John McGrath is an Irish guitarist based in London. His music explores the boundaries of the ancient and modern as traditional elements meet improvisation and experimental tendencies. His debut solo album for Crooked Stem Recordings, Wake and Whisper, traverses themes of place, repetition and memory while spanning American primitive guitar, avant-folk ensemble instrumentals, traditional Irish melody, and song.
McGrath has been interviewed / featured in The Wire, Aquarium Drunkard, Burning Ambulance, RTE Radio 1, The Skinny, Bido Lito!, BBC Radio, Night Folk in the Afternoon, Radio New Zealand, Sideways through Sound, and Sydney's FBi radio and has had his music synched on various television shows and sounded at Tate Modern and FACT. As a solo performer John has performed at a number of festivals and has supported Richard Dawson, Gwenifer Raymond, Laraaji and Sun Araw. Recent gigs have been at Kings Place, the Islington and a John Fahey Memorial night at the Betsey Trotwood.
John has performed the UK premiere of Rhys Chatham's "Die Donnergotter" in addition to "Guitar Trio" alongside the composer. He has also performed in ensembles with Dustin Wong, Sharon Gal, Cavalier Song, Howard Skempton and the aPAtT Orchestra. A vinyl cut as part of the Never Records installation at the Liverpool Biennial was reworked in a live performance by Philip Jeck.
Besides guitar-playing, McGrath has also authored a book with Routledge entitled, "Samuel Beckett, Repetition and Modern Music” (2018) (which has received positive reviews in The Wire, Music & Letters and Burning Ambulance), writes regularly on music, and lectures at University of Surrey which is home to the International Guitar Research Centre (IGRC).
"McGrath is like a jeweler, crafting small but perfectly formed pieces that tempt you to pick them up and hold them to the light, just to get a better glance."
Bill Meyer, Dusted Magazine
"His experimental approach, reminiscent of Jim O’Rourke, pushes at the boundaries of new guitar music and the UK avant folk scene." -
"Bringing a touch of the 21st century to the guitar soli scene..." -
Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard
"Bringing to mind the likes of Owen Pallett and Grizzly Bear, John McGrath is an artist capable of balancing classical and folk textures to great effect." -
"Not only capable of channeling Britfolk greats as Bert Jansch, John Renbourn or Michael Chapman, he can also pick like John Fahey and his fellow American primitives". -
For The Sake Of The Song
“his clutch of haunted icy soundscapes sounds very much like wandering around half-remembered wintry dreams.” - Bido Lito!
"a deft masterclass in cyclical finger-picking fused with subtle glitches, warped drones and rapping Autumnal taps." - Peter Guy, Liverpool Echo
"One of the most innovative solo guitarists on the scene right now is John McGrath ... utilising seriously warped effects over John Fahey-esque musings." -
"like Bert Jansch remixed by Four Tet, combining extraordinary technical mastery with warm drones and harmonic effects." -