The day I first heard Jon Curtis sing, for a minute or two I forgot I was in the London Underground. I may as well have been at a gig at Koko, rather than trudging my way through a sea of impatient commuters during a typical weekday evening at the Euston underground station…
Jon Curtis has over two thousand four hundred ‘likes’ on his Facebook page, which is growing every day!
It was impossible to walk past this busker with a voice akin to Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon) doing what must be one of the most sincere covers I’ve heard of Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol) in a long time. By his guitar case was an A4 sign that said ‘Jon Curtis, iTunes/Facebook. After a Facebook search it was quite clear to me that I wasn’t the only one wondering “WHY ISN’T THIS GUY SELLING OUT STADIUMS WHEN JUSTIN BIEBER IS?” Jon Curtis had found himself a significant fan base of commuters (or rather they found him) and his name is clearly doing the rounds on Social Media. Fan-made videos of him busking were uploaded on to YouTube and as of now Jon Curtis has over two thousand four hundred ‘likes’ on his Facebook page, which is growing everyday!
Originally from Trinidad, Jon packed up his bags and came to London in the hope of making his name in the international music scene. That was six years ago. It’s been an uphill climb for this aspiring singer-songwriter but one he embraces with a sense of opportunity and freedom. When I met up with Jon at a Cafe near St. Paul’s he surprised me with his confidence and uncompromising attitude.
“When I came here I had a voice but didn’t have any soul. Coming here, after two months I despised all the content I had written. It was all sheltered, unexposed…” Jon said
No sob story. No chip on his shoulder. Instead, here was someone who knew what he wanted, where he wanted to be and clearly had no intention of selling himself short to get there. “In the Caribbean it’s easy to be an entertainer but not easy to be an artist,” he said when asked about what made him risk leaving everything he’d achieved at home, where he was lead singer of a successful band, performing in front of thousands, to come to London and start from nothing. This idea of being an artist and not simply an entertainer seems very important to Jon. Perhaps it is this that makes his journey all the more difficult, particularly in a music business where glamour and entertainment value seem to be the X factor. But it is this quiet integrity that characterises his voice and his music. “When I came here I had a voice but didn’t have any soul. Coming here, after two months I despised all the content I had written. It was all sheltered, unexposed…” Jon said, referring to the first album he’d recorded and brought with him. He wrote new songs and now has two albums to his name, and the third album is now available on iTunes. Jon’s music ranges from, alternative/pop rock to post-grunge.
Having migrated to London under an Artist’s visa, Jon had very few options to work with. On the other hand he had no intention of being a part-time singer, with a 9 to 5 day job, singing in pubs at night. This somewhat stubborn unwillingness to compromise led Jon to busking. One would think busking is someone’s last resort. For Jon it was a choice, and an easy one at that. He taught himself to play guitar, and obtained a busking licence. When booking a pitch Jon makes his picks carefully, considering its traffic flow, acoustic setting and even the general nature of commuters.: “at Piccadilly Circus for instance, people are always happy.” In busking Jon finds a certain kind of freedom to try anything and experiment as an artist. It gives him the opportunity to make a living through his art and he’s been lucky enough to have touched some people’s lives. But at the worst of times, it can be harsh and heart-breaking, he admits.
“sometimes I feel like if I stop busking, that I won’t be able to keep the confidence that people have invested in me going.”
Jon doesn’t necessarily consider himself as a “struggling artist”. He’s also written songs for some independent films and hopes to go to university in the near future. But he’ll keep on writing and recording, of course!
When asked about how he feels seeing all the compliments and messages on his Facebook page, something that isn’t the norm for the average busker, he smiles and says “sometimes I feel like if I stop busking, that I won’t be able to keep the confidence that people have invested in me going.”
Jon Curtis fights against our preconceptions of street artists, proving everyday that an artist is an artist, whether his stage is the O2 arena or the London underground.
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joncurtismusic
- MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/joncurtismusic
- iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/inside-looking-out-ep/id326746646