When did you first get involved in music?
I think music has been a part of me from the earliest bits of my life. My mum's musical, as is my dad (although he won't admit it) so I was always around music growing up. I started learning drums and piano at nine, as well as singing in Choirs at Church and at school. Given my disability (I have Cerebral Palsy and use a manual wheelchair) and the diagnosis I'd been given as a small child, it was always seen as pretty unlikely I'd be able to play any instruments, but I loved them so much I just kept going and going with them. When I was about fourteen I started writing songs, all the way along encouraged by amazing teachers and friends, and then eventually, in 2003, made a CD called Project Freedom with help from a charity over here called Whizz Kidz. From there it kinda spiralled, so that, by 2007 we (Freeslave) had released four or five CDs, including a full length, and done pretty well nationally here. From there my own life unravelled a bit, and I went solo, almost while God was doing works of healing and reconciliation in my life, and now here I am, with a second solo album, and a big passion to share what God has done in my life and is doing, and is offering to all, whereas in the old days I was more interested in being cool and liked, if you get what I mean.
What bands did you listen to growing up?
Delirious? were a big influence on me growing up. I remember being a kid and watching them chart back in 1997 and being almost obsessed with them. I've since found out that this isn't really healthy, and also that they're thoroughly decent chaps, rather than big shot rock stars, but that's hard to process when you're 12! I also loved Oasis, Blur, Pulp, British bands like that from the Britpop era. Later on bands like Matthew (amazing band, everyone should buy their one album) and a lot of Christian bands from the UK like Kato and Quench, that I've since had the pleasure of touring with.
You used to be a member of a band called Freeslave? Why did you decide to go solo?
I think I sort of answered that already. Basically, the band would have carried on and worked, and probably still been going, if I'd handled it better, and been easier to be in a band with, and we'd communicated better as a bunch of guys, but sadly I lacked maturity and common sense, and acted like an idiot at various points, and something which could have been really great came to an end just when we were at the point of achieving something special. That's a big regret of mine. Now though, as my life and circumstances have changed, with working for a Church, and also as I find the travelling you need to do for touring pretty arduous, it's quite nice to be doing things solo on my own terms.
What were some of the musical and lyrical influences for your latest release, Heart Strings?
I love bands like Mutemath, Aqualung, Stateless and Telefon Tel Aviv. If I could scratch the surface of their songwriting skill and inherent creativity I'd be pretty happy. Lyrically I wanted to write a hopeful record, and give a picture of who I've been as a person and an artist, and the person I am now, and shine an expectant light on the life that is to come, if we choose to accept the offer that God makes to us in Jesus.
Do you have a favorite song from the new record?
I have two. Crying, and Masterplan. Crying, I wrote on September 12th 2001, after praying around 9/11 and seeking God for His voice and heart about what was going on there. The idea that human violence one to another, in whatever form, breaks the heart of God is, I think, valid and important for us to grasp as it was then and has been throughout time. Masterplan is very personal, as it deals with the issue of beauty and self-worth. As a bloke, I'm not supposed to think of myself as beautiful really, not very manly that, but God delights in me and rejoices over me with singing (Zeph 3:14-17). Throughout my life I've struggled with self worth and self image, because of being disabled, feeling less than a man, and not thinking that I stand comparison with other people, because of that and who I've been, but God loved me so much He sent Jesus to die for me so that I could know Him, love Him, and be made like Him, and through Him, I am made beautiful. If we're made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and God is love and beauty, how can we not be a little bit like that, even in our fallen state? Once we accept Christ as Saviour and friend, we are restored, reconciled, made new in Him, beautiful. When I started to write this record, every show we were playing I seemed to meet people who struggled along similar lines to me, and it seemed like it is God's heart for this generation that we, in humility, know who we are in Christ, how beautiful we are, that we are hidden in the palm of God's hand, that He covets us, that He loves us, and rejoices over us. I think if we, as a Church really got this, it would revolutionize our lives, and the ministry we exercise in the world.
What was the inspiration for “Lost My Heart?”
I wanted to write a song about putting God above and before every other part of my life. Singing "Take it all from me, all the treasure of this life to which I cling, till you are the only thing I adore" every time you go on stage is a humbling thing to do, and also a dangerous prayer. I long for many people to join with me in singing that, and seeking ways for our lives to reflect it.
What do you hope listeners take away from the album?
I hope people meet, get to know, fall in love with, and commit their lives to Jesus, and if my album plays some part in that then there could be nothing better than that for me.
Where do you draw inspiration for your songwriting?
All over really. More often than that experiences trigger a desire to write, and then I bunk down for a while and get on with it. I have large swathes of time when I don't write a note, and then it all happens at once. This year I've found writing very difficult, because a lot of the joy, and drive and determination, which drove me on in the past, has disappeared. I've had a few industry-related disappointments, and felt let down a few times, as well as feeling like I've let people down a fair bit too, but I'm emerging blinking into the songwriting sunlight once again right now, getting ready for my next project.
Do you have any songwriting tips for amateur songwriters?
Write what you love. If you love it, others will. If you hate it, they probably will too. Don't force it, it'll come, and if you write about or to or for God, keep it that way. Don't get swayed by a desire to sell units or for radio or whatever else. He delights in you, He is your audience, your fanbase. If you offer, truly offer something to Him, for His use, don't be surprised if He takes it and uses it in ways you've never dreamed of. Oh, and always love on your band, be friends with them, and stay friends with them whatever happens. I didn't do this well, a few times in my life, and I regret the loss of people from my life much more than I enjoy listening to the records I've made. You'll be friends much longer than you'll have good hair.
Any plans for music videos or tours?
The record's out on November 22nd, digitally all over the world. Please buy it, share it, love it, and tell your friends about it. All sorts of things could happen after that but for now I'll try and remain content and carry on serving at home, and just see what God has in store.