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Speak, Brother

Updates and musings from the guys

Here we are…

.. another brand spanking new year. In between seeing family and pigging out, I’ve locked myself away in my room over the last few days. My desk covered in scribbles and books and a voice recorder always close to hand as I write these songs..

What a year 2016 has been. Generally, I’ve heard the year called all sorts of names.. Most of them bad. The rest, really bad. Ha! Ok a touch dramatic I guess. But it seems there’s so much change. So much fear, separation and disconnection. Wars, tails of deception and more devastating terror attacks all over the world. It literally feels social and political tectonic plates are shifting like crazy below our feet and it’s a wonder we’re still standing. All topped off with what seems so many of our most favourite pioneers of arts and sources of inspiration have passed away.

More and more however, I believe, in these times of fear, confusion and desperation that we’re all in, there will be more and more opportunities for us each to connect with people around us. Each of us has a purpose in this together. And I think, we’ll see more positive change from the ground up. We are all brothers and sisters on this little golf ball of a planet after all, right?

My challenge to myself is to not become stretched too thin, to be too busy, too overwhelmed to forget that. And to try and not forget how bloomin’ blessed I am to be alive and breathing.

I’m glad, now we’re in 2017, we can look forward with a sense of optimism. Which is what a I love about this time of year. It gives you an opportunity to react positively. A fresh start. Just like a chilly bright frosty morning after a long night.

Dream big this year.. and write it down in permanent marker. A lot can happen in a year. If this time last year some one told me we’d be in the middle of recording a proper full length fan funded Album with Ian Grimble this year, I’d laugh in their face. ‘Not on your nelly!!’ I’d say. Yet here we are.. I’m still waiting for someone to wake me up ha..

On that note, back to songwriting! Wishing you your best year yet!

Much love and speak soon,

James

The Album – It’s really happening and it all starts next week!

We had to put it out early.. Before we could talk ourselves out of it. A quick, wild shout to the world before we got too realistic, too sensible or too ‘grown up’. Like the tail end of a game of ‘Bogies’ in the library.

Yep, we’re sticking to our sheepish announcement we made a couple months ago and so much has happened since! We’ve made some great headway in writing and we’ve also got on board an amazing producer, Ian Grimble who has worked with the likes of Rhodes, Matthew and the Atlas, Bears Den, Daughter and Seth Lakeman!

Writing specifically for an album, rather than songs individually is a real journey for us. The themes that are forming at the moment are really close to our hearts. Stories that have moved us, and deserve to be retold and all along the way, we want you to be part of it.We need to raise a heap of money to afford it all and the target is outrageously large for a band our size. So scary! But, it’s time for us to go crazy and take a risk. I believe it’ll work, somehow, hopefully with your help.

So the fundraising will start next week and we want to get off to a great start! So, if you’re willing to invest in an album from us for yourself then get your fingers on the trigger! Recording is due to start in December so no time to waste!

Keep an eye for the crowdfunding link..

James

A song on a mountain top

I’m not a natural singer. My family will tell you my bedroom signing was more than painful to experience. I remember trying to sing/shout the high notes from some 90’s punk rock songs and although I remember loving it, I’m pretty sure my notes fell way flat.

Earlier this year, walking up a mountain comes with its own moments of serenity but this mountain trip had a nice extra serene surprise at the top. On a sunny February in Spain, myself and my partner in crime went to Montserrat, just outside Barcelona. It has a monistry half way up the mountain which you could actually take the half way up to (lazy I know, but we only had a few hours )

At some point along the way, whilst taking in the stunning views I could hear a faint melody in the air.. We shrugged it off and carried on, until I caught sight of a couple of guys some way above us, kneeling down, staring out into the distance. Out of the still silence, one of them started singing.. He was quite far away, but you could still just make out a beautiful melody. He sang loud and proud. I figure he must of been one of the monks from the monistry. I love it because unlike walking, talking, running, breathing, there’s no direct purpose. You don’t need to sing to survive per say. Rather, you get to.

I guess it’s like an outlet. A steam pressure release. Just like screaming out in agony, when you stub your toe on a corner! Imagine trying to keep a straight face and not cry out in pain when you stub your toe or step on a plug?!As I said, I’m no natural singer. I guess I just kept doing it, and I happened to be ok at it at the moment.

Singing is somehow freeing, powerful and profound. Sing in the good times, and sing in the complicated and hard times. Just please don’t ever let the fear of what you sound like to others stop you.

When ever I think of mountains, I now think of this song by a friend Malc Evans

Speak soon,

James

The blind lady that could see for miles…

A few weeks after the release of Light Runs After Us and I just wanted to share some thoughts on the final song ‘See for Miles’…

It was one of these weird, warm fuzzy feelings.. A little like seeing a friends new born baby for the first time. A pure kind of feeling that pushed away any selfish ambitions or emotions that often contaminate and consume our everyday busy lives.

At a gig a couple years ago we caught sight of this lady. A ‘normal’ looking lady. In that there weren’t any particular features about her that stood out other than you could tell she was in fact blind. There was something about her that was different though.

It was one of these audition type gigs in the hope of playing a festival. Now, I’m not really fond of performing against other artists. Find it really gets in the way of enjoying the art of music. Back then though, we were a little more insecure with our own sound and abilities, than we perhaps are now, and inevitably, all we could think about was ourselves and our performance.  So we were very much in our own little ‘bubbles’. Which just goes against the grain of everything we set out to do.. Because how can you connect with people, if all you’re thinking about is yourself?!

Anyways, some way through the night, we caught site of this blind lady. And in complete contrast to what was happening in my own little world, she seemed to glow and radiate Joy. Completely standing out from what seemed like a room made up of weighed down, weary and disheartened souls. You could tell she just loved music. She just expressed herself without inhibition. Smiled, laughed, clapped her hands. Pretty much dancing in her seat.

There was something beautiful about her. Something simple. The biggest thing for me, is that it seemed she just didn’t care what others thought of her actions. Complete at peace within herself.

Blind from birth.. Yeh, I have no idea how hard it must be. I mean, to never see the ocean? But then I think what would it be like to not be exposed to the huge amounts of pressure on us on how to look, how to act. To perform in life every single day and to be judged on your performance.

The media and marketing push it relentlessly, first making a perceived need, then sell you stuff to fill it. We all know this, but it’s hard. The success of marketing is built on how well you are convinced you’ll never be quite good enough. A constant message of discontent to make a sale, we need stuff, and they need money. A sick dependency really.

But seeing her, blissfully unaware of the whole deal, was a beautiful moment. She doesn’t know and doesn’t care that there’s someone apparently better out there. It seemed that all she knew was that she loved where she was and nothing got in the way of being full of Joy.

Somewhere down the line, we’ve forgotten that we were beautiful right from conception. This song serves as a reminder to us to look out for the Joy in life and turn a blind eye to anything that says otherwise.

Here’s the lyrics video. You can also listen on Spotify or grab a CD / Download here: https://rocketfuelhq.com/speakbrotheruk#shop

 

Looking at 2016 with a Wizard’s wise words..

I’m not normally a New Years resolution making chap.. Although I do like to try to remember what actually happened as 2015 flew by..

For one reason or another, over the year I’ve been watching the world much more closely than I have previously. Especially in the last few months, I’ve found myself starting to sink into a pit of despair whilst helplessly witnessing the happenings in Paris, the US, and especially in the Middle East. I’ve tried to look deeper than ever before into the details of the who, what, when and perceived reasons as to how the heck these tragedies happen.

The more crap I find happens in this world, the smaller this world feels to me. It’s pretty bleak to honest. The more attention I pay, the harder it is, but also the closer it all feels to home. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Because the more aware I am of people’s sufferings, the more I feel part of it and the more I treat them as a neighbour. No matter how far they are away.

But I can see it’s obvious no matter what the will of our world leaders, fear is spreading here in the West. Fear and uncertainty is a divider. And it’s easy to use things like our own national identity, skin colour, religion to justify that division. Separating ourselves from the problem in that we should just get on with our own lives and let the cares of others sort themselves out. I know most of us don’t mean anything in a Scrooge like ‘let them die to decrease the surplus population’ thing but I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves the question: ‘what can we possibly do to change anything?’

Right now in the north of Britain, there’s a whole load of record level flooding. 1000’s of homes and businesses are ruined. One man from Yorkshire who’s been really badly affected and had every excuse to be bitter and self occupied said this:

“All you morons vomiting your xenophobia on here about how money should only be spent ‘on our own’ need to look at yourselves closely in the mirror. I request you ask yourselves a very important question… am I a decent and honourable human being? Because home isn’t just the UK, home is everywhere on this planet.”

I do feel like if everyone remembered that we are all brothers and sisters on this earth, it’d be a lot easier to make decisions about people’s lives, over and above financial interest and well being.

In terms of myself and Speak, Brother in 2015.. Well, I could say that we’ve played 50 odd shows and launched two singles and videos (one for the Rugby World Cup of course).. In many respects, a good year.

But I have to ask myself the question: Does it matter?

A little critical I guess. But this year if I keep this kind of perspective then perhaps instead of just being a person in the music business, I’d be in the people business, making music. Maybe then I’ll find myself more often in a position to somehow make it matter.

Anyways, this is starting to sound like a Gandalf monologue with The Shire music warmly whistling over it.. ha! But I’m not going to apologise for that. Instead, I’ll leave you with a Wizard’s wise words:

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

What do you think?

James

“If only”s and “What might be”s..

So here’s something that’s been on my mind recently..

Have you ever found yourself imagining a life that is better than what it seems you have right now?

Mmm.. Yeh thought so..  Sometimes it’s a new car. Or a bigger house. A better job. A new phone. To be debt free. Or even as innocent as a simple holiday with the family. What ever it’s for, the daily routines of life can just be a constant reminder that these dreams are no closer than when first dreamt.

We’re often looking out ahead, or sometimes behind. Those “If only”s, or the “What might be”s that often fade into the distance.. They’re sometimes the fruits of regret or the fear of failure. But most of the time, they are the result of the overriding pressure that’s on us, everyday.

The pressure is this:

“Where we are or have is not good enough and we somehow need more to be happy, successful or comfortable.”

I’ve often said things like this concerning Speak, Brother. The band does take up a lot of head space and although it all seems like for a good reason, I often try to take things so far to the point of being completely consumed with making the most of everything.

This pressure can drive us away from the very thing that I believe we truly, desperately want. Companionship. Love. Friendship. But instead, all that falls by the wayside and true happiness and content is far away.

It wasn’t until a few key points in my life, which the song ‘Slow to Now‘ describes, where I remembered what I was leaving behind, in my pursuit for so called ‘success and happiness’.

It’s not found in tomorrow, next week, or some day. But right now. Dreams and desires are good. But what good are they, if you run with them on your own?

I think I’m realising that Dreams and desires are only attained when doing them with other people around you. Never go solo.

‘Slow to Now’ is now a constant reminder to me every time we play it to make the most of the people around me, right now.

So that’s me.. Can you remember your #SlowtoNow moments? A trip to the beach, a birthday, a long chat with a friend? Tweet @SpeakBrotheruk or share with us on Facebook 🙂

 

 

 

Sunny Saturdays and a blind lady

I love Saturdays.. They always seem to be sunny, no matter the weather. Everyone needs one day off a week that is different from the rest. A day that allows you to chill out. It’s good for the soul. I get to write songs, blog, plan music videos and stay in my slippers most of the day. What’s your day off like?

So, today I’ve been finishing off a song I’ve been working on, which I’m kinda buzzing about because it was based on a weird and wonderful moment the guys and I witnessed a years ago..

A gig – May 2013. We were still waiting to play. The show was a competition to play a festival. Thankfully not based on how many people you can bring, but the music itself. Naturally, it was difficult to fully appreciate the music when you feel like you’re against each other in a fight for the right to play the festival. But the other acts were great and I was feeling tired and a little discouraged and all I could think about was how to ‘impress’ the judges.

It was safe to say I was just focusing on myself, until I caught sight of a lady who obviously blind. But the first thing I noticed about her was the fact that she seemed really happy. Well, not just happy, but joyful. She seemed the only person in the room that was truly enjoying being alive. Yet she was blind. She saw nothing.

But it was beautiful.

Why? I had no idea at first. I wanted to pity her. She’s never seen a sunset, or new born baby! Yet.. I wanted what she had. A joy that didn’t faulter when she was judged or treated differently.. A joy that can only come from a sense of unconditional love and the unwavering expectation that everything will be ok.

Being blind, she misses out on all the magazines, newspapers and blogs filled with the media’s idea on what a woman needs to look like to be accepted in society. We really are fed some rubbish from the media.. She misses out on the expectations put on her to try to be something.

She didn’t need to try to be anything.. She was just her. It was like she knew that more then anyone in the room. She was herself, and that made her beautiful.

Why would you settle for anything less?!

I started asking myself again – Who am I? Why am I here? And for what purpose? Questions it seemed she’d know the answers to, but sometimes admittedly scared to ask myself.

What would you say?

In the studio for round #2

Hello! Last November saw the release of our Debut EP and since then, we’ve felt we have a lot more to sing about. So we went into the studio earlier this month and recorded a new one!

We’re currently adding the bells and whistles to it and hope to have it in your ears this Spring!

Here’s a snippet of what happened in the studio.. The guitar riff at the start was one of my takes for one of the songs.

Speak soon,

J x

EP Preview – Track #4 Two Bands Of Gold

Well we’re almost at the end of our short series of previews of songs on the EP which means the EP release is just around the corner! Next Monday (November 3rd) in fact.

Two Bands of Gold rounds off the EP in the complete opposite way it started. Dry Bones is big and anthemic, but this.. I guess is a bit more face to face.

I’m not going to talk too much about the story as I’d like to let the song do that but it’s quite close to my heart as it’s about my grandparents, so I’ll share a little.

Things are things always changing in our lives. And I wrote this song in the middle of a transitional point, from one season to another. My Grandad had not long passed away and my Nan was adapting to living alone. I can’t imagine how hard it’d be for her. To live on your own after sharing a life with someone for most of your life.. On the flipside to that, I was also planning on proposing to my girlfriend.

I suppose the odd mix of feelings led me to think a little more on the meaning of marriage and how great, but also how hard, it can be. So this is a story about them and a celebration of love. Not a soppy love that looks like proper love, but really only wants to get something from the other person.. But a love that overlooks faults, with no conditions and just wants to give and give. You know, the proper stuff. The real Mckoy.. One year married now, and it’s a learning curve for sure with plenty of up’s and down’s already, but this song is a good reminder for me.

But anyways.. here’s a clip of what’s to come on Monday:

EP Preview – Track #3 Break In

Ever felt like going in circles? This song was an outlet of frustration for me when I wrote it. After repeatedly going through the same struggles, I kinda felt like I was wadding through mud. I’m a bit of an introvert so I can overthink things pretty easily and make them way bigger than what they actually are. Making negative thoughts big in my life eventually  turned into depression. Depression over nothing really specific either. Just a dull, numb inexplicable feeling.

I’ve been reading one of Stephen Fry’s books and of learning his battle with depression, which was/is certainly considerably worse than anything I’ve had to deal with. Listen to My Fry talk about his depression:

Listening to him talk about it though is quite confusing to me as I’m so used to him making me laugh with his brilliant witty genius! It outlines pretty heavily to me that anyone can be going through stuff you have no idea about, and gives me a little more patience for some people.

One of the things Fry links to depression is the sense of nothingness and no future. It’s like being locked in a padded room filled with mirrors so you can’t see past yourself. You can’t see your future, or your purpose for living. If you don’t have a sense of purpose, why bother?

I started writing this song in the midst of something like this,  but also where I found someone, or should I say found me, who simply came alongside me.