'Where There's Hope' - A Triumph of Creative Spirit
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
“There’s a certain vulnerability that comes with putting things out under your own name,” says Martin Reynolds, on the release of his new solo album ‘Where There’s Hope’.
“I remember reading an interview with James Murphy, where he spoke to David Bowie about getting LCD Soundsystem back together. Bowie asked Murphy whether it makes him feel uncomfortable, to which Murphy said yes. Bowie then replied: “Good, it should make you feel uncomfortable”.
“That’s kind of how I approach songs now – if there isn’t an element of discomfort, then you’re probably not treading new ground. I’ve never been completely comfortable with writing songs, but I know that I absolutely love the creative process behind it.”
The result of this philosophy – an acoustic album harking back to the classic sounds of the great 60s and 70s singer-songwriters – shows that Reynolds’ willingness to push his creative boundaries are certainly paying off.
Usually found behind the skins of two-piece rhythm and blues band You Dirty Blue, Reynolds began the creative process of writing new material while stuck indoors during the initial wave of COVID-19.
“I guess I’m expecting people to think I’d come out with something a bit heavier,” reasons Reynolds. “I’ve done that in the past under a different name, but thought that I’d try something different this time around. A lot of my songs are written on an acoustic guitar, so it made sense to record them the way they were originally conceived.
“That initial demo came out really well, so I felt confident in sticking with it. I love the fact that you can’t hide behind an acoustic guitar, and it can really cut to the core of a song.”
Drawing on his own personal thoughts and experiences, the songs on ‘Where There’s Hope’ exude a warm sense of optimism despite the trials and tribulations we have all experienced over the last 15-months.
Lead single ‘Strange Days Indeed’ kicks off the album, a bright and breezy pop song which puts an arm around the listeners shoulder and reassures you that, even if things don’t make much sense right now: “It’ll be alright in the end.”
Elsewhere, ‘No One’s Ever Truly Gone’ feels like a personal insight in to the thoughts of someone who has lost a family member, and latest single ‘The Sky Ain’t the Limit’ ends the album on a positive note, a hopeful look to the future after a difficult journey.
Meanwhile, ‘The Boys Got Rhythm’ is the most contemporary in terms of sound, opening with a short acapella section before picking up the pace with a rhythmic guitar and tambourine combo which you cannot help but tap your foot along to.
“My only rule going in to this process was that there were no rules,” explains Reynolds. “There wasn’t a particular style that I aimed towards – I knew the songs were going to be written on an acoustic guitar, and if I heard a melody or harmony while writing then I resolved to just sing it.”
Despite this, there are clear influences in terms of sound and production.
“I listened to a lot of The Beatles, early Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, early Elvis Presley – particularly a song called ‘I Got Stung’ – R.L. Burnside, The Beach Boys... I also became obsessed with a song by The Five Satins called ‘In the Still of the Night’, which is where I took a lot of influence with the vocal patterns and harmonies.”
While the pause to life as we know it was the perfect time for Reynolds to catch up on new music too – Laura Marling, Phoebe Bridgers, Fiona Apple, and Billy Nomates, to name just a few – it also presented him with an opportunity for reflection and introspection, which is notable among many of the tracks on ‘Where There’s Hope’.
“They were all written in the space of a month or two, bar ‘Profit Vs. People’, so I guess they’re all about that period of my life where I had that time to reflect,” notes Reynolds.
“There are some that are personal, and others that are more story based, but I guess they all have some form of connection to me – I’d find them quite difficult to sing if they didn’t!”
Profit Vs. People is the odd one out of the collection, having been written around six years ago. However, its message – a lament on capitalist exploitation – is somehow even more resonant today, in a society where deep-seated inequality has been exposed by the pandemic.
“I still feel the message of the song stands strong. When I was writing the songs for the album, I found myself playing it again for the first time in a long time, and it just made sense alongside the batch of songs that I’d already written.”
‘Where There’s Hope’ is a triumph of creative spirit, borne on a rich acoustic sound instantly recognisable through a familiarity with its influences, and littered with relatable themes and references. It’s clear that, with the success of this solo record, Reynolds’ step in to the spotlight could – and possibly should – become a more regular occurrence.