The Irish punk pop rocker follows his Irish number one with new single Imagery, out on 8 July. He tells Big Issue North how he accidentally got into music after releasing a music video promoting Irish marriage equality.
Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
I have very diverse influences, from the pop world of Abba, Spice Girls and Madonna to the punk and rock worlds of the Ramones, Nirvana and Metallica and the Sex Pistols. My sound is punk pop rock, or as I like to call it, rainbow rock. I’m an eighties kid at heart but if the tune has a sick groove, I’m in.
How have you evolved as a musician over the years?
I have only been doing this for just over a year, since the marriage equality referendum in Ireland, when I decided to do a music video to promote the Yes vote. My version of Love Will Tear Us Apart was the number one rock song of the referendum.
Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?
No, sorry to disappoint. It’s just my name although I have four fabulous musicians behind me now who I hope to continue working with. I love coming up with band names though. If I had to have a new band name I would go for JD Kelleher and the Maestros or JD Kelleher and the Lads.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I have completed half of my album, The Ugly Tree, which will be out in the autumn, I hope. It’s a 10-song album, a mix of original tunes, written for me by my buddy and soulmate Peter M Smith, who duetted with me on Love Will Tear Us Apart and some reinterpretations of classic tunes like the Rolling Stones Let’s Spend the Night Together and Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U. I like taking a well-known tune and giving it a funky new twist for the new generation. The original tunes, like my current single Imagery, are all about my life and work as a gay artiste. The message of my music is to always be true to yourself and to follow your passion.
How to you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
Hmmm… my background is as a theatre actor so I have, I suppose, a good instinctive knowledge and training in how to communicate with and entertain a live audience. I sing with my whole body and my show is very physical and quite visual. Making a connection to the audience is very important to me.
What’s on your rider?
I’m pretty easygoing and don’t make demands. I will work with whatever the situation presents. If everyone isn’t having fun what’s the point? Music is about giving, not taking. My show and my music are as much about you as they are about me. Be the rock star of your own life.
Tell us about your worst live show.
That would definitely be Manchester not so long ago. I won’t mention the venue but we arrived, all five of us, ready to break the house down but we were mistakenly booked into a very small room, like a kindergarten classroom, which could only cater to an acoustic set. It was tiny and had no atmosphere at all. Apparently they thought I was one guy with his guitar and nothing could be further from the truth. Singing and the notes are important to me but when you come to see my concert you get A SHOW and it’s LOUD. I want to move you, I want you to want to come back for more. I want you to shout YEAH! I want to make you believe in music again. For what else is there really?