Virtuoso Irish Guitarist Joe Hodgson Releases Electrifyingly Diverse Instrumental Album ‘Apparitions’
Growing up in rural County Tyrone, Northern Ireland at the height of The Troubles, music provided a young Joe Hodgson with a way to temporarily escape the bleak circumstances around him, where incidences of bombings and shootings were an everyday occurrence. His love of the guitar was ignited after discovering Irish blues-rock legends Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore, and he rapidly became obsessed with the instrument, honing his craft in local bands. Joe subsequently moved to London where he spent two decades writing, recording, touring, and playing lead guitar in various bands and projects, before returning home and beginning work on a solo career. After releasing two widely acclaimed singles in 2020, ‘The One that got Away’ and the double A-side ‘Serena Sonata’ and ‘Bareback Blues’, Joe is now preparing to unleash his full-length studio album ‘Apparitions’. The album is a meditative and soul-searching collection of guitar-led instrumentals, with Joe’s compositions being influenced not only by personal experiences but also by a love of literature and a deep curiosity about the human condition.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR LATEST MUSIC VENTURE?
Well I’ve just released my debut solo album, ’Apparitions’, which is comprised of 15 self-penned instrumentals. I began working on it when I returned to Ireland to nurse my Mum after she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. It was almost a coping mechanism to deal with the pain of seeing her life slip away before my eyes. She was always my biggest supporter and fan, and she always encouraged me to play music and never to give it up. The title of the album came from her favourite poem, ‘Apparitions’, by W.B. Yeats, and coming at what was a crossroads in my life, it became a very introspective and reflective body of work. I was thinking a lot about the past and realising it was time to leave a lot of it behind and look to the future. From a stylistic point of view, I wanted to mix it up a little more than I’d done in the past, where most of my recordings had been purely rock stuff. This time I wanted to explore everything that had ever influenced me, so you’ll hear elements of the blues, jazz, funk, and Latin music in various tracks throughout the album. It was also the first album I’d produced solely by myself, so all in all it was quite a big undertaking, but one which gave me immense satisfaction to do.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MOST CRUCIAL ARTIST INFLUENCES?
Well, Rory Gallagher was the person that made me wanna play the guitar. I was lucky enough to see him play live and he was just mesmeric. As well as being a brilliant guitar player, he was also the ultimate showman. Growing up, I was heavily into Led Zeppelin, and to this day they’re still my favourite band. I used to listen to a lot of American guitar players too, and I was a big fan of people like Randy Rhoads, Neil Schon and of course Eddie Van Halen. But my ultimate hero and biggest influence was Gary Moore. He is by far my favourite guitar ever and, in my humble opinion, the greatest of all time. He was a complete master of every style and, and you would hear all these different styles seep through into his playing. I agree with Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple when he says Gary was one of the most innovative guitar players ever. It’s sickening that he doesn’t get the recognition he should get, especially in America. But I love all sorts of music, and I’m a huge fan of really melodic bands like ELO and The Eagles. I also love lots of soul and Motown stuff. It’s all crucial, and it all influences me in different ways.
YOUR FIRST SINGLE FROM THE ALBUM, “THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY” IS A DEEPLY EMOTIONAL INSTRUMENTAL TRACK THAT REALLY RESONATES WITH AN EVENT IN YOUR LIFE. CAN YOU TELL US ANY MORE ABOUT IT?
Ah yeah, it’s the classic break up track. It was the very last track I wrote for the album, and it came about after I split up with this girl who was also my manager. It’s a documentation, a snapshot if you like, of how I was feeling at the time. But as the end of the video shows, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, always a new path. So it’s not doom and gloom, it’s of the moment. I’m not the sort of person to wallow for long, I’ll channel something like that into my music, then it’s a case of just shaking yourself up, getting back in the saddle again, and not being a wimp.
WAS THERE A MOMENT OR A TURNING POINT IN YOUR LIFE WHERE YOU DECIDED THAT GUITAR WOULD BE YOUR WEAPON OF CHOICE?
As I mentioned, it was Rory Gallagher who first ignited my desire to play guitar. But the day that changed my life was hearing Gary Moore play at the Monsters Of Rock festival in Castle Donington. I was just a kid and the gig was billed as the great showdown between Eddie Van Halen and Gary Moore as to who was the top dog, the ultimate gunslinger out there. Gary definitely won that day, it was incredible actually, and it had such an effect on me. From then on I knew exactly the path in music I wanted to follow, and exactly the type of guitar player I wanted to be. I’m still trying to get there, but it’s getting closer…
WHAT PARTICULARLY INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE APPARITIONS ALBUM? IS IT A CONCEPT ALBUM, OR IS EACH TRACK ABOUT SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE WRITING ASPECT?
My desire to finally get down on record what I’d been hearing in my head for years was the prime motivation. Then, of course, the circumstances surrounding my mother’s illness and death affected my writing and influenced me hugely. I wanted to pay homage to her and all she’d done for me. I think because of that, there’s a real intensity to the music, lots of contrasting moods, and a lot of light and shade throughout. It’s conceptual in many ways in that a lot of my thinking was about how nothing ever stays the same, and how everything either changes or decays. And of course, the reality that you gotta somehow keep looking forward. But it’s not a gloomy album, there are many uplifting and fun moments. I think I’ve struck a good balance. Each track reflects an experience in my life up until now, and although there are no vocals on the album, there is a personal story behind every song. But you know something, I’d rather people just listen to the songs and get whatever they get from it all themselves. That’s the great thing about instrumental music, you can let it take you wherever you want it to.
HOW HAS BEEN THE REACTION TO THE ALBUM SO FAR?
I’ve had a really great reaction so far, with lots of really great reviews and comments from people in general. I think people can feel the emotion in the playing, and even if it’s not quite their bag, they know it’s genuine music and it comes from the heart. I think what surprises many people is the variety in the tracks. There is a whole melting pot of soundscapes going on, and it does keep listeners on their toes.
WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND YOUR ALBUM?
It’s available to download on all the major platforms, and cd copies are available directly from my website www.joehodgsonmusic.com There’s also a documentary out there at the moment called ‘Who The **** Is Joe Hodgson?”, which charts the highs and lows of my music career up until now. If you want a better insight into what I’m about, give this 35 minutes of your time 😉