With A Story To Tell
It’s been said a million times, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s a beautiful quote by one of the most important and influential musicians, artists and humanitarians of all time, Mr. John Lennon. It ticks all the iconic quote boxes: it’s short, to the point and unequivocally accurate. I want to write a quote like that. Not fair John, not fair.
In my relatively short time on this big blue ball, I have found there is real truth in John’s words. Sometimes the best laid plans just change, for better or for worse. It’s easy to get caught in your own net, thrashing about until you find a positive way out. And sometimes, just sometimes, that positive escape from your own little world leaks out and makes a positive impact elsewhere.
What I really mean to say is, something positive you may have done for yourself has been interpreted completely differently by someone else and has become really meaningful to them. What a beautiful feeling that is.
For me, that positive thing was a song I had written 8 years ago - when I was 17. It was a song all about leaving the beautiful Island I had grown up on - the Isle of Man. It was about being proud of where I came from, yet anxious and eager to see the world. The song “Roll Away” was born out of both love and frustration.
Isle of Man, the island at the center, between Great Britain and Ireland - taken from the International Space Station and Tweeted to me by @Astro_Ron!
Here’s the thing - I had written it purely selfishly - it made me feel better about the situation I was in. That was its purpose for me. It’s a cliche that songwriters use all the time, but it’s true. Sometimes it really is a therapy. I had no idea then that it would lead me on a fantastic journey.
Between then and now, I have been lucky enough to start a career as a professional musician, and have ended up fulfilling that ‘Roll Away’ dream of seeing the world. As I said earlier, I grew up on the Isle of Man, in the British Isles - I now live in Chicago, USA, and I am writing this on a flight to Tokyo. This will count as my 5th time zone this month. This nomadic lifestyle has really changed the way I think, compared to my seventeen-year-old outlook! I’ve come to learn how small this world really is - how exposed we all are, the fragility of our situation. We are all one and the same, and certainly on the same big blue boat.
I guess you could say that my experiences with music, and touring it, has really given me an orbital perspective of this wonderful planet - without having left it.
A short while back I met some wonderful people who really go above and beyond, and I had to get involved.
WhyHunger is an incredible organization and, in keeping with the ethos of Fragile Oasis, truly committed to making this planet a better place.
In a nut-shell, WhyHunger helps source nutritious and sustainable food for those who simply don’t have easy access to it. They work with projects in the USA and all over the world to make sure that food is seen as a necessity, and not a luxury - and is available to all. WhyHunger has an orbital perspective itself - seeing this world as one whole, Regardless of borders or beliefs, everyone on it should have access to our most basic human needs.
I have also been fortunate enough to meet some truly remarkable individuals who really inspire us to make this world a better place. NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Nicole Stott both took my albums with them on their missions to the International Space Station.
How could I ever have planned for this? My song 'Roll Away', written all of those years ago made it into space!? Completely baffled, amazed and truly honoured!
Ron explained to me how he interpreted that little song of mine, written all those years ago, while also looking at beautiful scenery - but from a very different perspective. An orbital perspective. The island I had written about in my song had been interpreted by Ron as our Island as a whole -- that he was now looking down on. I really can’t explain this any better than Ron! All I can add is that this song, which has meant so much to me for so long, has now taken on a whole new meaning, and it is an understatement to say I am both grateful and honoured that it means so much to someone else.
I do have one last anecdote to share. Recently, at a show back on the Isle of Man the crew of the final Discovery mission presented me with a beautiful plaque containing their mission crew patch. It is important for you to know I get star-struck. Embarrassingly so. One of the astronauts leans over to me and says; “That patch flew over 5 million miles.”. I mull this over (this, and the fact I am onstage with a bunch of people who have been in Space). I eventually reply, “it’s in very good shape.”