Dr John McGrath is an Irish guitarist, writer and educator based in London.
A professional guitarist from the age of 17, John has performed in ensembles with Dustin Wong, Sharon Gal, Cavalier Song, Rhys Chatham, Howard Skempton and the aPAtT Orchestra. McGrath has been commissioned to write for the IMMIX ensemble and performed new music alongside large arrangements of his work with the group. As a solo performer John has performed at a number of festivals and has supported Richard Dawson, Gwenifer Raymond, Laraaji and Sun Araw. Recent appearances include a solo set at King's Place, London. McGrath's compositions have been featured in The Wire, RTE Radio 1, BBC Radio, aired on several television programmes, and sounded at Tate Modern and FACT.
McGrath has authored a monograph 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 is a Senior Lecturer in Music at University of Surrey where he is also Deputy Director of the International Guitar Research Centre (IGRC) and Head of Performance. Other recent publications investigate the transmedial work of Laurie Anderson and David Lynch in addition to popular music and digital aesthetics. In 2014, John was awarded a PhD in music from University of Liverpool, which was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. John is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a consultant for guitar pedagogy on Learn to Play: Computational Assessment of Musical Playability for Users' Practice (AHRC). He is co-editor of the collection 21st Century Guitar for Bloomsbury (2023).
"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." The Skinny
"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.”
"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."