I was thrilled when Martyn Joseph gave us permission to include the video for his new song When We Get Through This, an anthem for Coronavirus Times, in our Fitzroy Sunday Service.
It is a powerful song of fortitude. A hopeful look ahead to when we get through it, to breed resilience as we struggle through it… and then that most precious and radical of simple statements “I’m thinking about you”. How much do we need to hear that line just now.
Martyn’s release is a double A-side with Nye, a song he wrote about Nye Bevan, the Welsh architect of the NHS. Written a few years ago for the Sweet Liberties project I think about it every Thursday night at 8pm when I stand outside our gate to applaud our NHS.
I asked Martyn, from a social distance across the Irish Sea, about these two songs and how Coronavirus has impacted him and his work.
What were you working on before the lock down?
I was on the road in North America. I’d played a run of 8 shows in Canada and was then due to carry on into USA but obviously it got cancelled.
At what stage did you start thinking about how it would impinge on your work?
Well straight away really. I basically travel for a living. I go to where there are people who want to listen. They don’t show up on my doorstep. That would be a bit awkward :)
I was fortunate in that I had completed my main UK tour before going to North America so there was a little hay in the barn. But we had to think quickly and try to plan how we would progress.
What are the way that this all impacts on your life as well as work?
On a very personal level it alienates me from loved ones and them from me. My Father has been in hospital since October because of dementia and we are unable to see him. We try to talk on the phone but he doesn't really know who we are most of the time.
However, I have often said I would love to have a few months off to read and catch up with myself a little more, so no excuses for not doing that right now!
You have been using the lock down time very profitably. When did When We Get Through This begin to percolate?
I thought about writing something but thought how do you do that without sounding too twee. Then a good friend went through some awful hardship and loss, so on April 1 I started to scribble. Twenty seven days later it was number one on I Tunes and Amazon singer songwriter chart. I’m not sure what that actually means but it was quite a journey.
What do you hope it might achieve?
Well we’re going to raise money for the Cavell Nurses Trust so thats good. I hope the song itself will bring some fortitude to folk who listen.
I love the strings. How did you do that in isolation?
Well I played everything on the track in my home studio. I take a stereo mix of that and send it to Gerry Diver. He then puts that track into his studio and overdubs his violin and sends that back to me. I then mix it back in with what I’ve done.
Amazing what can be done these days. I remember when being signed to Sony Music in the early nineties and they would send despatch riders to pick up DAT tapes in New York where we were recording to have those sent by plane to London for them to listen to. Took 48 hours!
And how did the uplifting video come together?
For the video we got fans to send in clips of whatever was bringing them hope and I think its quite uplifting. So folk sent in pictures or just clips of what they were up to. We had a lot of them too. It took a while to go through them all.
It is for a good cause too. Tell us about that and how we can donate.
Download both tracks here: http://martynjoseph.lnk.to/throughthis/
You did a new version of Nye too. That song seems to have a new resonance. why a new version?
Well I had never really done my own studio version. I recorded it with the group of musicians that made up the Sweet Liberties Project in 2017 but the only other versions were live ones.
So I thought why not record it yourself and just add Gerry again on fiddle. It pays tribute to Nye Bevan with his passion for social justice and reform along with his extraordinary oratory.
It also celebrates with gratitude everyone who works within the great state institution called the NHS. It is not just a facilitator of the basic human right of healthcare but also the cornerstone of our democracy.
Our notion of these things is amplified right now as we witness the remarkable sacrifice of front line workers risking everything to care for us and our loved ones. So I thought it was the perfect time to give an old song a shove.
What else are you conjuring while in lockdown?
I’ve done a couple of online shows which went amazingly well. Last Sunday we had 1700 folk tuning in across 10 different countries which was quite staggering to me.
Concert wise? Will it take you a year to catch up on live shows or how will all of that get back to normal?
I have no idea at the moment. Its going to take a while to adjust and I’m not sure that anything will quite the same again. I’m hoping for change across the board.
There have been plenty of opportunities for big progress out of catastrophe and suffering in the past few decades but we learn so slowly.
My hope is that this may bring about a huge change in attitudes and social reform. But as for artists?. I’m hoping we will be even more relevant and potent.
In the meantime is it a stretch financially? Can we help with that?
Well of course it’s not easy and i know it’s a struggle for everyone. On my Facebook page right now (you will need to scroll down a few entries) is the full concert I gave last Sunday. If you want to watch feel free but there is a donate pay pal button there if you feel moved to do so. And thank you if you do and absolutely no worries if you don’t :)
What plans have you for when we get out of this? New record?
Yeh, I’m writing and thinking of the next studio album but to be honest it’s been so busy with the Double A side that I haven’t been able to plan that much yet. Going to get right on that!
All festival dates have been cancelled… and I had a lot in the UK this summer… so will need to plot a course through but we will figure it out. I have so many projects on the side that I’ve been carrying a while so no shortage of ideas. This has been a very busy period until now anyway so maybe folk will enjoy a respite from me putting stuff out there!
Give us three albums that influenced you that we should all investigate as we wait the Coronavirus to pass?
Ooo well..lets see.. how about…
Elvis Presley: Elvis Aloha from Hawaii,
Bruce Springsteen: Tunnel of Love
Led Zeppelin IV