The Story Behind The Song

The Story Behind- The World As I – And the EP Artwork.

The kettle was on, there was a box of tissues next to the sofa and I was sat poised with my pencil and paper… Kathryn came in with 2 cups of tea and sat down next to me looking slightly nervous about what emotions talking to me might bring to the surface…

Kathryn’s son Rob has Asperger syndrome. He was diagnosed at the age of 3.

When I began my journey in search of stories to turn into songs I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t even know if people would be willing to share their stories with me let alone if I was capable of turning them into a song. As I sat to talk with Kathryn that afternoon I was a few months into my quest and I had already sat down with several others. I has listened intently to each of them unveil some of the most private and harrowing moments of their lives. It was often hard to get them to open up, I would ask lots of leading questions or alternatively change the subject for a while to give them some respite if I felt it was getting too much for them. I was careful to be receptive of whomever I was talking to at the time and do my best to gauge their emotional state and when they needed breaks. With the majority of people I had two, sometimes three meetings just to allow them the time and space they needed to recall these painful memories and emotions that they had buried deep inside. This was not true for Kathryn; all I had to say was: “So Kathyrn, Tell me about your son”… the words poured from her mouth effortlessly, just like water from a tap. She talked about his early years and the frustration of not knowing why her son was behaving the way he was, blaming herself and feeling like she had somehow failed her first child. She told me of the day her best friend sat her down to tell her that the nursery had expressed concerns about Rob and that she may need to consider the possibility that he is autistic. Then she divulged the whirlwind of emotions that preceded his eventual diagnosis: relief that everything finally made sense, combined with worry that this condition may ‘take away Rob’s innocence’, his childhood…

I am sure if I had offered to camp out there, Kathryn could’ve happily talked continuously about her son Rob for days on end. The love that shone out of her as she spoke about him was overwhelming, I already felt full of admiration and affection for this boy whom I had never met.

 

When I arranged to meet with Kathryn I thought I would write about how she had coped with motherhood to and autistic son and what it was like for her to deal with Rob’s autism on a daily basis. But the more she spoke about him the more I began to realise that this boy was a very special human being and I became intrigued by Robert and his outlook on life. Kathryn’s biggest fear for Robert was that he would lose his innocence but this couldn’t have been further from the truth! He has the most wonderfully purity about him, an innocence that neither you nor I would be capable of holding on to through our adult life. His view of the world is enviable; he doesn’t understand the concept of lying or cheating; He has a great love of football but rather than support one team he simply supports the winning team of whichever match he is watching, because “why wouldn’t you want the winners to win?”

When he was young, Rob struggled to understand that there was once a time before he was born. He would see pictures and ask where he was and after several failed attempts of explaining to him that he hadn’t been born yet, Kathryn found herself saying: “You were in God’s pocket”. Years on Rob would still tell people when looking at those very photos that that’s where he was.

One day when Rob came home from nursery Kathryn, as usual, asked him about his day. He got frustrated with her; “Why do you always ask me that Mum? You know what I did!” She told him that she didn’t have any idea what he had been up to at nursery as she was not in fact there with him: Kathryn explained to me that it is common for young children with Asperger’s to see themselves and their mother’s as 1 person. Rob believed that Kathryn was with him at all times even when he couldn’t see her. I thought this was such a beautiful thing… The words are pouring out of me even now just as they did from Kathryn that day, I too could go on for pages and pages about all the wonderful stories she told me, but I also want to tell you how his song came to life…

Tears were shed, tea was drunk, hugs were shared and my pad was filled with scribbles of wonderful tales for this song. But as I left I knew that I wanted to write the song about Rob, I wanted to get inside his world and write the song from his perspective on life. He has such a wonderful view of the world, looking at things with open eyes, finding joy in things that would pass us by unnoticed, that I wanted to try and capture this within the song. I called Kathryn and explained this to her, she was delighted and told me that years ago Rob wrote a story about his year in ‘Bridging’ (a school that he went to for 1 year to ‘bridge the gap’ between moving from a school for children with Asperger’s to state school). She promised to ask him if he would be happy for me to read that story and use it for my song…

 

To my delight he said yes!

 

I was like a kid receiving their favourite comic book eager and excited to see what was inside. I sat down and read through what Rob had titled ‘My Top 20 Mad Moments’ and I was smiling from beginning to end. I immediately booked a room at Bally Studios with Rhys(my co-writer). I sat at the mic’, Rhys at the piano and just as the words had flowed out of Kathryn that day, the song seemed to do the same from me.

TWAI

With the artwork for this track we wanted to capture the innocence of Rob but also convey the wonderful way in which he sees the world around him. Spinks and I came up with the idea of the Kaleidoscope; we were really excited by it as it was a children’s toy, (which perfectly represented the innocence) that you look through and crate amazingly symmetrical patterns and colours out of broken glass and rubble. Much like Rob does in life; something we might deem to be ugly or meaningless he would fine ultimately satisfying and exciting! Now to figure out how to create this on the canvas of a body (If you haven’t read my previous posts, I decided to do all the artwork for the EP in body painting pictures. I am very fortunate to have a super talented friend and it just felt right that the artwork for songs about real people should be painted on real people)! After many weird and wonderful ideas we settled on this: Spinks painted a geometric globe on my body (to depict the kaleidoscope as a beautiful viewpoint of the world). Victoria Evans then took pictures of me as a slowly spun around, ensuring that she got a shot of each and every country. We then chose our favourite shots and handed it over to Andy Biddle to piece together in a Kaleidoscope fashion. The results turned out to be the EP cover itself. It just felt right. The overriding connection between all the subjects of the EP is that they have worked through a world of broken glass and rubble and created a beautiful life for themselves and those around them. Gained strength and perspective in the face of adversity.

 

This song always gets such a wonderful response at gigs and gives me such a heart warming feeling when I sing it. One of my proudest moments to date is when I played it to Kathryn for the first time and through teary eyes she said “You’ve just got him down to a T, it’s perfect.”

Since working on the EP with Dan, this song, like all the others has evolved from its original acoustic state but I think this one probably went on the biggest journey of all. I found it so hard to keep the innocence of Rob within the new more electronic sound that I was creating for this project but I didn’t want to cast it aside as it has an uplifting, infectious quality that I wanted for this EP. After lots of work and an awkward call to my lovely producer Dan explaining that we needed to re-do it again for the 4th time even though I had signed off on it. I am finally proud of where it has ended up. I still like to play the acoustic version every now and again as I believe that is where the true essence of Rob lays but I feel like he still shines through in the EP version. Thank you Rob and thank you Kathryn for sharing your beautiful world and teaching me to see the beauty in the little things that pass us by.

The Story Behind ‘On And On’

On And On was one of the last stories I gathered and unlike Four Weeks (Hyperlink to last blog) this one definitely resisted being born. It tells the story of a young woman, single, director of her own company and homeowner, who once earned a living taking her clothes off for paying customers.

She told me stories of the corruption and what can only described as prostitution that went on in the stripping industry. Of girls agreeing to meet clients after work for more money. Of girls tricking guys into paying more with the promise of post work connections and then sneaking off home without fulfilling their part of the deal. Of girls allowing guys to break the ‘no touching’ rule in the hope that they would receive a big tip. Of girls paying off the bouncer with oral pleasure so that he didn’t mark down their private dances and thus they would avoid paying commission to the club. These were all risks and violations that she ‘hand upon her heart’ never did. When asked, what was the strangest thing you have ever done, she replied: “One guy, during a private dance, asked me to spit into his mouth. It was so strange but he agreed to pay another £100 if I did it, so I tried my best to muster up some spit… I had the driest mouth and I was struggling to get any saliva up.” It took her a while but she managed to complete his strange request after all and got her £100 as promised.

Aside from all these eye-opening stories that she told the thing that grabbed my attention the most was the battle of dominance that went on between her and the client. It struck me that in a world in which you would assume the male was the dominant by character, in fact the female actually held a significant level of control. The job is essentially women being ogled at by men and being paid to take their clothes of and dance around for men. You would be forgiven for thinking that females were the weaker species here. But in many cases, you would be wrong. When I talked with this young woman it became clear that the power actually jumped continuously between the two of them during the course of their interaction. I found this to be very true to every day life for most of us: The male/female divide; the constant comparison and competition between the sexes and the way in which we use our sexuality to manipulate each other. The stripping environment held a magnifying glass to the subject!

With the artwork for On And On we wanted to capture the sexual nature of the manipulation between them combined with the battle of wills. We opted for skeletons because they are of indeterminate sex. I found the subjects in this story to display androgynous characteristics. I always like to see barriers broken when it comes to gender stereotypes so I wanted to enhance this in all aspects of the song; from audio to video and to the artwork itself. We also wanted to portray the alternating dominance between the stripper and her client which was tricky with a static piece of work; To do this we positioned our models in a pose that could be concluded as both sexual or aggressive.

On and on_thinLogoTitle

Although the topic of stripping may seem somewhat derogatory to women I wanted to approached it with a sense of female empowerment and do justice to the strength and drive of this young women, who now, 5 years on from her stripping career is an accomplished business women with her own property and company all through her own hard work and self belief. Having said that I still wanted to capture the sordid and sexual nature of it. Which I believe is where the problem lay…

When I began putting this story into song I had the notion of ‘girl power’ in mind and it just became a bit of a cheesy pop song! This was not at all reflective of the subject matter, I wrote, and rewrote and rewrote again and eventually I was left with about 5 or 6 half finished attempts and the idea for a song that didn’t really know what it wanted to be. Needless to say we parted ways for a while.

It wasn’t until I got into the studio with Dan Goudie that I was really able to give it the life it has now. By this point, Dan and I had a few songs under our belt and we had carved out a solid, trusting working relationship, which enable us both to take more risks than maybe we would have on day one. I explained the situation with the song to Dan, I talked him through the story of the young woman and he set to work on a beat as I sat attempting to write and rewrite more lyrics. Struggling still I was getting frustrated with both myself and the song, had I read the book ‘Big Magic’ before then, I may have just taken a moment to have a strong talking to my ‘inspiration’ and tell it to ‘show up and do their part’ because I am here slogging away trying to make this work while it was seemingly nowhere to be found! Then Dan’s beat came together and it was like a light was switched on, like the song had been waiting there in the shadows the whole time and this beat was like a huge floodlight that exposed every inch of it. I wrote and wrote and ‘On And On’ was FINALLY born!

 

Watch On And On performed live for Band Vault TV.

Lyrics and Artwork below:

 

ON AND ON

Watch them hover round for a fallen glass

Are you gonna make me dance

Tailored to a roll in this tender war

Let me leave you wanting more

 

We lost we made on and on and on

Power display on and on and on

Private vultures on and on and on

Dry mouth conscious on and on and on

 

You don’t want to play that game

Hand upon my heart I will make you pay

Dripping down into your mouth

You are gonna freak me out

 

Hands on straight laced on and on and on

I turn you may on and on and on

Two faced drink first on and on and on

Six hour secrets on and on and on

 

on and on and on

on and on and on

on and on and on

on and on and on

 

Witness every inch of me

Feed me with your fantasy

Now you are mine

Elevating masculinity

Covering your fallacy

Trolling your mind

 

We lost we made on and on and on

Power display on and on and on

Two faced drink first on and on and on

Six hour secrets on and on and on

 

Come up on distortion fall every night

Independent parasites

My nails down your back hold you to the vow

You’ll repay the debt somehow

You cannot tell the colour of my eyes

Intentions overcast your sight

Line up in daylight and I’ll pick you out

Forcing you to take a bow.

 

 

“What if they had the opportunity to tell their story…”

I am reading this book at the moment called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, in it she talks about ideas being a “disembodied, energetic life-form.” She goes on to say: “ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners.” I really love this analogy. I think any creative person who has ever created something will understand that mystical, magical feeling of not really knowing where it came from and certainly not feeling like it came from you; That feeling that it was indeed some sort of outer body experience that you had little control over. Elizabeth tells the story of an American Poet named Ruth Stone whom she met with when she was nearly 90 years old. Ruth recalled to Elizabeth how she would experience ideas: “she would sometimes hear a poem coming towards her- hear it rushing across the landscape at her, like a galloping horse. Whenever this happened, she knew exactly what she had to do next: She would “run like hell” toward the house, trying to stay ahead of the poem, hoping to get to a piece of paper and pencil fast enough to catch it. That way when the poem reached her and passed through her, she would be able to grab it and take dictation, letting the words pour forth onto the page.” Now, just as Elizabeth goes on to say, not every idea comes to you like this, sometimes it is a hard old slog and you have to sit there prising it out of yourself, exploring many different avenues before you get there. Both of those are true for my song ‘Four Weeks’.

four-weeks-cd_size_v5_smaller

From the first day I began writing music I wanted to write a song about losing my Dad to cancer. I wanted to capture the joy I got from the 11 years I spent with my Father and also the pain I felt when he passed. I wanted to set my feelings free into the world for no other reason than I could; I am a songwriter this is my therapy and this is how I exist. I have several, very awful attempts and several very awful songs that I have banished to the land where no one hears. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to write this song that I had my ‘Ruth Stone moment’; Sat in Rhys’ (my co-writer) living room having a writing session for a whole other song; Rhys played a few chords on the piano and something just rushed through me, I could hear it coming and with an air of panic and excitement I just said to Rhys; “Keep Playing that” I moved closer to the piano and put pen to paper, writing the lyrics in pretty much the exact order and state in which they now reside. The melody too just flowed from us both! We couldn’t believe what was happening or how it was happening; the song I had been trying to write for years and years was finally being written, right in front of me, and I didn’t really know where it was coming from!

To this day, that song still has its very own life. I cannot take credit for it for I feel, just like Elizabeth does, that it came from some external forces outside of me. It speaks to people still, the way that it spoke to me that day and whilst it has a very real connection to me and it is without a doubt the most personal and emotionally exposing song I have ever written (Read my open letter to my deceased Dad), it still speak to others as if it were written for them, about them… and I believe it was! The reaction I get when people hear it forever cements this belief of mine.
People would always talk to me after gigs about the song and divulge their inner thoughts about their most personal experiences. I also began to receive messages from people who had heard it online:

“Four Weeks is the most beautiful song, I’m sorry you lost your dad, I have too and that song is a comfort somehow.“

“…I haven’t been allowed or had chance to grieve and I was the most surprised when tears started rolling down my cheeks and the memories I’d hidden away came flooding back. Seriously, even today I’m feeling a bit released from the pain I’d been hiding… Anyway I’ll try and put into words but didn’t think I’d be in a position to thank someone I hardly know for genuinely helping me sort of move on in so many ways… and if I never see you again, for what ever reason, I thank you…“

I feel a deep sense of joy when receiving these messages but not in an egotistical way. I feel in no way responsible for the comfort and release that these people and others have experienced from Four Weeks. I just feel joy that whatever external force it was that wrote this song, it came me that day and Rhys and I were able to give it life. Elizabeth says; “Ideas are driven by a single impulse; to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.” I am not the only person to have lost their Dad to cancer, nor am I the only songwriter to go through that so I thank that idea for choosing me as its collaborator.

After many years of writing songs… I began to feel a little self involved in my music, always writing about my heartache, my own experience of the world and the journey I am on. These messages and conversations I had as a result of Four Weeks, gave me another idea (Maybe this was why Four Weeks was written): Music is an outlet for me, a therapy if you will, Four Weeks has given people that same outlet even though it was not directly written about their experience. That is the beauty of music, I know we all know that feeling, when you listen to a song and it’s as if it was written about you! But what if it was, what if they had the opportunity to tell their story through a song. Release their daemons into the world through music, delve deeply into their journey during the writing process and discover things about themselves that they never knew, let go of things they didn’t know they were still holding onto and share their pain with others who may, like Four Weeks, have experienced something similar…

So I set out in search of stories, in search of people, in search of songs…

Click here to see Four Weeks performed live in session with RoadTwo

 

The Story Behind my new single ‘Stare At Me’

At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with a Teratoma, it was sitting just behind my sternum undiagnosed since before the day I was born. Teratoma’s are congenital and are usually benign. I am happy to say that this was true for my Teratoma but none the less it was taking up a lot of room in my chest causing me a great deal of pain and problems with my breathing so it had to be removed. Though it took us around 2 years to discover it from the day that it began to cause me problems; once discovered I was referred straight to Addenbrookes Hospital for a biopsy and then subsequently onto Papworth Hospital for a Median Sternotomy. I was left with what is more affectionately called a ‘zipper’ scar: the full length of my sternum, along with a biopsy scar around 2 inches on my right breast and a few other little ones around my torso from various different drainage tubes and such like. At this time in my life I was attending a stage school in Cambridge called Bodywork. Whilst I have very fond memories of my time there, as you can imagine, this was a difficult place to be when coming to terms with the new additions to my body…

My Scar

I did a big charity shop run with every item of clothing that didn’t hide my scar and replaced them with a wardrobe of high-necked tops/dresses and leotards for dance. I had scarfs for all occasions and as I became more inventive with hiding my scar, my large costume jewellery collection also grew along with some very expensive camouflage make-up concealer! I recall one morning; I was in the shower, I had not long had my dressings removed; As I began to wash my chest I closed my eyes but I could feel the scar all bumpy and uneven. I opened my eyes and looked down at my once untarnished, smooth skin to see what, at the time I thought was the ugliest scar I had ever seen and I just sobbed. I started scrubbing as hard as I could, wishing that I could just wash it off and be ‘normal’ again…

I would like to tell that young girl what I know now; I am and always will be eternally grateful to my Teratoma, for it gave me the life I have now! I can put my hand on my scar-covered heart and honestly say that without that experience I would not live my life the way that I do now. It gave me an understanding of just how precious and fragile it really is and it taught me what really matters. This has only grown as I have and it continues to grow with every day and every new experience.

img_0626

I never wrote a song about my scar; maybe it was too difficult but more poignantly I think I just didn’t want people to pity me.

It was Christmas time and I was home with my family, a few years on from my operation and now with a little more confidence to occasionally lower the neckline of my clothing. Katie Piper– ‘My Beautiful Face’ was on the telly and I was glued. It was a documentary of a beautiful young girl who experience a horrific ‘revenge’ attack from an ex boyfriend. He hired someone to throw acid in her face and she was left with terrible burns that deformed her once ‘picture perfect’ face. After watching it I initially felt guilty for the shame and embarrassment I had felt over my measly scar that I could easily cover with various different ‘costumes’ I’d perfected. I wanted to stand up and shout about my scar and shamelessly present it to the world in honour of those people whose scars and disfigurements were not disguisable. I guess this song (Stare At Me) was my way of doing that. Katie Piper subsequently brought out a documentary called ‘My Beautiful Friends’ where she met many people with various different disfigurements. She showed perfectly their beauty within and opened our eyes to their world. It was as if our desires united with our scars. Although my scar pales in comparison, it was my journey and my experience of it; Of people pointing and staring, talking and looking at me with this face of disgust, confusion or pity; Of children brazenly and beautifully asking their parents what it was on my chest and their parents shushing them as if it was something so taboo that it could not be discussed.

Stare At Me was written from my experiences but was born from my desire to change people’s views of scars and disfigurements. I wanted to tell people that it’s ok to talk openly about it instead of averting your eyes in the hope that we won’t see you staring….

When I was writing the lyrics for this song I wanted to make my point without sounding argumentative, defensive or confrontational. Whilst the staring and pointing was a big part of my struggle to come to terms with my scar and have the confidence not to hide myself. I also understand that in many cases it comes from a place of compassion and a lack of understanding of the appropriate response. Even with my scar, I still don’t always ‘get it right’ but I just act from an honest place and hope that my heart is felt.

 

The most important thing is not to fear someone who looks different.

 

As this song grew into its own and I performed it more and more I began to realise, this is not just a song for people with scars and disfigurements but for everyone who has ever felt judged or discriminated for their physical appearance. Which, lets face it, is pretty much all of us right? We are, at times such a superficial society and we place importance on appearance in such a way that prohibits us from truly loving and accepting our bodies and ourselves. Stare At Me is written with hope that it will help even one person love themselves and all their imperfections unconditionally, for they are what make us unique and beautiful.

Stare At Me is out today (18/11/16) to coincide with #AntiBullyingWeek. 50% of all the money made will go to The Katie Piper Foundation. ‘Helping to create a world where scars do not limit a person’s function, social inclusion or sense of well being.’

12733501_10153915323354731_6299583692364989396_n

Click bellow to listen to Stare At Me:

stare-at-me-nippleless4w

A Mother’s Love Will Always Prevail.

It was a cold day on the common so we huddled into the cafe by the bandstand for a cuppa to warm our cockles. As I sat down I had no idea what to expect. I had never done anything like this before. When I decided to write this album about other people’s story’s I hadn’t really considered what I would be like to actually meet with those people and have them tell me their deepest darkest secrets… And boy did I unknowingly dive in head first!

She was my first subject and she is without a doubt one of the most inspiring, positive, strong, caring and forgiving women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting…

I could tell she was nervous but she stayed very calm and kept smiling. She began by telling me all about her farther and his gambling addiction that eventually led him to leave her mother, her and her elder brother and sister when she was only very young. There were many tales of heartache and poverty that had already left me feeling like my problems paled in comparison.

As she sat in front of me a strong, 34 year old mother of a loving 15 year old son I never could’ve imagined what she was about to tell me next…

For the sake of her I will revert from telling too much detail but it was a terrible story of child abuse. Unknown to her mother her new partner was not a very nice man at all. Terrible things happened to her and her siblings and as she told me the details it was all I could do not to cry. As I said, I had never done anything like this before and I felt that I should remain strong and allow my subjects to be the one to poor their hearts out. I didn’t want her to feel like she had to hold back. The abuse went on for years until one day her mother walked into the bathroom and saw her lay there in the bath, shoulder to toe in bruises (he was always very clever not to leave marks on their faces). He was immediately kicked out and they thought they would never have to see him again.. but one day when she was 18; She had ordered a taxi home from her mothers house (she had moved out at a young age to live with her boyfriend as they were deeply in love) and when she got into the cab and said hello to the driver she realised he had a very familiar voice. She was only 4yrs old at the time of the abuse so she took a little while to recognise him but when she did her heart began to race. He never said a word about who he was so she played along as if she didn’t recognise him. She made pleasantries for the entire journey out of fear. Then as he stopped the car to drop her off she got out and just before she slammed the door and ran off she said: “I know who you are”. She got home and called her sister, they decided to call the police and try to get him arrested but she was too late. He had vanished, left his job his home, everything. They were desperate to bring justice to their lives and felt they had been given a chance but they searched and searched and they never managed to find him. It was only a few years before that that her and her siblings had openly talked about the abuse. She was so young that her brother and sister had not spoken with her about it at all as they had hoped she didn’t remember any of it. In turn she never brought it up as she was young and although the memories were vivid in her mind some details were hazy and she couldn’t remember how involved her siblings were. They were trying to protect her from the truth.

I couldn’t believe all that she had been through… but to my dismay the story continued. As I mentioned earlier she had moved in with her boyfriend at the age of 17 and at 19 she fell pregnant. It was then that her boyfriend began to show signs of physical abuse. As the pregnancy developed it got worse and worse. By some miracle she gave birth to a healthy and happy baby boy and in her hospital bed she vowed to herself that she would leave if it continued, one more heavy hand when she returned with her baby and she would leave him forever… And she did just that. She took her baby boy and a few clothes and headed for a women’s refuge. She had to live there for 2yrs, shut off from the world. She had to change her sons name and the only contact she had with her family was from a red phone box once a week. It was a hard time for her and she said that there was so much pain there, a lot of it to do with drugs. But it was still a sanctuary for her, a place where she and her son could be safe. They moved out of there after 2 years and moved on with their lives. A few minor set backs over the years but 15 years on and she is happy, healthy and free from any abuse with a loving son who has never had to suffer as she did. She ended her talk with me by telling me that she hoped I didn’t pity her now. She is a proud women and she has forgiven those men for what they did. She told me she didn’t want me to think that she had carried the pain her whole life… there was in fact a long history of abuse in her family and she was always determined to break the chain…

Those words stuck with me for a long time.

Please click the link below to listen to her song.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150737230″]

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it”

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have someone you love dearly think of you as a stranger… Seeing a blank look on their face that tells you that today, they are struggling to remember your name…

When I sat down to talk with Neil for the song that is now titled ‘A Memory’ I had no idea what to expect. But as I set up camp on his sofa with pen and paper in hand (and of course a cuppa), I listened as he recalled many childhood memories. He talked of his family values, of growing up and even of before he was born; his parents June and Henry (Jocky) and how they met and fell in love. It was beautiful to hear their story, a classic tale of true love full of dancing, courting and running away to be wed.

Sadly June passed away a few years ago and when she did, the undiagnosed Alzheimer’s condition that Jocky had developed seemed to instantly worsen. He had often forgotten simple things like locking the doors and closing the windows but now he was forgetting names, faces and places he’d been. Caring for June in the last few years of her life seemed to give him purpose; a focus that in some way managed to delay the effects of dementia. Over time it became apparent that Jocky needed extra care. Neil and his siblings had done everything they could to look after him, but they had to make the tough decision of housing him somewhere where he could get the 24hr professional care he needed to ensure the rest of his life is as long and full as it can be. Anyone who has had to make this decision for their parent(s) will realise first hand how hard it is and what a strain it can be on your relationship with them. But Neil and his siblings did the right thing.

Since the Alzheimer’s took a hold of Jocky he has still managed to recall many memories from his past. One that stuck in my mind was that of his mother’s name. When asked to recall a female name during some memory exercises with the nurses, her’s was the first name he said. I found this incredibly touching because he had not had a close relationship with his mother throughout his life. For me this really encapsulated the unspoken bond between a mother and child that can never be broken.

Amongst all the memories he has retained, Jocky appears to have no recollection of his wife June. Even though Neil and the family have placed several pictures around his room he has never asked where she is or who she was. In fact since she passed away he has not spoken her name. To me it seems as though the thought of her death was too painful to bear so he just erased her from his memory. This was hard for Neil to recall and I could tell it was a painful topic for him to talk about… But to me it was magical; a real testament of true love. His love for her was so great that he quite literally could not bear the thought of being without her. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative condition associated with a progressive loss of nerve cells or neurons. Yet in all the confusion and memory loss, Jocky seemingly has the ability to block out a memory. He has enough control of his mind to so obviously filter what was too painful for him to recall. I do not know enough about the disease to know if this is common in sufferers, but it astonished me.

This of course had to be the subject for the song.

I decided to write the song as a letter from June to Jocky. When I sing it I imagine June coming to Jocky in a dream, asking him to remember her… And in the opening line of the song; “Come with me…” I imagine her taking him for a walk along the pier where they first met, talking for hours about their time together. I see June and Jocky back together again and I see the joy in Jocky’s eyes as he allows the memory of June back in; The realisation that she was always there. All he has to do is remember.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

alzheimers_logo

Alzheimer’s is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050.

Alzeimer’s Society are hosting ‘Memory Walks‘; a series of walking events taking place across England, Wales and Northern Ireland every autumn, raising money to provide vital support for people living with dementia and fund research into finding a cure. I am going to be attending the Bristol Memory Walk on 11th October at 10am. To find out what walks are going on near you head to: www.memorywalk.org.uk and enter your postcode into the search bar. When giving to charity we have a tendency to stick to the ones closest to our hearts. It is that very reason which led me donate 15% of all money raised after target through my Pledge campaign to Weston Hospice Care. But one of the thing making this album has taught me is that there are many other problems in this world that also deserve our attention. Writing this song in particular really made me think about how precious moments and memories are and that they should be cherished, rejoiced and revisited as often as possible. ‘A Memory’ is one of the most emotional songs I have written. There is something in it that just reaches into you and draws out emotion. I am yet to perform it without a percussion of sniffles from the audience but I put that down to the wonderful love story of June and Jocky.

For June and Jocky, may your story inspire love in all our hearts.

 [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150729478″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

BBC Introducing with Tom Robinson on 6 music
 
 
Social Media