“Alan Bonner has the means of a pauper but sings with the heart of a king” is what one critic wrote of the English musician’s 2nd album Balladeer in 2013.
Since then his starving artist status is yet to change, but his postcode has. Recent years have seen him playing the bars of Berlin, tread the boards at Ronnie Scotts in London, top bills at music festivals in Italy, busk on street corners in Dublin, and tour the USA.
In the summer of 2017 Bonner found himself in Galway on the west coast of Ireland making his fourth record Songs in the key of Sea – The Galway Bay EP.
Recorded in a house on the remote island of Connemara, the record explores themes of love, loss, hope, and healing. It is a love letter to absent friends and lost lovers, Understated and heartfelt, resilient and hopeful.
Recorded without bells and whistles, with Piano and Bonner’s distinctive vocals taking center stage. The EP also features collaborations with Galway-based artists Pa Reidy and Tracy Bruen lending their talents to the record with Willow Sea as Producer.
It is in stark contrast to his previous outing, 2016’s Night Music – a brooding Electronica-tinged collection of songs inspired by London and its nocturnal inhabitance with songs inspired by the disaffected creatures that take to the streets and the bars of the city when the sun goes down.
2018 saw the release of the EP with an extensive European tour in support of the record to follow. In 2020 he wrote and produced a musical cabaret show The Way Old Friends Do – A Musical Celebration of ABBA, which premiered to a sell-out run at the 2021 Brighton Fringe Festival. The show is a reworking of the ABBA songbook set against a story inspired by his own experiences of growing up queer in small-town England in the 90s. The show has gone on to be performed to sell-out audiences in UK theatres as well as the 2022 Brighton and Hove Official Pride Festival. A mini album of the same name featuring songs from the show was released in 2020.
In 2022 a career retrospective compilation album Before The Half Light – Selected Works was released, compiling selected tracks from Bonner’s original compositions as a singer-songwriter to date.
He has also founded legendary music nights in Berlin at Laksmi & Alaska Bar, attracting musicians and performers from around the globe.
Prior to this, he has toured extensively across the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, and the USA. He has received airplay on BBC6 Music and MTV Italy and appeared in Grazia, Gay Times, Attitude, Time Out London, and RTE Ireland. Prior to Songs in the Key of Sea, he has released the albums Songs for the Heartshaped (2008) Balladeer (2012), and Night Music (2016) to favorable reviews.
In his own words:
When I was an overweight and socially awkward 11-year-old my music teacher asked me to stand up in class one day and sing a few lines of a song on the spot. I had never sung anything before and although it was completely out of character for me to do so, I obliged, with a few lines of a song I had heard on the radio on the school bus that morning. When I was finished the room went quiet and then came applause. I was stunned. This was the first time anyone had acknowledged that I was good at something. It felt good. There and then my fate was sealed. I decided I was going to be a singer. Simple as that.
When I was 13 I wrote my first song. It was terrible, but I kept trying. There would be many terrible songs over the coming years but slowly and thankfully a few good ones started showing up too so I kept at it.
When I was 18 I heard Tori Amos “From The Choirgirl Hotel” for the first time and on hearing that album I decided to learn to play the piano. I never took any lessons. Instead, I sat hunched over a cheap Casio keyboard, and slowly the music started to come. A love affair with David Bowie, Elton John, Rufus Wainwright, Kate Bush, and about a million other artists old and new would follow. These artists’ records would shape me and the way I saw the world and these along with my own life experience would make their way into the songs.
A stint at Music College followed as well as some years spent paying my dues in and out of bands and dead-end jobs. Music is yet to make me rich in financial terms, but it has allowed me to release a catalog of albums and singles. It has allowed me to tour and travel the world sharing my songs and my stories, to play with musicians whose talent has left me humbled and inspired in equal parts. It has allowed me to connect with people, to reach out, and be part of the world.
It has allowed me to live a life less ordinary, and for this, I am eternally grateful.
These are my songs and these are my stories. I hope they move you, make you think, comfort you, stimulate you or at the very least entertain you a little. If they don’t that’s ok too.
Thank you for reading this and thank you for coming to a show I played or an event I hosted (if you did), or for buying a record (if you have), or if you have done neither and have stumbled across this page at random then thank you for that as well.
Maybe I’ll see you out there sometime soon