Face to face with The Healing

The Healing

(c)Alexandra Ross

Music can heal and restore the inner powers of your body. Just give a listen to The Healing and see what kind of wonders their music can make with you. Rock Britain talked to Jim (vocals/guitar) about the band’s debut EP ‘Childhood Home’, top albums of 2014 and those special tricks that help to make music that matters.

– It’s been a while since the release of your debut EP ‘Childhood Home’. How has the reaction to it been so far?

– Excellent on the whole thanks. It’s had very positive reviews from some big blogs and magazines like Londonist, The Big Takeover, Nashville Music Guide etc, which is a big encouragement for us. Critics and listeners seem to be picking up on the lyrics and the theme of the EP well, which is an important aspect of the music. A few have described it as understated and subtle, and that the songs creep up on you with a couple of listens rather than instantaneously. To some this may be a bad thing but to me it’s the sort of music I usually love and suggests that there’s depth to the songs and sound that will sustain listeners for longer. I remember the first time I heard Neil’s Young’s ‘Harvest’ album and found it boring and unhooky. After two or three more listens, it was one of my favourite albums of all time!

– Looking back, how was this EP born? Where did you draw inspirations for it from?

– In terms of the writing I think I’d trace the beginning of this project to a couple of years back. I had a beautiful Japanese acoustic that got cracked beyond repair and I was advised to remove the strings. After detuning the strings very low I started playing it like a bass one night and that was how I got the main riff of ‘Tonopah’. It was a nice compensation for losing my poor guitar! Lyrically, the sound of the riff made me think of a cool, slightly eerie little desert town I visited as a child so I decided to write about that. It was from that point on that I felt like writing lots of songs about childhood experiences and my family, which is how the lyrical theme of the EP began. Musically, I wanted to move away from the acoustic folk pop style I’d been doing a few years back. I wanted to keep the melodic and lyrical focus, but also to rock out more with riffs and groovier rhythms.  I may have been getting more into grunge at the time so I dusted off the Les Paul and started writing a new batch of songs. I was also experimenting with lots of alternate tunings, and that was how many of the new songs and parts were discovered. The sound may not have fit well with recent musical trends but I felt there hadn’t really been much British guitar music that really grooved for quite some time.

– Inside the band there’s a mixture of English, American and French cultural backgrounds. What do you think this mix adds up to the band’s character? How does it influence the band?

– I’m not sure about that one. It certainly doesn’t feel like there’s any culture clash in the band. Nick and Sam both grew up in France yet only met a year ago in England. As the rhythm section I guess it’s nice that they have that bond and can communicate in French if they want to. My mother lived in the USA for many years so that was a big part of my upbringing despite being English. Ariel originally grew up in the USA, yet actually has lived for several years in both Costa Rica and London! So we’re a fairly homeless bunch. Musically, it comes quite naturally for us to bring both European music and American roots together. If you listen through the EP closely you can hear the influence of The Beatles, Britpop and alt rock, yet just as much the influence of Country, Soul and Blues Rock.

– What are your live shows like? What do you want your audiences to take away from your live shows?

– Our live shows try to showcase the variety of our repertoire, so we’ll often open with a couple of rockers and then quieten things down with a softer ballad in the middle, like ‘Childhood Home’ or ‘Footsteps’. Covers are fun too, as long as there’s some degree of making the song our own. Occasionally we play acoustic gigs too. I like the intimacy of these gigs and it lets people hear the words more clearly. The greatest gigs I’ve ever seen have usually had a great sound, a varied set and passionate performances. So this is what we aim for. This is the way I want to connect with the audience, through a powerful sound and a sincere performance more than through verbal or physical gestures. Some artists are great at the latter, but it’s not a primary feature of our concerts at present.   

– Have you got any pre-show traditions or rituals that you could share with us?

– There’s usually so much waiting around before hitting the stage and that can get me feeling anxious.  That’s the best thing about being the opening act actually. We don’t have any set rituals no, nothing very sublime to speak of! Sometimes I warm my voice up, or pray that my strings don’t snap mid solo. Usually we just wait around and smoke too many cigarettes.

– What’s your Top 5 album releases of 2014?

– Good question. ‘Lost In The Dream’ by War On Drugs has been my overall favourite. London based songwriter Finn Bonel has a brilliant new EP with his band Trackhorse. Then there’s ‘Down where the spirit meets the bone’-Lucinda Williams, ‘Lo-Fantasy’-Sam Roberts Band, and ‘Desire Like Dynamite’-Sandra McCracken

– What or who inspired you to start making music?

– My grandma taught me my first chords on the piano when I was 8. She had a lovely simple approach and always played in open C. Later, when I’d got a little better, I discovered that she didn’t even understand what a minor chord was, which was very sweet. The earliest music I ever heard was my mother’s LP’s of John Lennon solo and the final two Beatles albums. I became an obsessive Beatles fan at aged 11 and that was what made me learn the guitar. I played 2-3 hours a day because I wanted to learn every Beatles song. Simple as that really. I later heard bands like the Stones and Zeppelin and that’s how I learnt to play blues. As for singing and songwriting that came a little bit later.

– What’s this one most special thing about The Healing that all you listeners must know?

– We originally took our band name from the name of one of our songs. The name, while it is just a name, refers to how the process of expressing yourself through songwriting and music making can be incredibly cathartic.

Also, we disproved the widely held view that you can never find good bandmates on Gumtree!

– While writing music, what’s your main approach, your main focus in your musicmaking?

– Truly, the best songs feel like they write themselves because the best songs are nearly always written quickly in a subconscious state, by which I mean that you’re just strumming on the guitar or tinkling at the piano and suddenly a melody or a riff, and a couple of lyrics, just arrive in your head. So I guess the best approach is to just play every day, to jam with yourself and stuff will flow from that. The main things that matter to me in a song is the melody, the groove, and having some kind of motif, like a guitar riff in our case, that runs throughout the song and holds it together and shapes its identity. I think the best songs are usually surprisingly simple and repetition can be a great thing so long as the thing you’re repeating is strong.

For me, the best words I can write will come out subconsciously too. The easiest thing to write about is things I’ve actually experienced and people I actually know. Your memories, relationships and every day experiences actually provide so many things to write about, and simple and narrative lyrics usually move me the most. There’s a great album called ‘History’ by Loudon Wainwright III that made me realise that.

– What are your plans for the nearest future?

– We’re playing an EP launch concert on October 11th at The Gladstone in London. It’s the best small venue in London and we’ll be giving away copies of the EP. We’ll continue to gig and promote the EP over the next 6 months. We also plan to record more tracks in the studio before Christmas, leading up to a debut album. We recently launched a new website too, designed by the wonderful Freya Yang. You can check it out here for updates on all gigs and releases: www.thehealingmusic.co.uk

Find The Healing on Facebook

Cheers, Jim

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