Released in February, Voices Found is an awareness-raising EP (or mini album) of songs written and performed by musicians who stammer, with proceeds going to the BSA. Its brainchild and writer of one of its tracks, Matt Bond, explains how it all came about.
I am a 21 year-old singer-songwriter and musician from Penzance studying popular music at Falmouth University. I first got the idea of making a stammering awareness-raising album when coming up with ideas for an off-campus ‘Practice in Context’ (PIC) project we had to undertake as part of our course. Having had a severe stammer from the age of four, music has always helped me cope, providing a platform to express myself freely; I can play the guitar and the bass, and I sing too. I felt it would be a good idea to relate my experience of stammering and music to my PIC project. When coming up with ideas, I was inspired by an article in my local newspaper The Cornishman about 25 year-old Kyle Coleman, a singer with autism who released a charity album in aid of the condition. I could relate to Kyle, knowing how difficult I, and others who stammer, find it to communicate, but who are able to express ourselves through music. With this in mind, I felt I wanted to do something similar by making a charity record in aid of stammering.
Voices Found is about giving people who stammer the chance to be heard, by featuring artists writing and performing their own songs about their experiences of living with a stammer. These songs will allow others to hear the honest thoughts, feelings and experiences of people who stammer, which often get repressed. I hope the album will provide listeners who do stammer with music they can relate to and get inspired by. I also hope it will give non-stammerers an insight into what it’s like, and show that there’s more to someone than just their stammer.
I found artists for the project through the BSA. I told Steven, their Social Media Officer, that I was looking for musicians who stammer for the album, and he put the word out by posting on the BSA Facebook page and on Twitter. I soon started getting emails back from people who were very enthusiastic about the project and willing to take part; I initially heard from fifteen people who wanted to participate. Over time this reduced to five for various reasons, but I’m really pleased with who I’ve managed to get. Adam Lovell, Brandon Marchant, Oli Cheadle, Ben James and, dare I say myself, are all talented singer-songwriters, making the album top quality!
To finance the project, I was awarded a grant from the Wakeham Trust, and I also raised money through a ‘crowdfunding’ campaign on the website Indiegogo. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to raise enough money for the artists to come together and record the album at a recording studio in London as originally planned, so I asked them to try and get good quality recordings of their songs themselves at studios near to them or by using their own equipment. The results are amazing and far exceeded my expectations! I recorded my song at a studio at my university with help from sound engineer Pete Shepherd.
The EP has taken nine months to put together since my initial idea. It has mainly been managed by myself, working on my laptop and being in contact with various organisations and individuals to plan, organise, promote and market it. Before starting the project I had no idea how much work and effort goes into making an album. It has really given me a good insight into the whole process and I’ve learnt so much from the experience. I starred in a short documentary about the project made by students at my university, I was featured in The Cornishman newspaper myself, and was even interviewed on BBC Radio Cornwall.
I think people are really going to love the mix of songs on the album. There are three pop/rock-style songs and two acoustic tracks, and I hope people will enjoy listening to it, regardless of the fact that it’s a charity album. I really hope you choose to buy it and help raise awareness and understanding of stammering.
Voices Found - track by track
Track 1: ‘Tell Me If You See This’ by Adam Lovell
“I started singing when I was about 17, realising it was the one thing that enabled me to say what I wanted to say without worrying about how to say it. Tell Me If You See This is about something I worry about quite a lot, which is meeting somebody new. Will they be able to see who I am beneath my stammer? I constantly worry about losing my identity when meeting new people and don't want them to presume I am a nervous person with no confidence (which is not the case!)” Hear more of Adam’s music at www.soundcloud.com/adamlovellmusic
Track 2: ‘Normal’ by Brandon Marchant
“I'm a Canadian singer-songwriter currently living in Scotland. I consider myself lucky to have grown up having music as a way to express the things I couldn't say otherwise, and I have channelled everything I’m not, as a speaker, into becoming a better musician.
‘I figured that writing a song about stammering might be cathartic and would, at the very least, put to rest some nagging feelings that are still lingering within me. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a painful process. I could actually feel the humiliation, dread, hopelessness and anger all over again as I relived memories that I haven't yet been fortunate enough to forget. If the song helps give any non-stammerers even the slightest glimpse into our mindset, then it was well worth the effort.” www.brandonmarchant.com
Track 3: ‘Shaking the Rafters’ by Oli Cheadle
“As Frank Zappa said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” so I'll let the song speak for itself. But here's some background: Shaking the Rafters was written back when I was finishing a degree. There was a lot of uncertainty about deciding what job to pursue after university (and a lot of asking myself why I chose an obscure arts degree to begin with). My stammer got worse and I ended up going for some speech therapy with a stammering specialist.
Not only did he help me some way with my stammer, but he also helped me make up my mind to one day study to become a Speech and Language Therapist, which is what I'm doing now.” https://myspace.com/quincetree
Track 4: ‘Part of Me’ by Matt Bond
“I wrote Part of Me as a personal account of my stammer and how it affects me. When writing the song I tried to be honest and open about my stammer so people can hear what I go through. The song expresses the despair I’ve experienced when stammering but also that I have come to terms with it. The basic message is: ‘Yeah I stammer; it causes me problems and some people don’t understand, but it’s a part of who I am and I just have to deal with it as best I can.’ I tried to capture a sound which came from the heart, which is why the song is just me stripped to the bare bones, playing guitar and singing. It was very emotional to write and record and I hope that comes across when people listen to it.” www.soundcloud.com/mattbondacoustic
Track 5: ‘Pathways’ by Ben James
“I have stammered since I was five and have tried speech therapy and even hypnotherapy. Nothing seemed to work until I found out about The Starfish Project. I attended a course in March 2012 which changed my life. It not only helped me change my career, but as a person I am now more confident and a lot happier.
‘My music has always been how I express myself. In the past my stammer was so bad that I could hardly converse with people. I wanted to write a positive song, about my Starfish experience and how I’ll never again be in the place that I was, even though I still have challenging days regarding my speech.
. But that doesn’t matter, as it has made me the person that I am today. I hope that Pathways will send out a positive message to others who stammer, giving them the encouragement to do whatever they want to do in their life, as anything is possible when you believe in yourself!” www.myspace.com/bendonaldsons
The five-track EP Voices Found is available to download from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/voices-found-ep/id602646057 . Or you can phone BSA on 020 8983 1003 with credit/debit card details to buy a CD.
We would like to give a huge thank you to Matt for kindly donating the proceeds to the BSA.
From the Spring 2013 edition of Speaking Out, p8-9