Avalon: Behind the Album and Inspiration…


This album began life properly in June 2015 on a long tour from the north of England to Istanbul.

Five weeks and around thirty shows in almost a straight line to the edge of Europe. I was travelling with James Bar Bowen until his part of the tour finished in Sofia, Bulgaria. A week beforehand Cosmo joined on the trip in Salzburg. The tour had been as lovely as it always is in the middle of June, though I’m not particularly one to like the heat and heading further South-East to the start of Asia is no picnic for a miserable Northerner.

Netherlands, Germany, Austria had been great as they always are but heading into Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and finally Turkey, aren’t the usual tourist routes we were taking let alone major gigging routes. Whilst we hit the capitals in all of these countries, it was the shows off the beaten track that provided the real ‘adventure’. Dilapidated public transport older than myself with tatty seats, creaking mechanics and a driver breaking practically every regulation we have in the UK. I recall one driver with three pictures in his cab of things he cherishes in life. A cheesy torn picture of a half-naked woman from a cheap porno next to a promo shot of a Volkswagen Golf and next to some rosary beads, a pristine Mary Magdalene painting on card. Life is different here, especially in rural Eastern Europe where families sell crops by the side of the road in makeshift stalls and Ladas adorn each driveway.

Places like Niš, Kraljevo, Plovdiv were places I’d never heard of before and crossing in and out of the Serbian border, outside of the EU, the border is daunting for a Brit but by birthplace, residence and family, we are offered the luxury of travel without much hassle. Serbians aren’t offered such with expensive Visas to enter the UK.

The route from Zagreb, Croatia to Plovdiv, Bulgaria passing through Belgrade, Kraljevo, Niš and Sofia for shows became the beginning of the inspiration of the album.

Before the news hit the UK on the mainstream about refugees fleeing the Middle-East, we saw first-hand the desperation of these people. Painted in the media as ‘benefit tourists’ or ‘scroungers’, nothing could be further from the truth. Walking 1000 miles crossing borders with what little possessions you have and your kids in tow is hardly a thing you’d do unless you were desperate.

Throughout this journey, meeting Roma families, seeing Roma camps outside of large cities with little sanitation as the folk who live their life as travellers are pushed away as they have been done for centuries, you start to see the full scale of the problem of borders first hand, for refugees and for travelling peoples. And whilst we were travelling ourselves (with the privilege of a British passport) our existence and movement was made with comparative ease due to an arbitery thing such as a birthplace.

This inspired me to write an album around the topic of migration and all topics encompassing the word. There are many songs out there in the folk genre that lament migration and it felt to me I was doing nothing new so I needed to adapt and play with the original form. There are a number of Traditional songs I chose for the album which took me a while to find suitable. Whilst I’d sometimes look far from home to find something interesting, these two songs are ones from my own doorstep. ‘The Dalesman’s Litany’ and ‘To the Begging I will go’. Yorkshire and Lancastrian songs about economic migration, hard cotton mill life and desperation. Another is Arthur McBride, a staple of Irish anti-war storytelling. I feel these songs are still very relevant and whilst they are both very old, these stories are still echoed today.

I hesitated to write a song from the perspective of someone who has felt the real hard end of migration.

Instead I wrote one song about travelling from a personal perspective. As an economic migrant, I felt it important to relay that image isn’t just the image we see in the papers which has become a tainted word. Another song I felt compelled to write was one about Brexit. Possibly the thing that will affect ALL Europeans wanting to live, work and study in the UK. Something that is affecting UK citizens economically at the moment.

Avalon:  /ˈævəˌlɒn/ noun

  1. (Celtic mythan island paradise in the western seas: in Arthurian legend it is where King Arthur was taken after he was mortally wounded.From Medieval Latin  insula avallonis island of Avalon, from Old Welsh aballon apple.


The ten tracks on the album are a collection of originals and Traditional numbers, influenced and written across the Balkans to both sides of the States, influenced by the spectrum of ‘migration’.

I will be releasing my album in Norway 24-26th November in Halden and Trondheim. Norway to me, is a place I feel very comfortable doing shows and signifies the end of overseas touring for 2017 starting up again late January. More info on that at the end of 2017! In the meantime, you can pre-order Avalon here:


And more information here:


Here is how you can help; donation points for refugees across the UK. There is usually one in every major town. https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1vk51vJck4RWCcWVw1VES3qTvtLQ&hl=en_US&ll=54.614328056323046%2C-1.1719020000000455&z=5

Johnny x

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