Jon Green’s career to date has been as eclectic and varied as the nationalities and fortunes of his beloved Arsenal football team. A quick glance around the aspiring singer-song writer’s boudoir leaves one in no doubt, as to the dual passions prevalent in his life. “Music and football are intertwined these days. Football stars have become superstars themselves.” Music industry equipment – headphones, mikes, a guitar or two and shelves stacked with Stereophonic CDs – are juxtaposed alongside Gunners’ memorabilia. From defiantly red, flashy footwear - "Freddy (as in Ljungberg the ex Arsenal striker/Calvin Klein model) has a pair”- to the much loved replica kit and Tom Watts' weighty read 80 Years on Arsenal’s North Bank. Even the few nonfiction books adorning the wooden shelves are straight out on the Nick Hornby canon (that popular literary phenomenon and lifelong gunner who found fame with Fever Pitch, a novel appropriately charting the life of an avid Arsenal fan).
A wealth of photographs clutters every available surface and follows a similar theme. Jon’s father, Laurence, is enthusiastically embracing the North London club’s silver wear. Move along and older brother Daniel has been snapped tangled up in trophies. One down and the trio beam out of an oak frame like cats that got the cream. It’s May 2002 and Arsenal have ‘done the double’ storming both the Premiership and Champions League.
The threesome – Jon’s Jewish parents are divorced yet remain incredibly close, speaking on the phone virtually every day – live together, albeit somewhat snugly – in Laurence’s modern Rickmansworth flat. The bachelor pad makes for a study in contradictions. Given the absence of women, the joint has an overwhelmingly feminine feel. The matching blue and cream colour theme, which runs throughout, lends the place a fabulously fresh vibe; the varnished floors and pristine cream carpets completing the effect. A tour of the immaculate kitchen reveals an oven looking as if it has barely been used. It transpires that it hasn’t. “No need. Not with M&S Simply Food two minutes walk away.” Open the fridge door, however, and find yourself faced with the unavoidable fact that despite the flat’s female friendly aura – courtesy of a top female interior designer recommended by Jon’s mother, Elaine, - the set up is straight out of Men Behaving Badly. Its beer and biscuits all the way with an oversized cartoon of peach and grapefruit juice the one token nod to a healthier lifestyle.
For the time being at least, the living arrangements seem to suit but surely young would-be music maestros aren’t supposed to hang out with their old man? In answer, Jon injects that both his parents “are fantastic.” His father remains his number one fan. “I can count on one hand, the number of gigs he’s missed.”
It’s all the more impressive when you consider Jon’s manic schedule (for the record our ‘chat’ has been rearranged no fewer than three times.) Anything but idle, at the time of typing Jon should be pulling up in Portsmouth before haring to Horsham. Tomorrow will see Jon charge to Chelsea before onto Kingston and later Leeds. He admits that “when you are literally in the car all the time, it can be depressing.”
As well as his own gigs, Jon currently cruises up and down the country covering corporate functions, weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs as part of a big band in order to earn his keep. “I take these gigs because I need the money and it hones your performance, but six months down the line you think wait a minute. I haven’t been doing any of my own stuff.”
Fortunately, thanks to a privileged public school upbringing, Jon is able to avoid a routine day job. (“I was at Telstar for 18 months, but couldn’t do it. It sounds pompous but sitting at a desk all day isn’t for me.”) While he carves up the floor at night, he spends his days focusing on writing and recording. “I’m trying to keep my fingers in as many pies as possible. I could do with a day off, but I am young and committed to making it.”
Aha. Making it – those famous words. How does one make the breakthrough, given that the music industry is moribund right now? How to make that unassailable jump from circuit wannabe to stadium filling superstar? “Initially, it’s all about luck.” While it seems criminal to write Green off as past his sell by date at a mere 30 years of age, music stars today are becoming increasingly more pubescent. Jon, however, points out that such ‘stars’ never last. “It’s about luck, but if you want to last you need to be prepared to work bloody hard and have the talent too.”
Talent is something this engaging young man has. Remarkably cooperative, he is genuinely pleasant and willing to give this interview the same effort and energy he puts into his musical labours. He has an album to plug, of course, which is why our conversation is taking place. Yet there is no trace of the self regarding “serious artiste” tortured by the depths of their work. Instead he oozes charisma. Jon’s conversation is peppered with “absolutely” as he sets the tone straightaway and his appeal lies in his regular guy persona.
Effortlessly cool, clad in Diesel jeans, the ubiquitous white t-shirt and an old style jacket – “my Dad’s menswear background shining through” – his style screams “smart with a rock edge, nothing too over the top. I don’t like to premeditate it, for if you start thinking about it too much it looks contrived.”
Yet while Jon has style, he also has substance. Born 27 March 1979, Green got his first guitar lesson on his seventh birthday. At 11, he was deemed good enough to join his brother’s band Young Guns. The group became a popular piece playing at school discos and the like in the local area. After achieving three A levels, Jon and his fellow band members decided a music career was their goal and so Boy Done Good was born during university years.
The name Boy Done Good nearly became a self fulfilling prophecy. The band won a coveted Dream prize – with Jon’s lungs and strong crowd leashing lyrics attracting the attention of established acts such as The Bluetones. Yet after three years at LIPA – Sir Paul McCartney’s Performing Arts School - Jon left the band to go solo. It’s a decision he still feels some guilt over, but one that left him free to take up offers of a string of bookings at respected venues like the renowned London Kashmir Club.
Jon made it to the final 20 of Fame Academy, before being shown the door. But what does he really think of the reality television show? “Fame Academy had the potential to be more earnest than Pop Idol, but ended up being the same in that the songs are not particularly challenging. At the auditions the producers stressed that the focus was going to be on song writing and ability but at the end of the day.... It’s good television but whether it produces quality stars is another question. I felt the judges were arguing for the sake of it, trying to compete with Pop Idol, rather than worrying about the content of the programme.”
He describes his debut solo album Songs in the Key of You as “more honest. Though in terms of sound, it could be even rawer. I have loads of new tracks that I can’t wait to record and they will contain some shocks and treats.” His album is being whispered about as being remarkably assured cornucopia, showing Jon is no one trick pony. Accessible enough for Radio 2 to feature, commercial enough for Capital, while sufficiently cutting edge to be granted nods of approval by the alternative stations.
However, having been raised on a diet of stadium rock - “Springsteen and the Stones were playing every time I got in my Dad’s car” – Jon’s forte remains loud, life affirming light rock; melodic anthems that you can hum after one listen. “I love that music. It’s passionate and not pretending to be anything that it isn’t. It’s always about great songs. Today people rely so much on production that there is no real song. It’s just about the beat. You need a good hook.”
Jon has a lot going for him but a glance at the Top 40 reveals that the trend is against him. As a white middle class male who knows what a major key is, a gifted multi-instrumentalist who can actually write and sing his own music is deemed unfashionable.
Times are tough. Many an artist has flown off only to return with their wings fatally clipped. Yet you get the feeling that Jon Green could prove the exception and swim to the surface. Watching him on stage a couple of days later, his joie de vivre is clearly illustrated every time he picks up a microphone. It’s his ability to build a rapport with the public – a quality that cannot be faked – which makes him a candidate for the long haul.
Confidence or cockiness, call it what you will, but the boy has belief. “I’m extremely confident in my ability and confident that I will make it either as singer or as very successful songwriter for other artists.”
Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain. Come three o clock on Saturday afternoon, Jon will be watching Henry at Highbury. “I get the same buzz from footy, as I do at a gig,” says Jon.
With that parting shot, this thoroughly decent, articulate 30 something slings his bag over his shoulder and exits his father’s flat. His father would never dream of taking money from Jon right now, but the likelihood is that Laurence is rewarded by him in far more valuable ways.
Songs in the Key of You is available from www.chocolaterecords.com