Lead singer of the hot folk rock band SPEAK, BROTHER, James Herring, runs through the tracks on the band's debut album 'Young & Brave'
On the 13th April, the long awaited debut full length album by Coventry's Speak, Brother is being released. The band's frontman James Herring takes us through each song on the set.
Remember the last time you held a new-born baby? It's powerless, frail and vulnerable as it rests in your arms. It has no idea just how precious and beautiful it is. Isn't it weird to think that we were once a baby, just like that? We all start from that place of Magnificence. I penned all the words to this song in bed one evening after watching the film 'Fences'. Based in gritty 1950's black America, it's a tough story to watch. It takes you through a few generations of a family whose upbringing was dark, lonely and hard, but the last few scenes focus on this beautiful young daughter whose eyes were full of hope and purity. This song is an attempt to capture those emotions. In spite of the fears and pressures that come later in life, this is a song of joy and celebration of the beauty and incredible value each and every human that has ever walked this earth contains.
"When We Were Young"
When we sat down to start writing the album, this is the first song that came out. Thematically, it actually carries the sentiments from the last track of our previous EP 'Light Runs After Us'. In a way it also represents the main theme of the album and contains the lyrics of the album title. The song is a little bit of a nostalgic look back over my childhood. Where did my insecurities come from? When did I first begin to fear, or experience treachery? I remember as a kid at school I collected pogs. Remember those? I had quite a nice collection. I was having a game with a friend. It was my first game 'for keeps', and it was the day I first learned the concept of gambling. I lost the game and he started pulling all my pogs towards himself and I just burst into tears when others stopped me stopping him. It's funny to think of my naivety, but that day I lost a little of my innocence as I felt bitter against my friend. As a kid I was unaware of anything. I just wanted to build Lego, explore woodland, discover caves, climb trees, but somewhere down the line I started to fear. Deep down, I still want to do all that stuff. I want to love fearlessly. I don't want fear to get in the way of my creativity. My work. My relationships. This song is yearning to awaken that fearless inner child again.
"Pond Boy" is a song about learning to live life outside of our comfort zone - our "pond". Our comfortable, familiar, safe little pond. Nothing changes here. Nothing new. Aspirations are managed and dreams are contained or let go completely and there is no vulnerability. I think this was where we were at before we decided to crowdfund for this album. It was always a risk. What if we don't reach our target? What if we can't find a producer? What if we can't write good enough songs? What if we fail? We didn't know what would happen. But adventure has to include risk. . . right?
This song is the summary of the build-up of frustration of being contained and restrained from the padded safe nature of the pond. It's a desperate answer to the call of doing something different. Something with meaning. To put a foot out into the unknown. I love what David Bowie said when asked about creativity: "Always go a little further in the water than what you feel you're capable of being in. . . When you feel like your feet aren't quite touching the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting." "Magnesium Burn" is the spark that ignites a rocket to just run into the fear. Run out to the edge. Just before recording the vocals, Matt and I decided to jump out of the studio and run down the street till we were gasping for breath (which didn't take long for me). It set the tone nicely.
Again, this song looks back at the child we were, but looks up and around to see that we aren't alone in this. That although we are all different and beautiful in our uniqueness, we are all the same and not on our own in our suffering. It's a song about inclusiveness, and I love that we managed to get loads of voices on it. It features the beautiful voice of Kirstie Smith (Dan's wife) and a gospel choir at the end. I can't tell you what the strange words at the end of the song mean. Gavin Monaghan, our producer, who convinced me the end needed something, told me to get into the vocal booth and "channel my inner goat herder" (whatever that means ha ha). So I just switched the lights off completely so it went pitch black and sang.
I read a news article a few years ago about a young girl of 12 who was found in a park hanging from a tree. She had written on her arms words like "The voices told me to do this. They told me I have no purpose. So there's no point of me being here." I was heartbroken and angry. How could this happen?! What haunts me the most is that I've heard those same words from my own mouth. I've heard them from people I love dearly. I guess these lyrics are a message to that girl. Words that I want to say to those I love of who they truly are. The words in the middle section are those of someone dear to me in the depths of depression. A kick back I guess. Such is the nature of depression. There's no quick fix. It takes time, patience, love and then a little more time and patience.
This song is inspired by a moment I had with my nephew, Liam. He was very young and it was his first time at the seaside. His first time looking out at the endless horizon. I walked him to the waves, holding him steady. It was a chilly British seaside evening and the wind and waves were loud. Liam was a little scared and he was about to cry. It must have been very new, threatening and uncertain. But suddenly he let out his loudest roar. As if to silence the waves. Like a little fragile boy could stand up to the forces of nature? But as long as I held him there, and his mum wasn't far off, he was as strong as a lion. It's that strength from knowing who we are and that we're not alone even in the midst of uncertainty, inspired this song.
"Man Of Honour"
The song was inspired by a friend of ours who is a police officer. He told us about an incident he was in where a man was in crisis and was at the end of his will to live. He was on his own with this man, trying to talk him round while at one point wrestling him while he had a knife, trying to keep himself and the man from being harmed.
"Two Bands Of Gold"
A song taken from our first EP. It's a song dear to me about my grandparents and their life together. I guess, in the midst of my own insecurities growing up their dedication to each other right till the end demonstrated to me the power of love and the purpose of marriage.
When it feels like everything you have aimed for, worked towards and built and all falls to pieces. Ripped under from beneath your feet and you're left with nothing. When you hold onto these dreams so tight, your whole identity is in them. So when they fail, you fail. It's a song of desperation, emptiness, lamenting but ultimately a giving up of and a holding lightly of the things that are given to you and that in fact we're not on our own in this. Fear helps us understand the dangers, but it shouldn't stop us or contain us. Regardless of what fears we have picked up in our lives (of which there are many for me) we all still have that same DNA to be a bit more wild.