Thursday 20 June 2019

Greystones singer hitting the right note

Reporter David Medcalf dropped in to the home of a young Greystones man who has music flowing through his veins. Dylan Crampton told him about busking, meeting Status Quo and performing for Ryan Tubridy

Greystones songwriter and musician Dylan E Crampton at Greystones beach. Photo by
Sam Donohue
Greystones songwriter and musician Dylan E Crampton at Greystones beach. Photo by Sam Donohue

Meet singer-songwriter Dylan Crampton. Yes that's Dylan as in Bob Dylan, the slightly more famous singer-songwriter. And the connections run deeper: Dylan's second name is Steve as in Steve Earle, another illustrious American singer-songwriter.

The young man with the long hair from Greystones clearly grew up with music implanted in his genes from baptism. His father Stuart Crampton and mother Val Kiernan were in a band together for many years, performing soft rock and country as Driftwood. Lead singer Da was the whizz on guitar and keyboards, while Ma chipped in with percussion, harmonica and harmonies.

They were so keen that they set up a home recording studio. They never actually released the ten song album which was laid down at the bottom of the garden but Dylan swears to this day that it was brilliant.

His older brother Elliot followed the parents on to the stage and sister Claudia is also something of a performer. Small wonder that their youngest popped up on the 'Late Late Show' recently. Dylan wowed the watching nation singing bright, stylish pop as to the manor born - as indeed he was. The 20 year old may have an alternative career on the staff of a local pharmacy but he is a star at heart.

'I have always been surrounded by music,' he says, stating no more than a simple fact. Family lore has it that he began as a three year old making all the moves to Status Quo's 'Rocking All Over the World'. As a child he often lapsed into song rather than conducting conversation in speech.

He continued to be fascinated by Quo who first inspired him to pick up one of the guitars lying around the house. He was a mere eleven years of age when the urge to sing and play drove him to make his debut as a busker. He took the precaution of notifying the gardaí before installing himself and his six-string on the first bench at Greystones south beach.

He soon discovered that he could make serious pocket money singing in Grafton Street, with a pitch outside XtraVision. Young, small and cute, he made the most of the fact that passers-by found it difficult to pass him by without making a donation. The young lad became part of the street scenery, still remembered by many to this day.

He was twelve years old when he met Status Quo - an event which served only to strengthen his determination to follow them into the business. The meeting came about through the good offices of Birmingham based guitar maker Jamie Davy. The Englishman provided the busker with a customised blue telecaster guitar, paid for from Dylan's own savings.

And it was he who arranged a backstage pass for his young Irish customer to get up close to Quo at the National Exhibition Centre. Dylan travelled with his dad, overcoming his fear of flying to make the trip. The visitors met Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt before they went on stage and the new telecaster was signed by the vintage rockers.

Father and son then watched the concert from the wings. Parfitt had come to the NEC from heart surgery which was carried out earlier that day - a startling example of how the show really must go on.

'I would have been lost at school if I didn't have my guitar,' Dylan reminisces. 'It gave me a bit of identity.' School was Saint David's, where he was happy to step up to the mark at assembly or concerts. However, he made a conscious decision not to take the formal music lessons which were on offer in school.

'Paul McCartney cannot read music - so I don't have to,' he reasoned, feeling that spontaneity suited him better than the discipline of a strict curriculum. His Leaving Cert grades were fine, so he sleepwalked his way into UCD - though not for long.

'We are not an academic family. I lasted one year in college but throughout the whole year I thought I should focus instead on the music. I was writing songs,' he remembers. 'I should be writing songs because that is what I am passionate about. I like to live the dream.'

His discipline is not that of the lecture hall but rather the routine of riffs, followed by melody, and then the addition of lyrics. Rhythms fill his head, mixed with the stories that a good song can tell.

The busker in him also retains the urge to sing in public, following in the footsteps of his Status Quo idol Francis Rossi who admitted being 'an insecure little show off'. He has appeared with bands which cover the pop standards but is forever itching to play his own material.

It helps having volunteers handy, with brother and father available to pitch up and provide backing.

The three Cramptons appeared together at the Sugar Club and mother Val has been known to feature too.

At the start of this year, he enjoyed the privilege of supporting Hazel O'Connor (of 'Breaking Glass' fame) at a gig in the local Whale Theatre. The event provided an opportunity to try out a few freshly minted songs, which were given an encouraging reception.

Dylan also relished playing support to Christy Dignam and Joe Jewell from Aslan in the past and he looks forward to meeting them again on May 23. His solo career is set to take a significant step forward later this summer on July 6 with a show at the Vintage Rooms on the quays in Dublin.

His brother, who is now 26, has provided a useful role model since he too caught the music bug from an early age. The older sibling began writing his own songs when he was eight.

'I have always taken inspiration from Elliot,' acknowledges Dylan who routinely brings his own compositions to big bro, to review the work in progress.

Elliot too had had his moment in the 'Late Late' spotlight, appearing a few years back in 2013 with the band of which he was the driving force. Nowadays, such ventures have taken second place to the day job and he is more than happy to act instead as Dylan's publicist.

He is also a vital collaborator on the album which is painstakingly taking shape in the studio at the bottom of the garden at Redford Park. Much of the hardware is 25 years old but the equipment is still capable of capturing the music which flows from young Dylan's imagination.

The artist confirms that the album will not be available for distribution at the Vintage Rooms in July though drafts of at least eleven tracks have been plotted. He plans instead to have it ready for release as a 21st birthday present to himself next year.

In the meantime, he can look back with pleasure at the 'Late Late Show' cameo which set people talking. The appearance in the big studio at Montrose came about after Elliot sent the TV station some publicity material promoting the 'Mister Jimmy' single.

The song - which is a real tonic of a tune - was not exactly setting the pop world alight. It received some airplay on WLR radio in Waterford (of all places) but was otherwise a little known secret delight.

Nevertheless, RTE responded with an indication of interest, not least because they liked Oscar Hackett's accompanying video.

No date was mentioned until a call was received on the Wednesday evening. Would 'Mister Jimmy' be okay to sing for Ryan Tubridy and his studio audience the following Friday night, the caller wanted to know.

Of course he would, was the reply, though at that point Dylan had no band: 'It was panic stations,' he now admits. At least his boss at Sam McCauley's agreed to give him the day off - as though there was any stopping him seizing this once in a lifetime opportunity. By the time he rolled up to the studio in Donnybrook at 2 p.m. on the Friday, at least he had brother, father and sister in tow, ready to take part in a dress rehearsal.

'The world of television is mad,' he concludes when looking back at the experience. 'There are so many people involved. All the crew were super nice and they put me at ease.' The result was a wonderful souvenir for the family album, capped by an enthusiastic review of the single from Ryan Tubridy. Now Dylan knows that he must capitalise on the TV exposure to build up his own brand.

He reveals that he has seen his namesake Bob in action, at what is now the 3 Arena. He also lets it be known that he met Steve Earle backstage in the Olympia.

Perhaps old-fashioned in his tastes, he also waxes enthusiastic about The Beatles and Electric Light Orchestra.

'I do delve backwards,' he concedes. 'It's like all the greatest music has already been written.'

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