How life on the road came to sudden stop for Brighton-based musician Jonny Coote

Brighton-based Jonny Coote has been touring the world for the past few years with Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy.

Jonny Coote
Jonny Coote

It all came to the most sudden of stops.

Like thousands of musicians around the world, he is now back at home.

Jonny, who grew up in Tangmere, went to school in Chichester and now lives in Brighton, has been keyboard player for Dermot Kennedy since early 2018. Kennedy’s career has taken off massively. His first album went straight to number one in the autumn and he was nominated for a Brit award.

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    “A friend of mine was working with Dermot, and he called me on New Year’s Eve 2017 and said ‘What are you doing for the next few months? Would you like to come on tour with Dermot around the world?’

    “Dermot had decided that he wanted an extra keyboard player.”

    Jonny had six or seven days to get ready and just a few days of rehearsals before the first gig, in Paris on January 10 2018.

    The enduring memory of that first date is that Dermot really belts it out: “When we are in rehearsals, Dermot would save himself. It wasn’t until the first gig that I really heard him sing. And he is loud! And I realised just how talented he is.

    “We went around mainland Europe and then we had a bit of a break and then we went around the UK and then across to the States and then finished off with a couple of weeks in Australia and then came back before the festivals started.

    “I have been doing music professionally for about ten years. I was splitting my time between playing in different bands and doing weddings and corporate events. This has been the first time I have been concentrating on doing just one thing. In my calendar, there was stuff for months in advance which is very rare. And when I have time off, it really is time off. I am not just preparing for the next gig.

    “It has been great. And Dermot is great to work with. We have become really good friends.

    “When we have not been doing the big stuff, we have been doing a lot of radio versions where it is all stripped down to just piano and vocal.

    “It works really well. He is just very amicable. We might have ideas and he wants to hear them. He trusts us to deliver his songs to the highest standard. He is very much a perfectionist and wants to deliver the best every time. We are always talking about what works and doesn’t work and how to make it better.”

    And then it all stopped. They were just finishing a tour of the States and were in Michigan on a day off, attending a hotel reception when a call came in that Ohio was banning mass gatherings. Their Cincinnati show had to be rescheduled. Then, in the next hour all the other shows had to be rescheduled. And the next day they were on the plane home.

    “It was completely sudden. At the time we were not completely sure of the severity of the situation and what it was going to mean for us in the long term. But now we are just working on a day to day basis.”

    It is a tough time for musicians: “January and February are generally quiet. There are not that many weddings and so on, so a lot of people will have been thinking that now spring is here, the work will start picking up, but now there is nothing and they are thinking whether they can get money from the government as being self-employed.

    “Most of my friends are just living day by day. They don’t have many savings to fall back on.

    “But I would like to think that we can get back to the way we were.

    “There is going to be a screaming demand for gigs and outdoor concerts. I think there is going to be a great big charge to go out there and listen to music when this is all over.”


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