Thanks to Roadie Music blog in Brazil for this opportunity to chat, especially to Priscilla for the fabulous questions!
During 6 years, you managed an institution that provided songwriting and recording sessions for young adults. How did the idea for the institution come about? Do you think about taking it up in the future in another way?
Ah! This is a tricky subject for me because there’s a lot of emotions all mixed up in it. I originally had the idea for someone else who was interested in working with young offenders on probation. But it didn’t click with him… about a year later I realised it was my project to do, but I didn’t only want to work with young offenders (although we did work with them), I wanted it to be available to all young adults (16-25)! Growing up I was fortunate enough to have many trusted adults show an interest in me and I know the power that it has, and wanted to pay that forward really. My skill set is songwriting and recording and the nature of that creative process and working collaboratively in it provided the perfect environment for trust and understanding to grow. Funnily enough nearly all the artist I was working with when we stopped the session are still in touch with me. Those relationships are real; and they are a genuine joy to me and a inspiration actually.
No I don’t think I could try again… it has taken three hard years working through the disappointment and bewilderment, in order to to let it go!! It’s funny in hindsight though, whilst I was mentoring the young people I was inadvertently mentoring a young part of myself which has enabled me to really approach Brave New Broken Hearts Club with freedom.
Brave New Broken Hearts Club was a project that emerged during a depressive and burnout period in your life, right? When you started it, did you have the idea of creating an entire album or did the songs just come along?
Yes that’s right - it was off the back of having to stop the Charity due to lack of funding. The Charity I ran was to to do with building 1 to 1 mentoring relationship but also the inherent value of creativity for wellbeing. So when I was struggling to come to terms with the disappointment and loss of the thing I had poured my heart and soul into; the thing that felt like the culmination of everything in my life up to that point I turned to my creativity to make me feel better! So I didn’t really record that first album with release in mind - I simply made it to make myself feel better. It wasn’t until a few months later at the start of 2020 Covid came along and lockdown, and I just couldn’t stop writing - and the songs I wrote then - that are yet to be released actually - were me working through that journey of the loss and disappointment and my depression and exhaustion. The debut album was simply all the songs I had written over the previous years that I collated just to record as a way of feeling better! It had the desired effect; making it was great and a real medicine to me - especially as I made it with my friend Pearl who was an alumni of the charity and someone I really love and is full of life.
Your work is very careful in relation to writing and poetics. Tell us about the creation of the name “Brave New Broken Hearts Club”.
Thanks! I appreciate that observation! I am careful in that way yes. Well, reflecting during my depression lead me to understand that there was a path that I was on and where it was leading there would be something profound for me to learn but I could only get to that learning by going along this hard, dark path. So I guess the ‘brave’ part comes from perusing that path, which actually whilst a ‘downward’ path was the path of recovery - acceptance, letting go, unlearning, self-discovery. I guess at the heart of it really is the idea that life will always be full of heartbreak, loss, disappointment struggle but we can be brave enough to still seek life in all its fullness despite the inevitable pain. It is through the struggle that we are strengthened, made humble, and grow. I was aiming at something like that!?
You consider “Higher” one of your best compositions and it is about “getting closer to ourselves”. How did you feel when you wrote it and right now after some time has passed? Are the feelings different?
These are great questionsl! Well I guess the song is about the daily journey, at least my daily Journey; which I want to be all about growth, change, discovery, curiosity - about, sort of ‘losing oneself to find oneself’ and I guess it will always be my daily journey! Ha! I feel less lost now, but no more certain about anything; Just much more at home in the uncertainty! That’s the beauty of where I find myself at the moment that is probably different, I’ve become much more at home living in uncertainty… I’d almost go so far as to say I welcome it now!
How do people receive your compositions? Is there a feeling of exchanging experiences with the public regarding the topics you deal with?
I have had some fabulous responses from music blogs and reviewers. It’s been lovely to feel as if someone has really listened and noticed - like you did when you said I was ‘careful’ with my words … it’s really encouraging. It is very difficult to get much response generally though … I’m still trying to build an audience and it is currently very small! Getting people to listen at all is hard enough! Most of the exchanges and conversations around any shared experience has come from the live shows I’ve done. I’ve been playing house-gigs which are really intimate shows in peoples homes to 10-25 people. That format really suits the songs’ honesty and vulnerability. There have been some really beautiful connecting evenings through those shows more than from the recordings. That said I’ve had some amazing interaction around the song Emma, I reconnected with her family after many years, and had some lovely contact with one of her other best mates at school, as we remembered her together.
Your sound is raw, honest and quite acoustic. Tell us about your songwriting process? Do the melodies come before the lyrics or the other way around?
Eight times out of ten I’ll be playing around on the guitar and I’ll come up with some chords then I’ll experiment with melody until
something memorable sticks. Then I’ll write the lyrics - which I find the hardest part by far! The beauty of this process is restriction! I think restriction is really important to creativity. By coming up with a melody first I restrict myself to what words I can use because from the melody I know how many syllables I have to play with in each line. If you can use any and all words, where do you start!? But if you know you have only 6 or 8 syllables to communicate the meaning you want that line to convey, then you have something to work with!
The most important thing for me is to have a concept, the idea of what the song will be about, if I haven’t got that I can’t write. Which is why I am always looking and listening out for those concepts - maybe a line or a ‘turn of phrase’ in something I read or hear will suggest a song title which I can build a concept around or I am looking out for a general idea or philosophical concept I want to explore.
Your musical work is the result of a delicate moment in your life. What lessons did you learn during the writing period that you would like people to pay more attention to?
I guess for starters the importance and power of creativity generally in our lives! Too many people write creativity out of their lives because the think they’re not creative. Everyone has creativity in them! Choosing what to wear every day is creative; telling your stories in the pub; conversation itself is creative - nurturing it and finding a further, more intentional expression of it only enriches life and it can be hugely beneficial, even healing, whereas repressing and denying it diminishes us and can even be harmful to us I believe.
On a more philosophical level - we are in control of nothing, accept it, prepare your heart for loss and heartbreak as much as it is possible, at least so as you are not ambushed or surprised by it! Then Lean into mystery, humble yourself, embrace uncertainty be curious and remember the ‘greatest block to truth is the assumption we already have it.’
On social networks like Instagram, you share a lot of reflective texts and use mosaic posts. Do you also take care of the aesthetic part of your work? Is this also a part of your expression as an artist?
Yes it is! Again thanks so much for noticing! I genuinely believe there is no other Instagram account like mine anywhere! It has both a large composite picture that you can see on the grid whilst at the same time having unique compelling content for each individual Post! It was/is a lot of work and It’s a great joy to me! It has failed miserably up to now to ‘play’ the algorithm to increase my followers but I don’t really care! I have been approaching it just like another art project! It was a great help to me when here in the UK we had our second lockdown - I had been writing and recording solidly 2020 then and I was spent ! It was then I decide to release the album i’d recorded earlier in 2019 and threw myself into preparing the social Media (Instagram Mainly) to launch and promote it! It kept me creative and was fun working on a visual medium being a different expression of my creativity and one where I had to learn a lot, to achieve what I wanted to achieve. The grid collage
Image is made up of lots of photos and items which all have a relevance to my life, so for a while, every 9 squares I would do a post #smallthingsbigpicture that was an animation of the bigger collage and tell the stories of the pictures in it. It was a way of telling my story and of allowing people to get to know me and to hopefully connect on a personal level!
Please, tell us a little about your creative universe. Artists and topics that inspire you.
I guess my answers to your previous questions would give an insight as to how I am wired and what interest me… people do! The human condition - the existential journey, my own journey, the inner work - ‘shadow work’ as Jung would call it. Also Love; divine love? Supernatural Love? Metaphysical Love? Whatever it is really! I can’t help think that I t is so much more than what we call it; so much more interesting and world changing than Romantic Love which is where we seem so often to stop in our consideration of it, especially where songwriting is concerned.
So many diverse artists inspire me - but I am utterly in love with the 3minute pop Song format! I grew up listening to the great British ‘Singles-bands’, like Madness, The Jam, The Police, Queen, Elvis Costello, The Beatles … when pop music was a bit more band orientated, they’re all genius purveyors of the 3 minute pop song! I do love loads of bands that do a more cinematic, atmospheric, linear type of thing but I can’t do it, I need the format of the ‘song’ to get my thoughts in order and to capture my creativity otherwise it becomes unwieldy and I can’t pin it down - ah, That’s another example of how restriction helps me create I guess!
Tell us what's coming next. Upcoming releases, concerts etc
I’m not entirely sure of the order or timing of releasing stuff but I have a couple more songs to release this year more or less in keeping with the style and mood I have been doing so far … but I have a number of songs that I wrote during lockdown that are quite different stylistically and recorded and produced more as if I was in a band… and I am not sure when to release them as I am only just getting started really in terms of building an audience I don’t want to pivot too soon and lose people! But potentially I have 3 Eps worth written… but maybe I release them gradually a track at a time … I am not sure.
Live I will definitely be doing more house-gigs (which I alway support with video diaries on instagram - the previous ones are all in the highlights @bravenewbhc) I need to find other ways of playing to more audiences too. I applied to loads of festivals this year and to Sofar Sounds (the secret gig people) but so far no joy! So I just need to find a way to play to as many people as possible for the rest of this year! That’s where I find I’m really connecting with people who are really engaging with what I’m up to!