by Margaret Chrystall
BACK in 1989, the young James Gilmour joined Scottish band The Silencers — though he was always known as Jinky.
Now 26 years later, the name might have changed slightly — to the more grown-up "JJ", but the hunger for music and songwriting remains.
And with a solo career balancing with a new interest — writing musicals and the music for them — JJ is also keen to get to know some of his fans in the North again after a decade.
"I haven’t played Inverness for 10 years, so I’m going to have to try hard to get people back to see me again!" he laughed earlier this week, explaining the move from Jinky to JJ.
"When I moved on from The Silencers I wanted to go back to my real name, James. But the record company didn’t want to give me my name back!
"They said ‘You’ve been known as Jinky Gilmour forever!’. But I said ‘I’m in my 30s, I don’t want to be known as Jinky any more’.
"So they decided to call me JJ!
A naturally-gifted musician, JJ came close to a classical music career as a tenor.
He joined The Silencers as a backing vocalist, though progressed to lead vocalist when Jimme O’Neill moved on for a while.
Seven years with The Silencers saw over half a million records sold for BMG/RCA, major rock festivals headlined and regular TV appearances across Europe.
But JJ wanted to try a solo career and took time out at his Jersey home in 2001 to write songs for a debut album.
That album sunnyside PAL was recorded in New York with producer Dan Wise (Scissor Sisters), inspired by the memory of a childhood friend Paul Anthony Lennon.
Out in early 2002, it saw JJ building on his Silencers loyal fanbase which also loved follow-up, The Boy Who Didn’t Fall seven years later in 2009.
But in between, JJ had been exploring an idea to create a musical.
Having moved to Donegal, he first wrote songs for a musical play called The Titanic Boys which had its debut in August 2012 at Belfast’s Grand Opera House.
And from that, he began to work on an ambitious plan to create a musical around the life of legendary Manchester United footballer George Best.
Called Dancing Shoes, it initially played to over 70,000 people in Ireland and returned to the theatre again in August.
"We took it on a wee tour of Ireland and brought it over to Galsgow ... and it fell on its bum over here," laughs JJ, who is philosophical about it.
"But my dream is to get it into to the West End!
Impressed with the way the island of Tiree pulled together when a storm hit the festival JJ played at earlier this summer, he has been generous to himself with time for his own songwriting.
Third album Slocomotion is soon to be followed by JJ’s fourth. He’s been writing for it while staying with a friend from Wet Wet Wet and his family in Glasgow.
JJ hopes to see the next album out early next year and is loving being back in Scotland, bombing round on a bike and sampling great restaurants.
JJ laughed: "I could do with eating less chips — I’m not the skinny boy I used to be. But I’m enjoying getting on the bike."
He can’t wait to return to Inverness — a city he frequently visited through family ties in years past.
"I love Inverness and I’m really looking forward to playing up there again. As well as paying a bit of homage to the Silencers, I’ll be performing predominantly new songs," he confirmed.
JJ Gilmour plays the Ironworks, Inverness, on Saturday. For more: www.jjgilmour.co.uk