied styles of sounds and verse. A hands on craftsman who has taken control of his art’s destiny. Passion, the occasional wink-and-a-smile and always with homegrown goodness.
As I do from time to time, I reached out to J.P. before the new album hits to see if I could find out a bit more about the man of song, coffee and roads well traveled.
This may be an old story but what made you move from Finland to Ireland?
Yeah I do get asked that a lot, and I always try to come up with some entertaining answer, for example “Ireland is the only country where I can call my drinking problem a social life”. But on more serious note, it was definitely the music that attracted me here. Dublin always had very vibrant music scene, whether it was traditional Irish music or up and coming indie rock band. I came for a visit and fell in love with the place, and two years later I moved over.
Your solo work is what led me to your other bands but it seems your bands should have led me to your solo work. How do all your musical endeavors coincide?
Yeah, I do get around a bit. Well, first of all Sliotar is a band that has been on the go for 17 years, I’ve been in the band for 14 years. Even though I do lot of the promotional work for the band, at this point to certain extend it takes care of itself. We have managed to create our own touring circuit. It did take long time, but now it is more a case of making a phone call to organize a tour than trying to sell a product. But I am also one of those people who can never really stop. If I am at home and not playing the night before, I am up at 7am writing songs, promoting music, recording, tweaking websites 10 to 12 hour work days are very common for me. But at the end of the day, I do what I love, so most of the time it does not really feel like work anyway
Boneyard Bastards is a hard driving punk tinged brawl of a band and Sliotar is a grand folk outfit, I sense these varied sounds along with your solo work are extensions of your personality. How far off am I? Or should I ask which sonic genre best describes J.P?
When I am in a band I try to always remember that I am just one component. But having said that I do write lot of the music. I do feel that with the solo project I am finding my own voice more and more. Songs is definitely where my passion is and the more I seem to put myself in the songs, the more people seem to relate to them. I guess when you clear all the smoke, lights and props, underneath it all you’ll find me with my acoustic guitar singing a song
How does it work with your writing, do you write and then work the track into the band it fits best? And are your solo tracks really “songs that spilled out and didn’t find home”?
Well… Yes and no. I do tend to write specifically to a project. So I kind of hear the song and how it would sound with specific project. What I mean by spilled out is that I write a lot of songs. And neither of the bands would be able to put out as many songs as I write. So I needed an outlet for the songs. Also as it is just me behind the solo project, I work on my own schedule and get lot more done. It’s not always easy to get other musicians to work with you 7am.
You clearly have a DIY approach to getting your music heard. How do handle all the ‘hustle’ involved.
First of all, I love the DIY approach. The major label route is rocky road at the best of times, and even trying to replicate it by your self would be waste of time and money. I think with the DIY approach you get to tell your story, be who you are and build a lasting career. It’s little bit hard to explain, but it took me a long time to learn and accept, that the way we see the major acts promote is not the way to go. And once I started to listen to the right people who had been working at the grass root level I started to reach out to more people . It can from time to time feel like the workload is never ending, but with bit of time management I seem to be getting a lot done. And at the end of the day, it is you who did it; you can stand 100% behind everything.
Do you ever have to stop yourself from using your humor when writing songs?
Not really, I manage to write a lot of quite gut wrenching songs, so sometimes it is actually nice to just have a laugh
What’s on the horizon for you?
Well the “Northern Boy” is out on the 25th of March (iTunes, Amazon and all the usual online outlets or my website www.jpkalliomusic.com). I am already working on new set of songs which will be out later this year. We also are about to start work on the new Sliotar album, and we have an E.P. almost finished with Boneyard Bastards. I am hoping to also do a bit of touring on my own to promote the “Northern Boy”. But I am taking my time to organize it, maybe in the autumn. I am doing some singer-songwriter nights here in Dublin, but also Sliotars live schedule keeps me busy. But I’m quite good at keeping a nice balance between all the projects
What would you say was the worst and/or hilarious situation you’ve been in while doing music?I’m a strong believer in learning from your mistakes, so I don’t know if there is anything worse. But for the past eight years we have been touring a lot with Sliotar, so there is lot of stories there. Anything from crossing the Alps on an old Mercedes 608 bus, rough sea crossings where everything in your cabin goes flying in the middle of the night, missed flights, flights we would have been better off missing . I did do one two week tour with a stress fracture on my foot, thinking it was just a strain…Who would be the dream collaboration for you?
Hmm… There are so many. I am a big fan of Tom Waits, so that would be something. But there are so many great songwriters there, that to narrow down the list would be almost impossible. If Johnny Cash was still alive, he would be at the top of that list.
What should the world know about J.P. Kallio?
Not to be scared to get in contact with me. I love talking music, sharing tips on guitars, songwriting, music promotion and life in general. Also my songs are quite life filled and few of them might just touch you, so check them out. When I perform live, I tend to open up my soul to the audience, so the best way to get to know me probably is to come see me perform live.
Thanks for taking time to chat with me. There nothing like an artist with such diversity.
Thank you so much for talking to me, this was fun
Oh, What is J.P. short for?
Jari-Pekka… bit of a mouthful, I know…