John Reilly is a Liverpool-born singer, songwriter, lyricist, and writer who is now based in Sheffield, England.
Hailing from a large family, his dad being the youngest of 15 kids and Mum one of nine, John has three older sisters and grew up in a house filled with an eclectic mix of music from Sinatra and Nat King Cole, Dylan and Joni Mitchell, to Motown and 70’s glam and he was particularly influenced by the lyrics of Bernie Taupin. John found his own voice by using his sisters’ hairbrush as a mic and belting out Michael Jackson songs in front of the mirror or playing guitar on his tennis racket to early Springsteen albums. His first band at sixteen while still at school was ‘Force’ who played at the legendary ‘Eric’s’ in Liverpool, playing mainly Roxy and Bowie covers.
Two years later John moved to Sheffield and joined Sheffield synth/pop outfit MINISTERS OF INSPIRATION and built up big mainly female following and won ‘The British and International Song’ award under an assumed name cos they hated the song. Realised The Ministers were not the ideal outlet for his emerging songwriting talents so together with Bass player Andy Needham he hand-picked musicians to form BOY ON A DOLPHIN. Pete Hiley on lead guitar, Tom Bryson on drums. After a year, Darren Ford became drummer. Reilly, Needham, Hiley, Ford are still the core of Dolphin today. Built up large enthusiastic following and built reputation as a strong lyricist, toured with their favourite band, COLOR BLIND JAMES EXPERIENCE who were, and still are, a big influence on John.
Early 90’s John went to Juno Awards in Vancouver. When he returned to the UK he received a call from manager/agent SAM FELDMAN (Bryan Adams, Dianna Krall, Joni Mitchell, The Chieftains, Elvis Costello). He was ecstatic about John’s music. He flew to the UK, saw the band live, and took them to Vancouver where there was soon a huge buzz about them, and they eventually signed for Atlantic in the US.
They recorded their debut album ‘WORDS INSIDE’ partly in Sheffield and partly in Bryan Adams’ house in West Vancouver. Produced by Kevin Bacon & Jon Quarmby Released ‘WORDS INSIDE’, ‘Rolling Stone’ describing it as delivering “One exquisite pop gem after another”. Their singles, ‘Fire’, ‘Nou we o’n Mazei’ and ‘Love is a River’ co-written with Jim Vallance (Summer of 69, etc) all charted in the US AAA Chart. They toured relentlessly with sales peaking after every City they visited especially the West Coast in The US and every major Canadian city. Tours across The US and Canada initially, opening for Bryan Adams, Procol Harum, Ray Charles, Crash Test Dummies. Hits also followed in South Africa without the band touring there. John’s songs were also now being played in movies such as ‘Tokyo Cowboy’ and TV shows such as ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and ‘True North’, ‘Quantum Leap’ etc. There followed a Big Coup at Atlantic with a major personnel shuffle which led to some disruption and the band returned to the UK until the dust settled.
John stayed in Vancouver and continued to write and play live with some of their greatest musicians including Bryan Adams. He used the time to co-write with some of the greatest writers around such as Jim Vallance, Robbie Buchanan in LA, Bill Henderson and started to really concentrate on developing his writing style. At this time he played his first solo shows. Guitar and vocal, showcasing his new songs, backed up with some well-known Dolphin songs.
John returned to the UK to record his new material and set up his own independent label, Flipper Music, with an investor and recorded the album Tea Cozy Hat. Launched it to a 2500 sold-out Sheffield City Hall audience and toured with Ray Davies (Kinks) finishing with a sold-out show at the Albert Hall. Boy on a Dolphin regrouped with another sell-out show at Sheffield City Hall and some festival gigs and John continued to play intimate solo shows in between.
John also set up a band with Sheffield’s best session players including Take That and Spice Girls’ writer, Cary Baylis, calling it the Acoustic Angels, and continues to play with them all over the UK in between his solo and recording commitments.
TEA COZY HAT continued to sell, especially online as the word spread that it was by ‘The voice of Boy on a Dolphin’ as well as new buyers from all over the world. Dolphin release BARKERSPOOL TO THUNDER BAY. Lots of activity on iTunes and containing the song voted the number one Boy on a Dolphin song by fans, ‘Trapeze.’
2007 John flies to Toronto to write with Canadian pianist/writer Lewis Nitikman. An incredible flurry of creativity ensues and Lewis flies to the UK to continue. John is asked to perform and be Musical Director for a charity concert with Paul Carrack, Def Leppard, and other Sheffield artists. He uses this chance to showcase some of the new songs and receives an unbelievably positive reaction. Shares the stage with Carrack, Def Leppard, and John Parr for the last 4 songs.
John jointly forms the label ART Music Ltd and begins recording a new album at Yellow Arch studios in Sheffield with Lewis Nitikman on piano, and Richard Hawley’s drummer, bass player, and guitarist plus Steve Beighton from Paul Carrack’s band. John tests out the new songs in stripped-down shows with him on guitar, percussion and vocal and Lewis Nitikman on piano. People return again and again and begin to sing songs that they have only heard live. The concerts are a mixture of deep emotion and banter between Reilly and Nitikman.
He releases his second solo album ‘Zebulon’ to fantastic reviews and support from BBC Radio 2 and US and Canadian AC Stations.
‘Reilly is a classic English Singer-Songwriter in the Ray Davies/Richard Hawley mould and ZEBULON is a terrific record brimming with tunes, passion and wit’ – Martin Townsend
PAUL O’GRADY – BBC RADIO 2
‘Fantastic album, brilliant voice. Out of 5, I’d give it a 10.’
CLASSIC ROCK MAGAZINE
‘Every song here is a perfect pop gem. Beautifully crafted, intelligent pop music of this standard is rare these days.
If you are looking for tuneful pop music with substance that you will never tire of then you should make Zebulon your next musical stop.’
PENNY BLACK MUSIC
‘Zebulon is one of those albums where everything fits. The vocals are superb, instrumentally it’s perfect and maybe more importantly, Reilly and Nitikman are obvious masters at writing perfect timeless tunes.’
GRAHAM NORTON – BBC RADIO 2
‘I’ve simply got to see him live!’
‘With Zebulon, Reilly has captured the true essence of pop infected rock’
‘Frontman of legendary Sheffield band Boy on a Dolphin goes solo with a powerful arsenal of beautifully crafted songs’
‘Beautiful intense vocals with genius lyrics’
ALED JONES – BBC RADIO 2
Re Not Alone – ‘What a stunning, moving song’
Re Deep and Blue – ‘Simple, genuine, melodic. A soothing pleasure you will get addicted to’
In 2015 John was approached by John Palmer to help raise awareness and funds to build a statue to celebrate and commemorate the young women who toiled in the steelworks during the war. After meeting some of the women and being moved and inspired by their stories he teamed up with Grammy Award-winning producer Eliot Kennedy and multimillion-selling artist John Parr to write the song ‘Women of Steel’ and put on a fund-raising concert at Sheffield City Hall where John joined Sheffield artists including ABC, Babybird, Heaven 17, Reverend and the Makers, raising £65,000 on the night towards the statue. The release of the song helped them eventually reach a total of £150,000, enough to exceed the target and in 2016 the now award-winning statue was unveiled to thousands in Sheffield including the surviving Women of Steel. The song is still the most requested song on Sheffield and Yorkshire BBC Stations and the statue is now an iconic symbol of the city of Sheffield. John recently appeared on The BBC1 ‘The Nation Remembers’ show, performing the song live from the Imperial War Museum in London.
John’s three singles in 2017 and 2018 ‘Peace Sign’, ‘Living with It’ and ‘Don’t Stop the Dance’ have all been BBC playlisted and together with Lewis Nitikman he has also assembled a band John Reilly and The Smooth Operators which is selling out theatres in a celebration of the songs of Bacharach and David.
John is currently completing a huge project writing the screenplay for the story of Women of Steel, a hard-hitting, gritty, and deeply emotional drama, and is supported by an A Team of British TV and stage stalwarts. This is an exciting departure from the 100% music environment but feedback as scenes are unveiled to the team is incredibly positive.
2019 saw John Reilly and Lewis Nitikman locking themselves away for intense new writing sessions and as always, they have been performing the new songs to John’s eager loyal following before they go into the studio.
Together with writing partner Lewis Nitikman John has for the last 5 years performed sell-out Christmas Concerts at Sheffield Cathedral and Victoria Hall. These concerts have become a Sheffield must-see event and sell out in days. They perform original songs with full Gospel choir and brass band with guest singers from classical, traditional, and pop genres.
Reilly was a special guest performer at the sell-out celebration of Grammy Award-winning producer/songwriter Eliot Kennedy’s 50th Birthday celebrations alongside Take That’s Gary Barlow and Mark Owen, Alfie Boe, Heather Small, John Parr, and many more.
A John Reilly concert is almost a spiritual event. An evening where every emotion is touched and unleashed in a uniquely intimate atmosphere created by his intensely profound lyrics and stunning vocals.
However, the response to one new song has been incredibly emotional at live performances. The Single release 20/06/20‘AMAZING LIFE’ is one of those songs that immediately speaks to the individual. It is a uniquely personal celebration of people’s own life journeys. An affirmation of overcoming obstacles and hardship and the joy and honour of being able to see life’s wonders. It is a song that is cinematic, uplifting, and intensely emotional. The song is accompanied by a moving lyric video produced in Texas.
March 2020 onwards saw all of Reilly’s live concerts cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic. 65 confirmed dates in total. The time was used as creatively as possible, writing new solo and Boy on a Dolphin songs and completing the first complete draft of the ‘Women of Steel’ Screenplay. A dedicated John Reilly artist page is set up by Spotify before the release of Amazing Life.
Inspired by the resilience and resourcefulness of people across the globe keeping in touch visually by using their phones, tablets, and laptops, in 2021 John Reilly writes the lyrics for his next single ‘LaLaLa (Bulletproof)’ The upbeat anthem with its catchy and relevant chorus (‘all we need is a telephone. Satellite beaming me to your home’) is playlisted by the BBC nationally and is adopted by the UK’s biggest radio DJs Ken Bruce who says ‘This a big song…I love it and you the listeners obviously love it too’ and Steve Wright, ‘This is an anthem!’ 7 million listen to their shows every day and the song then spreads to listeners across the world aided by the innovative ‘Hip Video’ production of the song which centres around a 1960’s Japanese Sci-Fi movie.
2023 sees Reilly back in the recording studio with Lewis Nitikman to record the exciting moving songs written mainly during lockdown. Also, The big anniversary of Boy on Dolphin’s debut album ‘Words Inside is to be celebrated with its first vinyl release and Reilly and Nitikman begin an exciting cross-cultural collaboration with Chinese artiste Zhang Ling which will begin with a release of the song ‘NOT ALONE’ in both English and Chinese and also a version in both.