Tag Archives: Beerjacket

Beerjacket Revisited

Another of my articles for the Scotsman’s Under the Radar blog.
Since we last visited west coast singer/songwriter Peter Kelly, his Beerjacket bandwagon has been steadily gaining converts on both sides of the Atlantic.

After achieving critical acclaim with his album Animosity, Kelly admits his biggest challenge has been writing material which betters his previous oevre.

“I had horrendous writer’s block and have only just stopped banging my head off the wall. No matter how many times you experience writer’s block, you always think that, this time, you are absolutely finished and will never write another song,” Kelly tells us.

At one stage, there were no live shows for several months and only one song – ‘Island’ – written in the second half of 2009. Kelly even scrapped all his new work in frustration. “However, I then discovered most of what I’d written was great and it was me that wasn’t up to standard,” he says.

Thankfully, Beerjacket is now back doing what he does best.

“Things are now going really well and I’m excited by what I’m producing. I’m starting to piece together the jigsaw of my next record,” he adds.

As a solo artist, Kelly creates introspective songs full of emotion and wonder – this is the essence of his singular vision. But he is still asked about plans to add new members to Beerjacket.

His response? “People never ask bands the opposite – do you plan on losing anyone? Likewise, people never ask a policeman, ‘why are you not a chef’?”

Kelly’s perfectionism may well be the root of his periods of creative insecurity, but it’s reassuring to know that compromise is not on the agenda. When his new work begins to emerge, the benefits of his single-minded approach should be clear for all to hear.

Beerjacket’s next live show – his first in seven months – takes place at Oran Mor, Glasgow on 18 June.

• Beerjacket on MySpace
• Beerjacket on Last FM
• Beerjacket on Twitter
• Beerjacket on Bandcamp

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In the spotlight – Beerjacket

Becoming a singer/songwriter, on the face of it, seems easy. Get a guitar, learn a few minor chords, let some feelings out.

However, once you have seen it done well, you realise how much talent is actually required. There is no hiding place when you do everything on your own, and there are few in Scotland right now who do it better than Peter Kelly.

Beerjacket, the name of Kelly’s homemade solo project, very nearly disappeared soon after it began. It started in 2004 “as a goodbye to music…a bitter farewell show”, after which he planned to stop for good. Thankfully, enough people liked the show to keep the project alive and, five years on, Beerjacket is still going.

Peter Kelly aka Beerjacket

Peter Kelly aka Beerjacket

Although he plays most of his live shows in Glasgow, Kelly says he can’t claim to be a Glasgow musician as he doesn’t spend much time there. Instead, “Beerjacket happens alone in a toy room in Lanarkshire,” he says.

His most recent album, Animosity, is a return to simplicity after Kelly felt previous work had become overcomplicated. The songs have the classic singer/songwriter appeal: simultaneously sad and uplifting. ‘Violent’ and ‘Drum’ perfectly sum up the honest tone of the album, whilst ‘The Gun’ is moralistic without any accompanying righteousness.

The album attains considerable diversity in its ten tracks too, especially on ‘Evil Air’, which adds colourful bluesy edges thanks to some neat slide guitar work.

The stripped-down, back to basics approach is certainly noticeable; Kelly describes his set-up as “one the most primitive you’re likely to find – acoustic guitar, vocal and foot-stomped tambourine”. The one-to-one feel of this minimal intervention policy gives his lyrics more immediacy.

There is also something hugely appealing about an artist who has decided to go it alone. As Kelly says, “I have opened for many of my heroes like Feist, The National, Kristin Hersh, Rilo Kiley and Arab Strap, released six albums and received airplay all over the world. And all this without a manager, PR, publisher, record label, agent or other band members to thank or blame.”

Kelly is also keen to praise those he has worked with: “I’ve been fortunate in playing with many of my influences. They have all inspired me”. The Second Hand Marching Band opened a show for him recently and also played along on a Beerjacket cover, which pleased Kelly to the extent that he forgot the words to his own song.

If comparisons are to be made, then the most obvious, in terms of style, seems to be Elliott Smith. But the tagline of ‘the new Elliott Smith’ has weighed heavily, usually unhelpfully, on many artists before. Kelly’s work stands alone perfectly well.

In a cluttered genre, Beerjacket has emerged as one of Scotland’s best singer/songwriters. Going it alone is a brave decision, but his work demands recognition. Wherever he goes next, it is sure to be well worth following.

The new Beerjacket album Animosity was released digitally on 8th June on iTunes, eMusic, LaLa and Amazon MP3. A limited edition digipack CD of the album will be in independent record shops soon.

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