Noise Annoys: Beans on Toast on Irish shows and 10 years of DIY folking

Cult singer/songwriter Beans on Toast AKA Jay McAllister on his upcoming Irish shows and celebrating 10 years of DIY troubadouring with 10th album A Bird In The Hand...

Beans on Toast returns to Ireland this month

HI JAY, how's the tour going so far?

It's been great. I'm in Brighton tonight and London tomorrow – I live in London, so I kind of came home last night.

As documented on A Bird In The Hand, you recently became a father for the first time. Is coming home extra special now that your daughter is waiting for you?

Yeah, when you get back after that long away, it's like "awww!". My wife puts her to bed but then I get home at two in the morning and really want to wake her up. It's hard not to, but I don't! So yeah, that's wonderful to come back to.


You kick off your next leg of touring in Belfast and Dublin. Are you looking forward to coming back to Ireland?

The last couple of shows I've had in Belfast have been great, I had a brilliant time playing at Sunflowerfest and then I played The Black Box as part of my Sitting on A Chair tour last year, which was wicked.

When I first started touring, I just kind of did what was easy and cheap, so I just kind of stayed on this side of the UK. But now that I'm able to, I do my best to try and get anywhere where people want me. I've always had a blast in Belfast.

The tour you just mentioned was an all-seated affair. Are you upright again for the current dates or did you get too comfy to switch back?

Nah, I'm back on me feet! That tour was supporting the book I released last year, Drunk Folk Stories [it also coincided with the re-release of his 2009 debut LP, Standing on A Chair] so it was seated audiences and I was sat down as well.

I mean, my gigs have a tendency to be quite chatty anyway, but those shows were a lot about the stories and a lot more kind of talking.

It's amazing how differently people behave if you sit them down. My crowd have generally been quite boisterous, but when I sat them all down, people were like putting their hands up when they wanted to request a song!

I loved it but I found it quite self-indulgent. People were like hanging off every word of every song – it was nice but I was sort of worried that people needed the toilet and were embarrassed to go and stuff like that!

So, it's something that I definitely will do again in the future, but I'll probably need to write another book to justify having everyone sat down again. The new tour is a bit more standard Beans on Toast, a bit livelier.

I've been doing this so long now I try to branch out, keep things interesting and change things up as much as possible. I've been doing the current run with a band but tomorrow night is the last show with them and then I'm back to solo – which is still very much the core of what I do.

Last year's re-release of Standing On A Chair was supposed to be a 10th anniversary affair – even though it actually came out in 2009. You've always released one new album every year on your birthday, December 1, so is pre-empting anniversaries also going to become a Beans on Toast staple?

Well, that's the thing: because I'm constantly releasing [new albums], it's hard to then fit in anniversaries as well – you have to spread it all out a bit!

The album a year thing is not something I've promised to anybody, apart from myself. If I didn't have an album ready then I wouldn't release one – I've never felt stressed or under pressure to do it, quite the opposite actually. It just sort of feels like my natural output.

It was something that sort of came about by accident. A year after the first record there was another one ready, so it was like, "we'll put it out on the same day". Then the next year, there was another one ready – by the time we did it three times it was like, "I guess this is a thing!".

But, inadvertently, by doing that it means that I always know where I'm going to be. I know I can constantly be touring and a lot of festivals have me year-in-year-out, which they don't do with a lot of acts, because there's the guarantee of new material and a bit of a new show there. So what started off as an accident has really worked in my favour.

The way people consume music has changed so much now that, if you're constantly working and releasing, then there's a good chance people will be able to listen. So many people have been coming to watch me for the first time on this tour because they've picked up on a song from the new record.

Magic, which is about the birth of your daughter, really seems to have struck a chord with fans. Is it nice to know they've been going through the same sort of experiences?

Ten years ago when I used to come off stage and chat to people in the crowd, we'd be talking about what drugs we were going to take or what party we were going to go to – and now it's all Caesarean sections and what hospital they are going to have their baby born at and stuff like that. It's a really lovely thing.

A lot of the album was written in the period when we brought our daughter home. You sort of create this bubble around you where nothing else outside really matters. So there was a time when the whole album was going to be about my daughter and family life, but eventually other realities started creeping in around the edges too.

A Bird In The Hand is your 10th album in 10 years. What's your ultimate ambition for the future?

I just want to keep on doing exactly what I'm been doing. People have this kind of strange view of making music where every year needs to be bigger or better, whereas I'm more into cultivating what I'm doing so that I can keep on doing it for as long as possible.

I love playing rooms with 200 people in all around the country. It works a treat for me – and it's by far the best job I've ever had!

:: Beans on Toast, March 20, Voodoo, Belfast / March 21, The Academy, Dublin. Tickets via

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