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JC’s a man with a plan

Rising NI singer on tough year in the industry, his celebrity mentors... and why his English girlfriend loves Magherafelft

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MAN WITH A PLAN: JC Stewart

MAN WITH A PLAN: JC Stewart

MAN WITH A PLAN: JC Stewart

The name JC Stewart has been synonymous with the famous grocery story in Magherafelt but now it’s more likely to be screamed by fans who are obsessed with a 24-year-old’s ‘sad boy’ music.

Instead of joining the family business, JC Stewart, who started releasing music in 2014, earned his stripes playing in the Harbour Bar in Portrush before being signed by Snow Patrol.

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Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol

He went on to co-write with Lewis Capaldi and exploded over lockdown when his Friends parody went viral and was even shared by Jennifer Aniston.

Now he is back with new single Loud as well as a headline gig at the Ulster Hall in September. Doing his first face-to-face interview in 18 months, he sat down for a pint of Guinness in the famous Hawley Inn pub in London with Sunday Life to open up about lockdown, his dark moments with social media and why he’s desperate to be a Derry Girl.

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JC Stewart

JC Stewart

JC Stewart

Reflecting on the past 18 months he explained: “The last year has been up and down because the music’s done really well, which has been great. Obviously everybody lost a bit of momentum but I don’t know if I could have done it any other way so I’m pretty happy. I wish this just had never happened but there’s a reason for everything.

“I hadn’t lived at home for five years then I spent the first lockdown in Magherafelt just walking up the mountain, running 5ks around the countryside and taking the dog around the lake. It was the best time of my life.

“For the first time I thought maybe I would move back at some point maybe in the not too distant future. I love it. So someday I’m going to build a studio and just do that. I love the lifestyle of the North Coast.”

JC, which stands for John Callum, although he goes by Callum, wrote Loud for his girlfriend Annabelle Hoy. He recently brought the 21-year-old influencer and model back to his home town and was relieved she loves it as much as he does.

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JC Stewart with his girlfriend Annabelle Hoy

JC Stewart with his girlfriend Annabelle Hoy

JC Stewart with his girlfriend Annabelle Hoy

He revealed: “I brought my girlfriend over last week. It’s just like it’s class. She’s English. And she loves it there as well. She’s a big fan, which is great. There would be trouble if she wasn’t.”

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With his influencer girlfriend Annabelle

With his influencer girlfriend Annabelle

With his influencer girlfriend Annabelle

It hasn’t all been idyllic for JC, however — tours have been cancelled and his debut album delayed which led to him scrapping most of the tracks and starting again from scratch.

“I probably pushed the album back a year. I scrapped everything and just took some time away and naturally started writing this stuff that was obvious to me that it felt so much more real.”

Admitting “this year has been a bit much for me,” he wrote Loud when he went to Kent to get headspace. He previously opened up about his struggle with not getting enough likes on social media posts but is working to have a healthier relationship with his online persona. “I don’t even have Instagram on my phone anymore. It’s not something that makes me happy in any form. Either a post does well or it doesn’t and you feel like, ‘Nobody likes me in the whole world, my career is over.’ I still want to connect with everybody but I think going forward for the next few months, I want to let the music just do the talking.”

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JC with Lewis Capaldi

JC with Lewis Capaldi

JC with Lewis Capaldi

JC also has a strong group of musicians around him keeping his feet on the ground.

He revealed: “Niall (Horan) is really helpful and so is Tom Odell. He is somebody I work with a lot and is amazing. I was reflecting on the Snow Patrol guys and all they’ve done for me in the past few months.

“And I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for them. They signed me to my first publishing deal and then they brought me on tour but they are more hands-on helping me out with stuff than people know.

“And even the next single was written in Johnny Quinn’s house. He is one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. I give him my problems and he’ll say, ‘We had something like that. Let me try and call this guy.’ Johnny McDaid has done a bit of work on my next single with me as well. They’re just the nicest guys and legends. Me and Foy Vance have been working together a lot too.

“He’s been so helpful. I did a Zoom session with him a few weeks ago and he just started singing and it’s like ‘this is mad’. Then I’m writing with Danny (O’Donoghue from The Script). I was the biggest fanboy of them when I was a kid and now I’m working with him. I’m always subtly trying to impress him by ordering chicken wings to the studio.”

JC is also back working with his pal Lewis Capaldi. “We’ve been chatting about doing bits and I’ve written a couple of new songs in the process of the new album but whether they make it or not I don’t know. His new stuff is amazing. His voice sounds better than ever.”

Lewis has been a fan of JC since the pair met in LA, going on to write Hollywood together — he even brought him as his support when the Scot performed at the Ulster Hall and now JC is set to perform there himself in September.

“I’m terrified. Honestly Ulster Hall is somewhere I never thought in a million years I’d get to play. The last gig I played in Belfast that I headlined was McHugh’s bar to 100 people. I played with Lewis there a couple years ago and it was amazing. I’ve only seen the Ulster Orchestra there. Now I’m begging my mum’s friends to all buy tickets. I’m not very rock and roll.”

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With his mum Anne

With his mum Anne

With his mum Anne

As well as music, JC is hoping to make it to the silver screen, admitting he harbours dreams of becoming an actor. But only in one show — Derry Girls.

He added: “I tweeted that I wanted to be an actor. I do kind of but I was joking as well but I really want to be in Derry Girls. Please somebody put me in the show. I don’t have to do the accent. I can do it. I know nobody in TV but somebody must be able to get me in Derry Girls.”

JC Stewart’s single Loud is out now. Tickets for his concert at the Ulster Hall on September 2 are available from
Ticketmaster.


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