This Brit is One of Our Best Soulmen

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It’s no question that Jon Cleary’s been a soulful mainstay on the New Orleans music scene for over 20 years. Born to a music playing family, hailing from a small farming community in Great Britain, LBJ got a chance to catch up at his Bywater home, and he told us what led to him coming to New Orleans. Cleary says, "I wanted to come to New Orleans, because I grew up hearing stories about this place from my uncle John who had lived here. And I had various family members that had come out to visit him, some of whom had stayed for a little while. New Orleans was important in family anyway because my mom and dad were big fans of New Orleans music." Jon doesn’t remember just when he first started to play, but the first instrument he took to was not the piano, "I got my first guitar when I was about 6, I suppose. My hands weren't big enough to play my dad's guitar, and I was playing it, but it a giant on me but he knew I was interested, so he got me a little guitar about this big." Jon’s education in New Orleans music continues on that first trip here as he had the good fortune of hearing both Earl King and James Booker ‘live’ on his first week in town. A few years later, he had to return to England, but had the good fortune of playing guitar on a Dr. John tour in Great Britain. He’s called New Orleans home since then, and even today draws on our history to write songs. "It's good to be able to delve back into the rich, treasure trove that is the past history of New Orleans R & B or music around the big wide world", says Cleary. As for his songwriting, he talks of the various complex filters and personal experiences one uses to develop songs, but also the simplicity of everyone having the same tools to write, "There's only, look...look how few notes, that's the amount of notes there are. That's all you're working with, repeated over and over again, but that's it." Jon and his band, The Absolute Monster Gentlemen have an upcoming tour of Japan and Hawaii, but according to him, there’s nothing like playing at home, "We just came back off a tour last Friday, and we had a great tour, great audiences, but there's nothing like playing here in New Orleans. Just the way people, everyone dances here. You play some dance music everyone dances. A lot of other places, you have to gradually coax them out of their seats."