Living la vida lockdown!
Former Strypes guitarist Josh McClorey has, since Cavan’s answer to the fab-foursome called it a day, set about forging a successful career as a musician across the Irish Sea. Setting up shop in busy London, the Swellan native will release his first track as a solo-artist, a dulcet cover of The Beatles’ classic ‘Across The Universe’ under his side-project YABOYA, last Friday, May 1.
When speaking to The Anglo-Celt however, Josh was tucked up in more familial and familiar surrounds, back in the Breffni county. He travelled home last month to celebrate his ‘little’ brother’s 21st birthday. It was just before the full extent of travel restrictions both sides of the Irish Sea came into effect and, to avoid any unnecessary drama, he has stayed on. “I definitely feel a lot safer in Swellan the way things have worked out,” he remarks.
In a post-Strypes universe Josh made the move to London almost a full year ago this month. Living with fellow “creatives”- a YouTuber and a musician- he’s made a home for himself in the city’s north west, between the genteel suburban district of Muswell Hill and considerably less-posh Barnet.
Home means home comforts - place to put his array of guitars. He has a home studio there too and, as an added bonus, it’s close to a myriad of transport links. “I feel quite comfortable there now, to the point it’s strange coming back, adjusting to that much slower pace. It’s not something I’m a huge fan of, the speed of London but, when you’ve been in it and leave, you do miss it.”
The relative lockdown has had its benefits. So far as Josh can remember, this is the first time in almost a decade he’s had so comparatively little to do, having been “flat-out” since circa 2011 when he, Ross, Pete and Evan first exploded onto the scene in a flurry of rhythm and blues and snappy suits.
Global success ensued, tour after tour, and three Top 10 hits.
“I’m enjoying Cavan right now,” says Josh, looking out his home window at the colloquially named ‘Ned’s Hill’ where he and his friends would, on freer days, scale and sit for hours chatting with a “bag of cans”.
The past 12 months have been busy for Josh. In that time, he has collaborated with Kodaline, as well as maintaining a close working relationship with Modfather Paul Weller.
Only last October did Weller - The Jam (1976–1982) and The Style Council (1983–1989) - invite Josh to play on his soon-to-be released 15th solo record ‘On Sunset’.
Josh has long since proved his mettle with Weller, riffing as guest guitarist on the last three studio albums - ‘Saturn’s Pattern’ (2015), ‘A Kind Revolution’ (2017), and True Meanings (2018).
The relationship is such that Josh counts the critically-acclaimed and multi-award winning English singer-songwriter a “mentor” of sorts.
Their paths, after all, are not too dissimilar.
Both played in bands which, up to a point, they were best known for before drifting to pastures new. Josh is understandably thankful to benefit from such an experienced guide in one of the trickiest of industries to navigate.
“You have to do ‘you’, and Weller is a testament to that. His whole career, he’s never looked back, he’s never got stagnant, doing something new, something different, while always staying true to himself.”
Working with Weller has also been an eye-opener. “He never stops, he’s always looking for that something more,” explains Josh, who was contacted to play ‘On Sunset’ last August, while he was in Nashville working on a completely separate project with another musician.
“It ended up being a day of doing loads of different things, which is really rewarding personally, seeing him bring such different talents, experiences, styles together. He’s like curator, knowing what and who to pick, and how to use those talents in the best way he can.”
That Weller feeling!
Regardless of their familiarity, Josh still gets that ‘Woah! It’s Weller!’ feeling.
“I’d like to say I’m use to it, cool and all that, but I’m absolutely not. It’s Weller like! This is the dude who, I have his records in the house, and the guy who, when I was younger, I even had my hair cut a certain way... It’s Paul f**kin’ Weller!”
Josh debuted as a solo-artist at last Summer’s Cavan Arts Festival 2019. It was, he muses, still a time of musical exploration for him.
The show, for those who caught it, saw Josh open up an impressive catalogue of original music, much of which has been recorded over the past number of years, and now stored on his laptop in a complicated format of ones and zeros, just waiting to see the light of day.
“They’re ready to go,” says Josh, “... but at a time that’s right.”
Aside from his upcoming release, Josh doesn’t feel it’s the time or space to try to demand an audience when there is so much uncertainty out there.
Instead, he’s happy to release his music as and when he feels fit.
“It doesn’t seem like the right moment to all of a sudden go ‘look at me, over here, I’ve got this music career I want everyone to pay attention to’,” he says, refreshingly candidly. “Obviously it’s important to me, and music and arts is important in general but, in the greater scheme of things, there are bigger things at play. The attention should really be on people who are working on the frontline, keeping the country going.”
When the world does return to some sense of normality, Josh fully intends to push the ‘Go’ button.
“I’ve always wanted to do this, and I’ve made a conscious decision to take my time with it. I don’t want to feel rushed. I want to get it right, and make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons too,” he notes.
Though it might be hard to believe, given his early exposure to the public consciousness, Josh is till only 24. “I’ve the chance to go play with a load of people, learn more, about playing, about how to get things done. I’ve learned a lot from all my experiences, of how not to do things as well, so it’s a journey and one I want to be in control of.”
He adds: “Sometimes you feel the music industry is out of the control of the artist, but working with all the great people I have done has shown me you do see there are other ways, it’s not the end of the world, we can walk our own path. That part’s important to me.”