Jilly St. John on Music, Life and Wyldling
January 1, 2012 Chris Caldwell 0 Comments
She’s been a model, she currently writes a column for YourDerry magazine, she organises and promote gigs and she’s even tried her hand at interviewing and presenting. Oh and occasionally she finds time to sing. Her previous band No Mean City created a huge buzz and won a slot through The Redbull Bedroom Jam, ultimately leading to playing on-stage at major festivals around the UK such as Download and T in the Park. You might have heard of Jilly St. John but pretty soon she’s going to make sure you know the name Wyldling.
So a lot of people will know you from No Mean City, now you’re launching your own new band WYLDLING. So what have you been up to in the mean while?
It seems like yesterday since we were gigging in every nook and cranny in the country with NMC but it has been little over a year since the split! When we did split I immediately started looking for musicians to try and get a new band together, but that proved to be tougher than I’d anticipated. It’s been difficult trying to find people with the same mindset as myself. I don’t think they realise what goes into making a band a career until they try it for themselves. It takes over your life and not everyone’s prepared for that. To make it my career has always been my goal. I decided to stay within the scene in order to keep my finger on the pulse. It wasn’t hard for me, as a band on the border of the spotlight on the NI scene I got a lot of acts looking for gigs and advice based on our own quick rise. So, it was win win for me. I got to maintain my profile and help out a number of amazing bands who maybe weren’t receiving the attention they should have been. This encompassed the ‘Rocks Off’ venture at Masons Bar which was aimed towards showcasing a certain standard of NI based bands and introducing new ones based on merit & quality alone.
There is such a wealth of talent here in NI and I really felt the scene had stagnated in terms of what was being presented to us through other mediums. The aim is the same with the YourDerry section. Whilst I really enjoy this side of the scene though, I started to get the itch to perform myself again. It got to the point where I realised if I waited on the right people, I could be waiting for some time and time is precious to me. So I decided to just go ahead and start writing music again with friends only too aware that my musical existence could potentially only be online, but I had a plan for that scenario too *laughing*. Luckily though I’m writing with friends with the aim to go live in the not too distant future. It just seemed to fall into place naturally and I’ve never been more ready.
What can people expect from this new music and how does it differ from No Mean City?
I can only answer this question from my individual perspective of course. Given that I was and am the primary lyricist and performer for both these acts, I think it’s natural that there will be some similarities. When it comes to stage performance, I think anyone would find it difficult to present themselves so abstractly different in terms of such a strong personality. I’m more aware of how strong that personality is now. Having said that, I feel there has been a massive amount of growth within myself in terms of writing. I think the fact that I’m more in control within Wyldling has allowed that to happen. When there are many writers there is always a lot of compromising involved, to ensure everyone is happy with what they are putting out there. I don’t really like to compare the two as I’m very proud of both of them.
Wyldling, to me, is hooky, gritty and large! A culmination of rock and electro mainly, but I hope to experiment with sounds in the future. It’s a sexier, more mature me!
So who or what is Wyldling?
The project does present itself currently as a solo act but there are other people involved on a collaborative level. I really hope that they can join me on stage when the time comes. It’s partly the reason I decided to use the name ‘Wyldling’ as opposed to putting myself out there as ‘Jilly St John’. It provides myself, and my collaborators, with flexibility in terms of the set up; whilst crediting all those involved as they can lend themselves to the umbrella. Everyone wins. As for my collaborators? All will be revealed in due course!
What influences have spurred on the new project?
There are sooo many different influences for me! I love music as a whole and listen to everything from soul and motown to hip hop and electro right through to metal, ska and everything that falls in between. My only criteria being that it’s good, actually good. I like music that you can feel in your bones, be it through a bad ass bass line or heart felt relatable lyrics. I like honesty within music. I think it’s really important that you can connect to what you’re listening to and/or performing. As far as direct influences go for Wyldling, I’ve not set out to sound like anything else in particular, I like to separate a little for that. You need something different to allow you room to stand out. It’s very important to me that no one can pin point it to sounding like one artist. The only potential direct influences are feelings and situations within my own life, that and the fact that I love a HUGE gritty sound that you can really rock out and get your teeth into!
What are the advantages and challenges of operating from Derry and Northern Ireland in general?
Wow, where to begin? I think the size of NI in general is a massive advantage, in that if you really work hard and you have what it takes you can easily become a big fish in a small pond. Which is fantastic, when NI gets behind you they really do it with gusto. I feel though that there is a hidden danger to this. When surrounded by so much praise and publicity here, it can make the transition outside NI to the UK and Ireland a difficult one. Why would you wanna sleep in a van and play to two people when you can fill a venue with adoring fans at home? Not to mention the expense involved when starting all over again on the mainland UK. I’ve seen a few acts fall prey to this and come home disheartened, only to be lifted up again in NI. They then never leave, which is a shame. You gotta take the rough with the smooth and keep going.
Then there’s the flipside to the NI scene. Those who aren’t recognised for their talent and support. It’s quite a tight circle that operates within NI, particularly within the Belfast scene, and it can be difficult to infiltrate to say the least and more so if you aren’t from there or have connections there. However, I’ve noticed a small change in this recently. Small, but change none the less, change is good.
How much of a part does social media and networking play when trying to launch a band like Wyldling?
We live in an age where our lives generally revolve around social media be it in your personal life or as a business. The whole world seems to be online. Given this lifestyle revolution I feel that social media has never been more important for bands and artists and even more so for young acts. There are pros and cons to this, the first and foremost pro being that you can directly contact those who seemed to be out of reach within the industry only a decade or so ago. In the past bands and artists had to rely on being at the right place at the right time and being “discovered”, whereas you can now be more proactive about who you want to hear your work.
This also has had it’s downside though in that acts have become more dispensable, due to the sheer number of them out there. The labels don’t have to search anymore, they have bands approaching them with ready built fan bases and the rest of it. The reason social media is so important to me personally is due to the fact that without fans we’d all essentially be nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be writing for my own pleasure if they weren’t there as it’s my passion, my love; however without demand and support there would be no bookings, press interest. It’s like “If a tree falls in the forrest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound” conundrum. For me, it has paid off to be in touch with those interested in what I’m doing and to provide that personal touch, besides, I love those people. Without them I would never have achieved half of what I have so far. I’m forever indebted!
Who are your NI “ones to watch” for 2012?
I’ve come across a wealth of talent over 2011, some of which are sadly no longer together and some of which are brand new on the scene. I think I’m gonna mention a couple actually! Dying Breed are a brand new band from the north coast who I discovered only a few weeks ago, I was so bowled over by their huge sound and versatile vocals straight away! I think if they work hard they could make some great developments this year. Sons Of Calibre, from the greater Belfast area, are currently working on their debut release and I got a sneak peek, it’s beautiful! Last but absolutely not least, for me it’s got to be Derry act Intermission! Now some people may say I’m biased with this act *laughing*, but I’d like to take this opportunity to say that before I knew them as friends I was always in awe of their talent. ‘Kharma 45’?? That came before I got to know these boys. They really have come into their own in the last year with the evolution of their sound and performance skills. They are growing and evolving all the time and the interest is definitely picking up the pace! Finally! Frontman Glenn is like a one man orchestra! I think this could be their year!
Also watch out for a band called Wyldling. MEGA! Haha!
What’s next for Jilly St. John and Wylding ?
In the immediate future I’ll be concentrating on getting ready for the live shows with the band which I’m aiming to have ready by the early spring of this year. After that… who knows? I’m ready for it to go all the way and will be aiming towards making that happen! It’s gonna take a lot of hard work and perseverance, but I’m built for it! *laughing*