songwriter & storyteller

When I was a teenager a favourite book of mine was “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger. I seemed to share a great deal with the main character, a 17 year old called Holden Caulfield. Like him, I remember disliking the fakeness in life, in people, in what people say, the double-standards that you are so acutely aware of as a teenager, a feel that so many people put up fronts, or shields or fear showing their vulnerabilities. It maybe wasn’t until I started writing songs and then doing research that I learned how important it is to have this sense, and at least to try to find truth, by getting under, or behind the facade.

I have written hundreds of songs over almost three decades, yet the process—the act of writing—remains mysterious to me on so many levels (from Throughness, 2017)

From as far back as I can remember I liked putting words together, sometimes on the page, bringing and giving a story life through some aesthetic sense, and at other times through a finding chords and shaping words into song, as I tried to understand the world around me. And through these processes, and particularly through songwriting, I have gained a profound understanding about life and living.

When and as I became a researcher it was songwriting that helped me think about how to communicate what I was learning about people’s lives and the challenges and issues they face.

Now, my professional background spans the performing arts, education and psychology – and is interdisciplinary and most times collaborative. Like Bruce Springsteen, who sang that he’d learned more in a three minute record than his years at school (No Surrender), I seem to learn through songs and stories more so than other forms of communication, and so thats how I try and communicate my research.

Over the pages here you can share some of the research I’ve been involved with, please download papers and watch and comment on the films, stories and songs. Make contact if you have questions, and join in the quest to make our communities fairer, to stand against oppression and stand up for the rights and dignity of people whose lives are stigmatised, silenced or absent.

Writing songs…..

Many of my songe are related in someway to the sea and the ocean – “Lead me to the waters edge” is one.

I wrote it on the 7th June 2000 shortly after I began surfing ….and began to experience the sheer power of a wave. I am hugely inspired, moved by and at times fearful of the ocean. In terms of my work (writing and research) it provides me with a sense of space, in my head as well as physically, thinking space, if you like, a moving bubbling sometimes still sometimes angry, sometimes blue sometimes black….space.

walking with chico at Gwithian Sands, my summer home

Over the past twenty years, I’ve written most of my songs in the mornings. It seems something about the freshness of the day, combined perhaps with a quality of energy in me, increases the chance of a song happening. David Carless, 2017, Throughness)