Jarrod Dickenson returns to Belfast – WHO, WHERE & WHEN
Who? Born in Waco, Texas, Jarrod Dickenson has been perfecting his raw Americana sound on the road since 2008, with Belfast as his adopted home. A far cry from the burger joints and steakhouses in his hometown where he first started, Dickenson and his band now play in venues across the world to a dedicated following hungry for the authentic, delicious pot of blues, folk, rock and country all blended into one.
Describing himself as having ‘kind of jumped around’, Dickenson lists the different places in which he has lived, all seemingly becoming an important, connecting stop in his musical journey. Living in Waco for the first 20 years of his life, the now seasoned musician explains that he didn’t actually pick up a guitar until 18 years of age – ‘I was nearly out of high school so it came on very quickly. I didn’t pick it up until later than most but once I did it took over everything and it was all that I could think about.’
Remaining in Texas, Dickenson moved form Waco to Austin where he went to college. A place known for its eclectic live-music scene heavily centred around country, blues and rock, naturally it swept up the young singer-songwriter who played the music scene here for ‘a good few years.’ From there he moved to Nashville, made his way up to New York for over five years until just over a year and a half ago where he returned to Nashville with his wife Clare (a Belfast native, wouldn’t ya know)
A quick google search of Jarrod Dickenson categorises his music ‘alternative/indie’, something he says he ‘definitely wouldn’t paint with that brush but, y’know, whatever suits.’ Describing himself as the ‘broad umbrella that is Americana’, Dickenson explained the rich, plentiful ingredients that make up such a genre: ‘it is equal parts blues and folk, and rock n roll and soul, and sometimes country – and kind of all these things jumbled together that these days is being labelled Americana.’
To achieve such a rich genre requires a rich list of musicals influences, something the Texas born singer is not short of. Giving special mention to earlier roots like the classic Rock n Roll or RnB of the 60s and 70s, Dickenson provided an extensive list of his musical influences stemming from as far back as his childhood: ‘I grew up with my dad’s record collection and he was a product of the 60s, so all of the classics from the Beatles, the Stones, Paul Simon, Neil Young and Bob Dylan – that was my upbringing and that would still be a huge part of what I listen to on a daily basis.’
As he grew older and went to college Dickenson tells of how his music taste evolved into a more ‘mixed bag’, getting deep into the blues with people such as Muddy Waters and BB King as well as 60s RnB heroes like Otis Reading and Aretha Franklin.
Self-proclaimed as able to ‘spin a yarn with the best of them’, Dickenson has been telling stories with his lyrics since his debut album ‘Ashes on the Ground’ (2010). Since then, he has released two more albums – ‘The Lonesome Traveller’ (2012) and ‘Ready the Horses’ (2017) – the first largely acoustic while the latter is louder, diving ‘straight into the whiskey-soaked worlds of soul and junkyard.’ Across his discography Dickenson’s deep wealth and love of the classic music upon which his favourite genres have been built is incredibly clear, his raw voice beautifully carried by sounds reminiscent of his heroes.
He credits a huge part of his inspiration to his home state, so much so his upcoming EP ‘Under a Texas Sky’ will be the first in a series to pay tribute to the influential musicians of Texas. Up for release on 8th March this year, the first EP will feature reimagined versions of songs by Roy Orbitson, Willie Nelson, Esther Phillips, Doug Sahm and Guy Clarke. Dickenson said it is a project he had thought about doing for a while, noting the importance of your home roots in music – ‘Growing up in Texas you’re aware of the musicians from your home space, and I think anyone who grows up anywhere can take their home for granted. As I’ve travelled around over the years I’ve sort of found myself coming back to my roots and the music that came from where I started, so I thought it would be nice to pay tribute to those artists and get a bunch of friends together to play the songs that I love.’
Where? The Belfast Empire Music Hall, 42 Botanic Ave, Belfast BT7 1JQ
Despite hailing from halfway across the world, Dickenson has probably been around Northern Ireland most than about 60% of its population. Since his first visit to Belfast in 2011 for the 8th Belfast Nashville Songwriter’s Festival, Dickenson has gigged in all the special wee places of Belfast often tucked away to performers. From the Crescent Arts Centre where he played his first gig in 2011, to Laverys (2012), the Black Box (2012, 2013, 2015) the Belfast Barge (2012), the Sunflower (2014) and even Enniskillen Airport for the Harvert Fest, Dickenson has visited more venues in Belfast than some of us may have even heard of. (There’s an airport in Enniskillen???)
Now playing for his 6th time in the Empire on the 24th of this month, Dickenson tells of how the venue is a definite favourite of any venue he has played in Belfast – ‘I love it, it was the first venue I was ever at in Belfast. The first day I was in town I played a gig at the Crescent Arts Centre but went over to see Foy Vance at the Empire and I was not only blown away by his performance, I just fell in love with the venue. It has definitely become a favourite of mine – not just in Belfast but in general. It’s just such a great room and I love the people there.’
Spending most of his time on the road and touring worldwide, it seems Dickenson spends a lot of the time performing in the UK and Ireland, with Belfast a frequent stop. Not only is it because we’re just really dead on, but turns out he has ‘deep ties’ here too. On his second ever trip to Belfast for the Belfast Nashville Songwriter’s Festival, the Texas native met his wife-to-be Clare and they started dating long distance for 3 and a half years. Now happily married for 3 and a half years, Clare is ‘very much a part of the band’, the two both touring and singing on stage together.
Asked about his favourite place to play, Dickenson chuckles ‘Oh man – I’m not too picky, I like anywhere that there’s an audience.’ Speaking of the time he spends here and the UK, he explains ‘we honestly spend most of our time touring in the UK. Just for whatever reason people have kind of latched onto the music, so for the last 5 or 6 years we’ve probably spent half the year every year throughout the UK and NI so it’s been a nice thing for us.’
When? 24th January 2019. 7.30pm. Tickets priced £13.50 here.