I Am Kloot star prepares to go it alone

John Bramwell, the singer with I Am Kloot, is a difficult man to get hold of.

As he prepares for a series of solo shows in Northern Ireland over the weekend, he is getting to grips with a new mobile phone and apologising for the fact that I've been trying to call him for almost a week without success.

Were he any less creative, I would have given up after a day or two.

But John is "one of the four most talented songwriters this country has produced in the last 10 years", according to Pete Doherty.

"I think he was off his face when he said that," John laughs.

"I like to think that I'm pretty good, but it's not quantifiable - it's like comparing a chair with a television."

A skilled lyricist who writes sharper tunes than his peers, the critical superlatives heaped on I Am Kloot are, unfortunately, not matched by commercial success.

John is preparing for three concerts in Ulster which will see him performing without his band, though he doesn't have a preference for solo or shows with the group.

"I like to do both, I like the contrast," he said.

"I get to learn a lot more about the songs themselves when I do stuff on my own, and also have the chance to have a real laugh with the audience, which I can't really do with a band."

The solo shows are also more spontaneous: "I don't so much have a set list as a list of potential songs. and I just go with the flow of the evening.

"And I get a chance to tell people about why I wrote them and stuff, which in Northern Ireland tends to lead into a wider conversation with the crowd - people there tend to be open-minded and go with it."

His three-day stint here will be bookended by shows in England, including concerts with Brett Anderson and a recording session with Nick Cave - "We got on in a darkly humourous way," John said.

While John may have shared a bill with plenty of big-name musicians, he said that he prefers it when his band are the main attraction.

"But I get anxious with any gig, not that you'd be able to tell," he said.

He promises a range of tunes, both from his own back catalogue and from other artists, when he performs here.

"I'll need to have a quick look at my songbooks," he said.

"I'm writing a lot at the minute, so I tend to forget old stuff and songs by other people that I used to know."

While he may be prolific on the material front, John said he tends to focus on quantity rather than quality in the early stages of the creative process.

"I've usually got something on the go, whether or not it's something productive is another matter.

"Sometimes something comes along out of the blue. The important thing is to not get into a system - there really aren't any rules for this kind of thing."

He hones his work into top-quality tunes, which have captured the attention of those outside the world of music.

Anyone who has been to see the film Sunshine will be familiar with John's work as an I Am Kloot track is used in the movie.

"The director Danny Boyle's daughter had come to our gigs in Manchester when she was a student, she was a fan, and he heard the song when he was walking past her bedroom."

Despite the almost accidental way their music found its way onto the screen, John is pleased with the finished product.

"It's uncanny how well it works in the film, it just fits the piece beautifully. It's very exciting to see one of our songs in that context," he said.

"In a way, you write cinematically when you write a song, especially love songs, so when you put them in the context of a film it's normally in the same mood in which you've written them."

And it's strange hearing his own work in the quiet confines of the cinema rather than the euphoric surroundings of a concert:

"Yeah, I wanted to punch the air and start cheering," John joked.

n John Bramwell performs at the Town and Country, Magherafelt, tonight, The Dungloe Bar, Londonderry, tomorrow and the Empire, Belfast on Sunday.