Interview: Boy On A Dolphin
Ahead of their now customary Christmas bash, Exposed meets John Reilly of iconic Sheffield outfit Boy on a Dolphin and Canadian pianist Lewis Nitikman.
Sitting with a cuppa in Exposed HQ, John Reilly is explaining why his band, Boy on a Dolphin, ended up beached across the pond in the United States and Canada. “Things were going absolutely brilliant for us; we were on MTV and being managed by Bryan Adams’ manager. But just as we were at the height, there was a big coup at Atlantic Records and we lost support. That was a bad time, so we came back to the UK after being away and thankfully the fan base here – especially in Sheffield – were dying to see us again.” Two decades have now passed since the deepest valley of his career, but it didn’t dishearten him. Instead, he plugs away for his dedicated Yorkshire audience, whilst royalty cheques from far-reaching places he’s never visited like China, Israel, South Africa and Canada still come in.
It was while in Canada that he met Lewis Nitikman, a keys player from Vancouver, who became his song-writing partner fifteen years ago. Reilly sees Nitikman as the perfect “old school” partner who does what he can’t and Nitikman understands exactly what that means. “John is the artist/ I start it off with an idea, John takes it, gives it melody, lyrics, and we tweak it together,” he tells me. Nitikman’s contribution was vital to Reilly’s latest single, ‘Peace Sign’, as the songwriter described the overwhelming feeling that struck him as soon as he heard Nitikman play the intro.“Immediately, I felt this is a Christmas song. In the news, terrible things are happening and I just thought it’s time to do something to draw people with a theme of peace. I didn’t want to write a frivolous Christmas song. And we’re asking as many people as possible to send pictures in of them doing the peace sign and as the video comes out, we’ll be adding every one we get into it.”
So@ big opinions, big ideas and big clothes – the two are sat in Exposed HQ on a miserable mid-week morning in leather jackets, sunglasses and shiny jewellery – but they certainly aren’t your usual breed of ego-heavy songwriters? “We always get nervous when we have a new song and we’re pushing it!” Nitikman exclaims. “You gotta have a thick skin and I haven’t got it! I take the criticism very personally,” adds Reilly whilst miming himself wilting like a flower. It’s a humble response, but that should be no surprise. He’s raised tens of thousands of pounds for the ‘Women of Steel’ statue project with a concert and written a song for the cause too. And now, Reilly will be going back to where it all began for him by performing his annual Christmas concert at the Irwin Mitchell Hall with Boy on a Dolphin, a very special occassion for fans of his old band. “It is gonna be the biggest Christmas party in Sheffield this year, without a doubt. And in the last hour of the concert, everyone in the hall is gonna be on their feet dancing; it happens every year and this year will be no different!”
Catch John Reilly and Boy on a Dolphin plus special guests, including Lewis Nitikman, Saturday 17th December at Sheffield City Hall.
Tickets available at www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.