The Sunday Interview - Meet the talented Mr. John Deery

Derry singer/songwriter, John Deery.
Derry singer/songwriter, John Deery.

The last few months have been brilliant for Derry musician and singer/songwriter, John Deery.

In late 2013, John and his band ‘John Deery and the Heads’ supported the world famous ‘The Beach Boys’ on stage in Ebrington Square and earlier this month a film he made about mental health was recognised at an international film festival.

John Deery and the Heads.

John Deery and the Heads.

John is perhaps one of Derry’s most talented singer/songwriters and if the next few months are as eventful as the previous few then it’s suffice to say that the world will continue to be John’s oyster.

“I was born in Derry in the early 1980s and grew up in a loving, supportive and musical family along with my sister Trisha and my brother Matt,” recalls John.

“The pianist, James MacCafferty was our grandfather and so we were always surrounded by music and performance growing up. Our mum, Blathnaid, always encouraged us to be creative and we were exposed to painting, drawing and music from an early age, which had a big impact on us, as we all ended up in the creative industries; Trisha is an acclaimed Author / Illustrator who created the ‘Miss Rosie Red’ series and helped to launch Dog Ears Publishing, while Matt is an award-winning illustrator and animator with a string of high-profile acting credits to his name, who also plays guitar in ‘The Heads’.”

Tragedy struck for the Deerys when the children were very young. John’s father died from leukaemia but John recalled how his close family helped his mother and his siblings to cope.

“We were lucky that we had a large supportive family around us and thankfully my enduring memories of my childhood are happy ones, playing outside in the garden, exploring, climbing trees and going to the beach.

“One of my clearest early memories is one of me holding a leopard cub at the circus with my mum and dad when I was about two and a half. I remember the clown coming up and giving me the cub, I was over the moon but judging by their faces in the photo, mum and dad were terrified!” he joked.

John admits that he was bright at school but never recalled ever enjoying the structure of a learning environment.

It wasn’t until John attended the North West Regional College and went on to university that he discovered his great love and passion for music and the creative arts.

“After studying Art and Design at NWRC, I went on to study a Degree in Visual Communication at the Art College in Belfast, specialising in Photography and Design. After a few years of travelling and playing music, I then went on to get a teaching qualification in Glasgow and became a lecturer in Photography, Moving image, Music, Art and Design. I moved back to Derry and got appointed to a lecturing post at NWRC, working alongside great creative people and organisations such as the Nerve Centre and The Playhouse. I have recently completed my Masters at the University of Ulster at Magee, an MDes in Design for Creative Practice, specialising in Photography, Film and Video. This was a very rewarding experience and gave me an opportunity to create a film called ‘DROP’, about mental health and suicide awareness, which was recently showcased at the Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (NIMHAFF) and the Mind Rights Film Festival in Portugal.”

Despite the fact John had immersed himself in a world of creativity and possibility his first love, which was music, would always come first.

“From the early days with my first band, ‘Such As’ and my own early solo career, the music has come a long way I think. After a few years of playing as a solo artist in Scotland I decided I needed to form a band to take it to the next level creatively. I spent six months travelling and writing a new album, sent my brother some demos of new songs from a van in New Zealand and told him we were starting a band when I got back. We brought Stephen Sheridan on board on drums, a one-time bass player for Such As and a dear lifelong friend. We also enlisted the services of the very talented Sean Haslett on Bass and went to France to record our first album ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ (2010) with The Frames’ producer David Odlum. The experience of recording in France was incredible and the album was really well received, helping to put us on the musical map at home. After a couple of years touring with the first album, we recorded and released ‘Horizon’ (2013), to coincide with the Derry City of Culture year. In 2013 we became a five piece, with the addition of Oisin Cannon and when Sean Haslett had to leave due to work and family commitments at the start of 2014, we brought Grahame Bradley in on Bass and Vocals, adding a fourth vocal to the line-up and completing the sound I was always striving to create.

“2014 has been our best year yet, with endless highlights including supporting the Beach Boys at Ebrington Square in June, playing Ralph McLean’s Annual Showcase in the Flowerfield Arts Centre, MTV Crashes, the Other Voices music trail, live sessions with RTE Radio 1 and others, as well as being made Soundcloud’s Artist of The Day earlier in the year.

“We are working on a new album at the minute and have several big gigs planned for 2015, including playing the Millennium Forum on January 17 as part of the ‘Homegrown’ concert.”

He added: “I hope I can continue working in a variety of creative fields, surrounded by interesting and interested artistic people. I love my work and the people I get to interact with every day. I am always looking for the next creative project and will continue to do so as long as I can. I have two young children and if I have one main ambition in life, it is to be the best father and partner I can be to my family.

“Make peace with the past, it’s the past for a reason,

“Nothing permanent lasts, we all pass with the seasons,

“Take the gift of the present and live in the moment,

“Tomorrow is gone before we all know it.” (Lyrics from ‘Nothing Permanent Lasts’, a new song by John Deery and the Heads)

For more information on ‘John Deery and the Heads’ visit the band’s website