A new album arrives at TBOL HQ from contributor John Hartley aka Johny Nocash. Recording as The Broken Heed, the crowd-funded LP is raising money for CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, which provides a helpline for men suffering with mental health issues. Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 35 in the UK. Talking can help.
We caught up with Hartley to chat about the record and it’s aims.
TBOL: Which came first – the idea for these songs or the CALM aspect?
JH: I struggled with writers block for quite a while. Maybe I’d just got bored, maybe I had nothing to sing about, but more likely it was because I was depressed. I just lost interest in my guitar, and couldn’t write lyrics. We got a piano for Nocash Jr, and I started to tinker, found some little phrases and that seemed to give me the momentum. Time passed, more ideas came – slowly – and some older songs I’d recorded previously became relevant to me again, and so the desire to record was dragged back into me. The CALM aspect came once I had sufficient material and confidence to go public.
TBOL: Why CALM and why now?
JH: I hit a particularly deep trough in January. I got help, and read lots. I came across CALM. They are quite a small and young charity, and I wanted to try and give something back. That is an absolute cliché, I know; but I was lucky in having supportive people around me. Not everyone is in the same position as me, and when the cost of CALM taking a phone call on their helpline is seven quid I reckoned I might be able to raise money to support a few phone calls.
TBOL: Clearly this is something personal. I’ve always found it difficult to articulate what effect depression has/is having on me. Is this your method?
JH: This is the most personally honest album I’ve written. Previously it has been easy to tell other people’s stories, or hide behind wordplay and images. This has been quite painful at times, and I’ve been very careful about what to write and what not to… Still hiding! That said, ‘This Song’s For Us’ was written for a friend and former band mate who encountered a similar dip at the same time. That was a bit easier to write… It’s not all doom and gloom either (I hope). ‘Funny Little Things’ is a celebration of those small, irrelevant joys in life that make living more pleasurable. The beauty of a goldfinch flying, a contest with friends to see who could resist the most mince pies in the run up to Christmas. I lost that, comfortably. And ‘I Once Had A Dream But I’m All Right Now’ ends with the thought that maybe nothing lasts forever, but then that also includes the rubbish that sometimes gets thrown our way.
TBOL: It’s all very internet-enabled – a product of the age. Crowdfunding to get it put together and all hail the power of Twitter getting Matt from the Salient Braves in for the mixing as well.
JH: I can’t thank Matt enough for doing the mixing. A fresh pair of unconnected ears was invaluable. He chucked in some nice backing vocals for good measure too. The Internet has been fantastic for this project: sending files through Dropbox for tweaks and evaluations, getting the money for the release through crowdfunding, and maybe most importantly Twitter giving me a supportive space to build friendships and communicate about things I couldn’t verbalise. Some people I’ve ‘met’ through Twitter have been very important to me over the past couple of years. I’d like to think they know who they are. Having said that, the album was mastered less than 100 yards away from me…
The album might not be to everyone’s taste. I don’t expect The Broken Heed to be challenging U2 just yet. But if people like what they hear, then buy the album. If they don’t, then visit www.thecalmzone.net and try and support the charity some other way.
Get The Broken Heed off Broken Down Records’ bandcamp page and support a great charity.
And if you’re struggling and feel like you can’t talk to anyone, like they won’t understand or will judge, try CALM. 0800 585858 (0808 802 5858 in London) or online.