Brave New Broken Hearts Club is the project of north London born songwriter Neil Phillimore.
If you’re being creative, conjuring something, where before, there was nothing; if you’re out in the world trying stuff - ideas, relationships, love... in other words... being Brave…. then you're going to get your Heart Broken.
If, when disappointment bites because things haven't panned out the way you hoped, you don’t stay down but you get up and try again... each time your heartbreak will be New. We salute you, you Brave New Broken Hearts .. welcome to the Club.
The origins of Brave New Broken Hearts Club is found in two significant personal heartbreaks. The second of these was the cessation of the charity I had set up and run for nearly 6 years. I had poured my whole self into it, invested it with every bit of life force I had. The end of it left me burned out, depressed and utterly bewildered.
The despondency I was to fall into perhaps would not have been so deep had I just been dealing with that blow, as historically I’ve been very resilient, but I had started the charity straight off the back of a painful breakup of a 10 year relationship; a ten year relationship that I had also poured all my life force into. That had also left me exhausted and broken (although I was unaware at the time of just how much). The two blows, probably neither quite enough to take me out on their own, combined together in an axeman’s stroke that took away my last remaining bit of timber - I was felled. This was late Autumn 2019 - as the Americans would have it - ‘the fall’!
At that time in an attempt to somehow escape the dark heavy wave of anger, bewilderment, sadness and disappointment that was starting to overwhelm me - and inspired by the charity’s premise that creativity is inherently, and demonstrably good for our wellbeing - I threw myself into my own creative work. I enlisted the help of one of the charity’s alumni, who’s company is a joy to me, to provide some backing vocals and recorded what became (eventually - in the summer of 2021) my debut album. At the time of recording though, it was simply an exercise to try to feel better with no intention or thought to ‘release it’ - Brave New Broken Hearts Club did not exist! The recording and making of those songs staved off the depression for that short while… but very soon afterwards I was to be picked up, tumbled and submerged by the large wave that I been trying to escape.
By the end of 2019 I was getting very anxious, I was under pressure to ‘sort my life out’. I had been sustaining myself - as I had optimistically waited for one of my many funding applications for the charity to come good - on credit and that left me financially in bad shape. I needed to work out what I was going to do. I found myself with no plan B; I had hoped and expected that the charity would be my thing for the rest of my working life, it had at the time, felt like the culmination of everything to that point; all the skills, and lessons I had learned and the life experience I had accrued. It was not to be. So I was left adrift with no energy, no desire, very little real life-force left in me. The extra time I had on my hands after the cessation of the charity, had allowed me to seek out listening material: audiobooks, podcasts, talks etc that were pertinent to my struggle, and to my quest to make sense of the place I found myself.
Well, we all know what happened at the beginning of 2020. The pandemic and lockdown came along; and as unlikely as it happening at all - were the ramifications it brought for me in my depressed state. With lockdown, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders, as it dawned on me that I couldn’t ‘sort my life out’ - no one could! The whole world came into my ‘lane’ it seemed. For someone who didn’t have very much energy to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone - at the time ‘Stay at home’ was like a prescription from ‘on high’ specifically designed for my wellbeing (in more ways than they meant it to be). The relief I felt was tangible and I fully gave myself over to rest, recovery and restoration.
As well as spending many hours sitting staring out the window reflecting and journalling I entered into the longest most consistent spell of what you might call ‘flow’ I had ever experienced. Whilst I was coming out of a dark place, writing songs and the process of recording and producing them was a joy to me - in a time of confusion and struggle it helped me explore my thoughts and feelings and stumble my way to the start of a narrow path out of the shadow I was under. The process certainly - if not entirely on its own - had a hand in saving me.
As it turned out my struggle and perhaps even more so, the way to recovery, had been given language by all the listening and reading material I’d been ingesting; it alchemised into a rich source of lyrical inspiration: everything I had been listening to (Brené Brown and Richard Rohr’s work in particular and especially all their Jungian references) along with my own reflections, percolated and fermented in my mind: the nature of disappointment, of expectations and how they set you up for that disappointment; certainty (the absurdity of it); failure, loss, heartbreak and the mysteries that these things can combine to illuminate.
The songs I recorded at that time (later to become the EP Best Laid Plans…) hold the discoveries I made, the revelations that pain, loss and disappointment in particular, had for me; they reflect the journey I went on… from a place of desolation, rage, bewilderment, resentment, hopelessness - first to a place of curiosity - then to acceptance and peace and then courage and renewed hope.
Still, however, I had no thought of ‘releasing’ any music… it was simply the way I was processing my feelings and healing.
It wasn’t until the second lockdown in 2021, when my creative energy had lulled and I was wondering what to do with myself that it occurred to me that perhaps I could be brave enough to put some of this work out into the world! I resolved to release the collection of songs I had recorded way back in 2019, a largely acoustic collection - the writing of which dated back many years - that I entitled Not What We Call Love. I decided, if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it ‘properly’. This was the imagining and conjuring of The Brave New Broken Hearts Club project - three singles and a social media campaign leading up to the release of my debut album in the summer of 2021.
Since then things have slowly and steadily escalated! In an attempt to find an audience I started playing house gigs in people’s front rooms. The intimacy of these occasions suit the songs and allow me to play to attentive audiences and also to indulge in the stories behind the songs, and the process of how they came about. I continue to write and release the songs that have both been shaped by and have inspired my journey… four singles in 2022 - (belatedly remixed and collated into a four track EP called After The Fact…exclusively for Bandcamp) then three more in 2023.
All the time I have been slowly expanding the live vision. The house gigs are a delight to me and the four ‘tours’ I have done have taken me from Essex, to Yorkshire via Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Wiltshire, Wales, Devon and Somerset. As well as the house gigs I have played at the renown acoustic venue Cafe #9 in Sheffield, various pubs and - the highlight for me - two consecutive nights in ancient church buildings which attracted 70 people each night in Devizes, Wiltshire and Llantwit Major, Wales.
A consequence of recording lots of songs before ever considering releasing them was that I had given no thought to continuity of the Brave New Broken Hearts Club sound, so to speak! Having done the solo acoustic thing with the 10 songs recorded in 2019, when I determined to write and record the songs at the start of the pandemic in 2020 I thought that I’d like to write and record songs as if I was in a band! So I approached it with a completely different mindset - and with very specific inspirations in mind. This is why in the summer of 2023 the EP Best Laid Plans… is such a deviation from the other more classic singer-songwriterly stuff… But what is consistent is that these songs lyrically continue to plot my course and reflect my inner journey. If the combination of the end of the charity and the pandemic taught me anything, it is that nothing is certain in this world… but as certain as I can be of anything, I am certain that there is much more to come!