by Kyle Walker
A PUNK festival’s not exactly the first place you’d expect to see John Lewis – "the real" one according to his website, and peddler of Americana – perform.
"Every band was full on hardcore!" he laughed. "I went on and did my solo show, a little curious as to how they were going to take this Welsh guy with his country rockabilly.
"It went down a storm, they couldn’t believe it – and neither could I!"
It’s all just par for the course for singer-songwriter John, who has played everywhere during his many years as a musician, from Moscow to Melbourne.
Yet only now is he finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition – making the journey to the very top of the Highlands.
"I’ve always wanted to get up to John O’Groats, ever since I went to Land’s End with my family as a kid and saw ‘John O’Groats 874 miles’ on the sign," he explained.
"To drive up through the Highlands, passing the lochs and stopping at remote places, is going to be amazing. It’ll be the highlight of the tour for me as it’ll be my first time.
"I won’t be going the quickest routes – if I’ve got time I’m going to take the chance to look about as much as I can."
Coming up north as part of his Land’s End to John O’Groats tour, the singer-songwriter – touring to promote his first solo album – is relishing the chance to get back on the road.
"I love going to new places, meeting new people, trying new beers," he said. "When travelling on your own I find it makes you meet a lot more people.
"I love the laugh I have when travelling with the band, but when I’m going solo I get to go where I want, when I want, and play what music I want or have silence to think and take it all in – hopefully I’ll end up with a few new songs by the time I get home."
"Weather-wise, I’m not sure I’ve picked the right time of year for this tour, but I guess it’ll make it more dramatic – I’ll pack the snow chains and a bottle or two in case I get stuck!"
Yet despite this freedom, John admits that after releasing several albums with several bands – including The Rimshots and Johnny Bach and the Moonshine Boozers – going solo has brought challenges.
"It’s all down to you and you alone, every decision, which is a bit strange," he explained. "From the songs, arrangements, the art work…everything. It’s great, but I still find someone to bounce ideas off – I usually drive my friends crackers!
"But everything gets done a lot quicker with one indecisive person instead of four. I record when I’m free, instead of having to make sure we’re all free – which can takes weeks
"As for performances you get a lot more room on stage! Although it does feel weird sometimes."
So with John coming north for the first time, what can new audiences expect from him?
"It’s different from what people normally expect to find if they don’t know me. I don’t use any backing tapes or anything like that, what you hear is all live.
"I like a lot of serious songs but also like a lot of fun songs. It really depends on the crowd if they want to sit and listen or they just want to get rocking.
"Every show is different but it always ends up being a lot of fun."
John Lewis comes to the Highlands for the following dates: Jacko’s Bar, Nairn on Friday, February 17; Y-Not bar, Thurso on Saturday, February 18; and Hootananny, Inverness on Sunday, February 19. For more information, go to www.therealjohnlewis.com