One-time Galway busker performing in Elgin March 30
By Mike Danahey email@example.com March 15, 2013 12:02PM
Singer-songwriter Jon Conover of Sandwich will perform March 30 at Danny's on Douglas in downtown Elgin. Conover spent three months in 2008 as a street musician in Ireland and in 2008 and returned for a brief tour of indoor places in 2012. His family once owned Kelly's Pub in Sandwich.
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:23AM
During his pre-St. Patrick’s Day show Saturday at Bridie McKenna’s in Highwood, Jon Conover hoped to cover the traditional Irish song “Carrickfergus” in the style of Van Morrison.
The moment might have brought back a memory or two for Conover. He spent three autumn months in 2008 working as a street musician in Ireland as he developed his sound, which will bring him to Danny’s on Douglas, 231 Douglas Ave. in downtown Elgin, March 30.
“I found my voice over there,” Conover said.
That voice already was being shaped by a family that owned Kelly’s, an Irish pub in Sandwich that closed about four years ago, and from his mother, who works putting together tours to Ireland. Through both means, Conover said, he made Irish friends who told him discs of his music went over well with their friends there.
As his online biography points out, Conover has been building a career in music pretty much since before his freshman year of high school, when his first band, Pegasus, was formed. The group won a battle of the bands on the University of Illinois campus that was sponsored by Atlantic Records. And Conover wound up being invited to Nashville to record a demo.
College led to the band breaking up and Conover focusing on becoming a guitar-playing singer-songwriter, then a stint with three buddies in a jam band called South Main.
His family’s pub also sponsored shows at the Sandwich Opera House, which led to opening spots for ‘70s folkie Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”), before Conover put out his first album, “Into the Blue,” in 2006.
The trip to Ireland gave Conover a chance to work on new material on the streets of Galway, Waterford, Kilkenny and other towns, part of the time with Dara MacConnell, son of Irish writer Cormac MacConnell.
“It was intimidating at first,” Conover said of the experience. “Buskers can be very territorial and a lot of them are very good. You have to be able to find a good spot and not be afraid to be able to sing to be heard.”
Conover claimed he did well enough that some days in Galway he would bring in more than 350 euros singing and playing originals and American folk and folk rock. He wound up getting a gig at the Spanish Arch in that port city and last year returned to do a tour.
The last two days of his initial musical visit were spent in Dublin. Only one day involved busking, and it was hardly like the romantic film “Once,” which became a Tony-winning Broadway musical.
“I got lost the first night, so the second, to make sure I wouldn’t get lost again and miss my flight, I stayed in at the B & B and wrote songs, including ‘I’m Coming Home,’ which is on my latest album (‘Make It Til November’),” Conover said.
The album came about from Conover heading to California in 2010 to get out of the way of another Chicago winter. He wound up meeting arranger and keyboardist Ed Roth, who produced Conover’s album, at a music club called The Baked Potato in Studio City.
According to Roth’s MySpace page, Roth has recorded with the likes of bluesy Sophie B. Hawkins, rapper Coolio, metal man Rob Halford, and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello. Roth also is a member of Bombastic Meatbats, which featured Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and CTA with ex-Chicago founder/drummer Danny Seraphine.
Through Roth’s efforts, Conover was able to get musicians such as drummer Kenny Aronoff (who has worked with John Mellencamp, guitarist Linda Taylor (who was in the house band for TV’s “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”), and bassist Andrew Ford (who has worked with Al Jarreau).
Conover said his time in Ireland taught him to be more visual with his lyrics. And his vocal sound is rooted in some of the same things as Van Morrison’s, namely gospel, soul and R & B.
These days, along with performing, Conover said he supports himself by working at Rivers Edge Theatre in Yorkville.
In Elgin, Conover will share the bill with fellow singer-songwriter Miles Nielsen, who is the son of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen. The show is set to run from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.
“We’ll do some songs together,” Conover said.
For online information about Conover, see www.jonconover.com; www.myspace.com/jonconover; www.reverbnation.com/jonconover; and www.cdbaby.com/cd/conoverjon