Friday, 14 March 2008


I called the album Here for a few different reasons. Firstly because I had a brain haemorrhage in 2005, and the odds of me still being here right now (and in a state which would allow me to make the album) were by no means in my favour.

But also, if I had to distil the Buddha’s teaching into one word, that’s the word I would choose. Being fully present, in this moment, where we are right now, is to be truly alive and awake.

And finally, I move around a lot. I’ve lived in so many places. Sometimes I’m driving a car and I can’t remember which direction I should turn because I can’t remember where my home is right now. Or I go looking for one of my books and then remember that it’s in a box on a mountain in Spain. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and there’s a couple of seconds where I have no idea even which country I’m in. Where am I? Here.

Some of the songs on the album [e.g. Throw My Drugs Away] have been in existence for 10 years or so. Many of them were written in the last year. So the subject matter is pretty varied, though the overall texture seems to me to be pretty constant. There is a kind of melancholy, which over the years I have realised is my ’default setting’, and seems to be based on a view that rests deep in me: Life is futile and in the end meaningless. This view was not even shaken by my near death experience. At the same time, I passionately believe that life is beautiful, the universe is amazing, and all humans have incredible potential. This paradox is at the heart of my perspective and therefore my music.

I tend to write on a personal level, from the point of view of how things affect me in day-to-day life, since this, in the end, is the most real and direct. I don’t really choose any particular subject matter consciously – I don’t usually start out thinking ’I’m going to write a political song about the inherent sickness and alienation of city-living’ [e.g. Firelight Dance]. I just mess around on the guitar, and ideas roll around my head, and this is what comes out. Like one day I was driving up the mountain in Spain where I live sometimes, and we stopped to collect cherries from a tree by the side of the track. And I thought ’Wouldn’t it be nice if food just grew on trees’. And that became If Friends Were Neighbours 2. Sometimes I write a love song, sometimes it’s a song about opening my eyes after meditating and watching the sunrise. And sometimes it’s a song about my own experience of the vibrancy of the ’natural’ world, or my own lack of satisfaction with consumer culture, or the generally bland offerings of mass media and international corporations. I find that everyday life offers stories that have worth in themselves but which are also symbolic of something deeper. Life as a metaphor for life. In general that’s my approach to songwriting – write as simply as possible and let the words point beyond themselves.

There is a Zen story about a guy who wants to paint bamboo. So he goes to a master painter and asks to be taught. The master says, "If you want to paint bamboo, first you have to see bamboo". So he looks. He looks in the morning and the evening, in the summer and winter, day and night, when he is happy and when he is unhappy. Eventually he sees the bamboo. He takes out a brush, and with one swift movement he paints the bamboo. This was his path to Awakening. Hopefully it’ll be mine too.