The best British music at SXSW as selected by 'Mojo' editor-in-chief Phil Alexander
Jay Jay Pistolet
Latitude 30, 11pm
Like Cat Stevens or the late, great John Martyn before him, Jay Jay Pistolet is a man who, for all his adherence to the intimacy of folk music, is reaching far beyond the confines afforded the more traditional aspects of the genre.
While he's very much part of Britain's youthful acoustic underground – a scene that includes the wholemeal talents of his friends Laura Marling, Noah & the Whale, Johnny Flynn, and Mumford & Sons – Pistolet also happens to be a man unafraid of engaging with the pop mainstream. His current EP, Happy Birthday You, tells you as much, sitting somewhere between Jeffrey Lewis' scuffle pop and the 1950s sensibilities of Buddy Holly. So too does the fact that in the last 12 months he's managed to play everywhere from the back rooms of pubs – including a memorable Mojo club show with Johnny Flynn at the Enterprise in Camden, North London, last June – to arenas and even stately homes, the latter venues common during his recent opening slot for MOR songstress Katie Melua.
The 21-year-old Pistolet, currently still at university while carving out his musical career, lists the Beach Boys, Dylan, Vashti Bunyan, and the Zombies as his key influences, though his first love was Elvis.
"I loved Elvis as a kid because he was a showman," he says, "I used to watch black-and-white videos of him at Christmas, and that's when I fell in love with music."
Pistolet's teenage years were defined by the discovery of Nirvana and dalliances with hardcore before he found himself listening to country music and rediscovering the simple joys of melody. Indeed, it's his knack for penning a tune – "Bags of Gold" or "St. Michel," being two particularly fine examples – that has seen the laid-back West Londoner garner widespread praise in the UK relatively early on in his career. There's still, of course, that one drawback:
"It's a terrible name," sighs the artist born Justin Hayward-Young, who settled on his regrettable moniker at 18. "It was originally Jay Jay & the Pistolets, but then people got confused, so I shortened it."
Sadly, the name has stuck. But then so have the songs, delivered with soul and effortless warmth. Our man Pistolet is indeed quick on the draw.
Three more thursday 'MOJO' Brit Picks:
Micachu, Emo's Annex, 8pm
Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, Aces Lounge, 11pm
The Webb Sisters, Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn, 12mid