Barely any of us can testify to a significant achievement we made before we turned 18, let alone just being shy of 16. It may seem a little bit patronising to focus on his age but keep in mind with the quality of material he puts out, it still remains an impressive fact even as he catches up in years. Having been busy recording for the past year or so, These Brittle Bones is continuing the momentum with a double EP called Hiraeth after a short break.
With a thoughtful and meticulous concept behind the project, we can only imagine where he'll go next once he reaches 21. Double album? An entire collection of EPs? It's anyone's guess but it doesn't take much guessing to see that he will go places. We interview him about his new project, the challenge of writing with his heart on his sleeve and if his teachers know what he's up to. Also, find out what are his five favourite albums at the moment.
Listen to the first released track off Hiraeth here:
Tell us more about Hiraeth.
Hiraeth is a extended double EP release featuring 10 new songs that I haven’t previously released, accompanied by the four singles that I’ve put out since 2012. Essentially, it’s all a compilation of all the music I’ve made since I started These Brittle Bones (TBB) back in 2011, telling the story from when I first started to where I am now. We are working closely with Spotify to draw out the release over a period of time, reflective of the lengthy recording processes that went into it. Accompanied by each track that gets made available exclusively on Spotify, we are releasing a commentary track where I go into detail/open up about the specific ideas each song was written about.
The project as a whole indicates to my fans that I have been working hard behind the scenes, and doing my best to create good music, but also demonstrates that due to my age, I am under certain restrictions that mean it can take longer for me to put out my stuff. I’ve sat on some of these songs since I first wrote them in 2011, and they’ve been brewing ever since, until now I’ve gotten to the point that I think it’s time to release and share them with the world!
It’s been an incredibly cathartic experience creating this as a whole – I started off recording some of the demos I wrote from my bedroom in Snakeweed Studios in Singapore, but returned afterwards back to my bedroom where things became more personal/intimate than ever – thus we felt that due to having two clearly defined recording processes, we would split the EP up into two parts; ‘Hiraeth – Part 1: The Bedroom’ and ‘Hiraeth – Part 2: The Studio’. I’m incredibly excited for people to hear it and let me know what they think!
The word 'hiraeth’ has no direct translation in English. What does the word mean to you?
I come from a city called Swansea in South Wales in the UK. I was brought up in the UK for the first 10 years of my life, until I moved to Singapore and have stayed here for the last 6. Naturally, as I’m sure anyone who relocates internationally can relate to, feelings of homesickness do creep in. 'Hiraeth' is essentially a Welsh term that encapsulates feelings of heightened nostalgia, homesickness and a longing for the past in one great pang of an emotion.
Why choose it as the project's title?
I chose this as the title for the project for a number of reasons, the main one being the fact that it was something I went through a few years ago that kind of spurred me on to reflect on it through my music, and thus TBB was born. TBB was initially a coping method that developed into a semi-professional music career at the age of 13, which is a bit crazy! Another reason includes the idea that I was looking back on my Welsh heritage, and at the generations of my family that have spoken the native language, and despite not being able to relate this myself, as when my parents were children, the language began to die out but in the last few decades has had a huge revival, I still feel a huge connection to the idea and the lyrical, songlike flow of the language tones the accent uses.
I was also channelling the idea that as the word has no direct English translation, it was representative of the number of feelings that I couldn’t quite put into words myself, that I knew were there but couldn’t really put my finger on it and verbalise, similarly to the idea having an ambiguous meaning in the language we speak. 'Hiraeth' is indicative of a longing for things/ideas one has never even experienced, and it seemed to nicely summarize the whole project, tying up all the ideas I was trying to channel in the music whilst also directly connecting to my own culture.
"I don’t understand it anymore, how there is a degree of mystery between the songwriter and the person who listens to the songs. In a way, I feel it is starting to disrespect the listener, who has chosen to listen to my music over the billions of other incredible songs they could be listening to, and it’s one of the only ways I can say thanks."
Did you intend on the project being conceptual from the start?
The earliest songs on the project were written when I was just 11/12, so back then I wasn’t really intending on going as in-depth lyrically and sonically as I have. I’ve started to widen my influences, drawing inspiration from much more literature and plays than ever before – a lot of the lyrical meanings behind these songs were stemmed from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, and plays such as Buchner’s ‘Woyzeck’ and Peter Shaffer’s ‘Equus’. I am strongly attracted to the idea of experience – of losing yourself in a conceptual world which these written works provided to me, and I wanted to channel that through my music.
People make whole worlds that decorate walls in the form of fine art, and I was attracted to the idea of taking the listener to a completely different environment by decorating their commute/bedroom/location of listening through audio and music. It’s an ambiguous idea but I believe that if there is an opportunity to go deep with a concept, why miss it? For Hiraeth, I’m also working on the visual communication for it as well, creating a few music videos to accompany the pieces, opening up a visual world to my music.
Was it hard being so open about personal issues when writing your songs?
When I first started TBB back in 2011, I was heavily influenced by the traditional folky singer-songwriters like Elliot Smith and the recent British folk revival. These styles of lyrics were very open and they seemed to hold no barriers – but this quickly changed as I grew up and found out more about myself, and I suddenly didn’t really want the listener to know everything about me.
When I wrote ‘Flecks’ which was released in 2012, I made it quite clear I wasn’t really going to open up about the meaning, as the idea of having a stranger temporarily possess your darkest secrets from the solitude of their headphones kind of got to me a little bit. I didn’t understand how my musical peers could be so open about the meanings of their lyrics, however looking back now I can understand exactly why. I’ve grown up a huge amount since I wrote that track and I understand now that back then, I was only really touching the surface of issues that have stayed relevant to me today, that I have explored in greater depth and now feel comfortable talking about.
As I’ve started to develop my own opinions about the industry itself, I’ve thought at great length about the ‘barrier’ between an artist and the listener – there is a great ‘façade’ or a ‘mask’, be it a physical one on a stage, or just by being reluctant to open up about your music; it’s exactly the same thing. I don’t understand it anymore, how there is a degree of mystery between the songwriter and the person who listens to the songs. In a way, I feel it is starting to disrespect the listener, who has chosen to listen to my music over the billions of other incredible songs they could be listening to, and it’s one of the only ways I can say thanks. That’s why for Hiraeth, I’m destroying this barrier and opening up completely, gladly going into specifics about each song. This can be seen on the exclusive Spotify audio commentary files that get released every week starting 20th January, where I talk at length about the music I have made both sonically and lyrically, and give my all to the listener.
I’ve been very inspired by Amanda Palmer’s Ted Talk and recent book, ‘The Art Of Asking’, which explores this idea of the fan supporting the artist to a great level whom is there for you when you need it. It’s one of the only way I feel I can give back. I’ve spent an awful lot of time looking into the past, now I can only look forward.
Has the amount of experimentation in Hiraeth made you feel more confident as a musician?
Definitely – the amount of lyrical experimentation as said previously has opened up not only a wider perception for me as a musician, but as a person as well. I see things in a much different light to when I first started, and it’s all down to the incredible people I’ve met through TBB and whom have given me so much. Musically, I’m more confident as a producer than I’ve ever been before – I have been restricted by recording techniques on ‘Part 1: The Bedroom’, but I feel that has allowed me to go into greater lyrical depth instead which is great as well. I’m learning so much more about music production every day, and am looking forward to going crazy with production for the next release after Hiraeth.
Do your teachers know about your music?
What do they think?
It’s very funny, a few teachers find out and then spread the word to my other ones which I’m extremely grateful for. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and impressed that this is something I’m doing on top of my rigorous studies as well. I can’t thank them enough for being a continuous inspiration and support throughout all of this. They know who they are!
Will any of the songs be challenging to play live?
Yes, I think so! Hahaha! I’ve always found it difficult to translate something that was written in such a personal/confined space such as a bedroom onto a big stage. I’ve always liked the idea of reinterpreting the ideas slightly on stage and not always producing exactly the same thing – someone once told me that people don’t pay to come see you to hear the exact same thing they could in their bedroom; they want a show, a full experience, which is something I’ve been exploring a lot recently and am looking forward to presenting for Hiraeth. We’re in the process of organising shows for the release right now, so more info to follow!