Song-writing duo live at quirky venue

John Reilly
John Reilly
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Lewis Nitikman and Sheffield musical stalwart John Reilly have been a dynamic songwriting partnership for more than two years.

And now, with a recent album up their sleeve along with reams of new material, the duo are back under the guise of The John Reilly Band. Next week, the pair join their band on the stage at one of the region’s quirkiest venues – the Peak Cavern.

But their musical friendship goes back much further – and way beyond Sheffield, as Lewis Nitikman explains.

“I met John in Vancouver Canada when his group – who were on Atlantic – Boy On A Dolphin, were touring Canada and the USA. His manager, Sam Feldman – who also manages James Taylor, Nora Jones and Joni Mitchell – had arranged through John’s publishing company to put John together with some of the biggest songwriters in the world.

“Sam phoned me up and asked me if I’d be interested in writing with him and I immediately said yes.”

“We hit it off and wrote one of our most requested songs called Arrow together. It made it on to John’s first solo album, Tea Cozy Hat, and was voted the fans’ favourite song.”

He said: “I was pleased about that. I also believe the British figure skating champion skated to the song the year it came out.”

But that was a long time ago. Now the pair perform as a team with the John Reilly band. “I play keyboards and mostly piano in the band as well as sing,” says Nitikman. “I also act as kind of a musical director, if you will. I make sure everyone is playing the correct parts, and shape it like a conductor does.

“The band is made of up some very talented guys including original Boy On A Dolphin members Andy Needham on bass, and Darren Ford on drums. Both these guys are seasoned musicians and Andy also co-wrote quite a few of the Boy On a Dolphin songs with John. Our man on guitar is Chris Firminger.

“Chris is the Sheffield go-to guy for guitar, and plays with numerous bands around town. We are lucky to have grabbed him for our shows. John plays guitar and percussion as well as lead vocal.”

The duo have worked out an effective system over the years, as Nitikman explains.

“Usually, I’ll have a musical idea, the chords and something of a melody that I like and when I’m confident that it has enough of a shape, I will play it for John, then John will disappear for a few days and write lyrics, at which point we will get together in the same room and work out the rest of the song. It is a good system and seems to have served us well.”

The John Reilly Band play the Peak Cavern on August 10 and the City Hall on December 15.