While Northern Irish guitarist Joe Hodgson is an accomplished student of the bluesy hard rock he grew up on, it’s his ability to transcend the genre and use his instrument to paint pictures and tell stories that makes him such a vital artist. His compositions are influenced not only by personal experiences, but also by a love of literature and a deep curiosity about the human condition, and are filled with stirring melodies that can evoke the listener’s deepest emotions.

The early years

Growing up in rural County Tyrone, Northern Ireland at the height of The Troubles, music provided a young Joe with a way to temporarily escape the bleak circumstances around him. His love of guitar was ignited after discovering Irish blues legend Rory Gallagher, and shortly after he managed to procure his first instrument, a battered old second hand Woolworth’s Top Twenty guitar. The day that changed Joe’s life for good though, was when he saw another Irish great, Gary Moore, play at he UK Monsters Of Rock Festival.  Joe recalls, “I was blown away by the sheer brilliance of Gary’s playing on every level, and from that moment on, all I wanted to do was play guitar.” A hobby quickly turned into a passion, and Joe became obsessed with the instrument, spending all of his free time absorbing the popular hard rock and blues of the day, and gigging around Ireland with his first band Steel Claw.

Moving to London

When the band split up, Joe moved to London where he integrated himself into the city’s thriving indie scene, spending the next two decades writing, recording, touring, and playing lead guitar in various rock bands, releasing numerous albums and singles along the way, and collaborating with an eclectic mix of songwriters on varied musical projects. During his time in London, Joe worked closely with legendary producer and Ivor Novello winner George De Angelis, who he cites as a major influence on his career, “George took me under his wing and I learnt so much from him about songwriting, production and music in general. He’s a genius and I am very lucky to have met and worked with him.” Joe also embraced the sense of liberation and independence that living in London brought, and it also helped him hone his musical chops; “London changed, challenged and broadened my whole view of music; it forced me to grow up musically, and I quickly realised that touching people’s emotions is far more important than dazzling them with technique.” Joe’s musical explorations led him to branch out and incorporate elements of of funk, jazz, and experimental music into his playing, laying the foundations for his future career as a solo guitarist.

Back home

After returning to his native Northern Ireland to nurse his terminally ill mother in her final years, Joe began embracing the spiritual nature of music, composing melodies and themes that helped him find peace, solace, and hope in difficult times. The resulting debut solo album, ‘Apparitions’, inspired by his Mum’s favourite W.B. Yeats poem, and dedicated to her, is  a meditative and soul-searching collection of instrumentals, full of evocative melodies and atmospheres, that delivers everything from delicate, mournful slide playing to fast and furious gunslinging guitar rock, and everything in between. The overarching theme of the music is incorporated on the album cover, and as Joe explains “It’s about how nothing ever stays the same, everything changes or decays; lives are lived, and love is lost, but looking forward is the one thing we can all do. Yes, we may have regrets, but hope and optimism are usually only around the next corner.” So, far from being melancholic or overly sentimental, ‘Apparitions’ reveals Joe as a guitarist capable of using his music to provide a soundtrack for life’s most difficult and most triumphant times; a man with the ability to express his deepest feelings using little more than his guitar.

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