What is it that the artist wants to say? Even the singer-songwriter who’s been trying to say the unsayable by singing it and hitching words to melodies for a lifetime? Maybe it takes a lifetime to find out. Or at least, for Martyn Joseph, a forty year journey of writing, recording and performing songs. What does the songwriter of hundreds of songs want to say?
“My last album, 1960, was about looking back and taking stock, the kind of reflection many or us found ourselves in during lockdown. It was all the more acute for performers like me, people used to being on the road, used to moving on… suddenly we couldn’t move on.”
In the two years since that last record, which reflected more than is usual on the story of his personal life, things have now been thrown into sharper focus. The lens has even more clarity now that Joseph has lost his father, become a grandfather and father, again. These events concentrated Joseph’s thoughts, distilling them into seven words that don’t even make it into a lyric on one of the eleven new songs – but may be the key to unlocking all of them: This Is What I Want To Say. If the Welsh singer-songwriter’s work has always been freighted with a fragile hope, a vulnerable faith, a defiant love, those elements were never more present than in two tracks that virtually bookend the new album.
In ‘Folding’, the opening song the writer pictures life high on the breeze… just as the mood of the sky changes. “I’m folding like a kite that’s lost the wind I’m holding to the remnant of these sins To a vast goodbye a small hello I’m folding, folding slow.” The antidote to the sense of a life deflating and descending comes in the steadfast love of those who travel with you, the ones who keep faith in us, the ringing manifesto of penultimate track, ‘You’re Still Here’,
The Welsh word hiraeth which appears in the opening song, is one that underpins the lyrical sensibility of the record, the sense of ‘longing’ that the troubadour the exiled and the refugee understand better than anyone. It’s captured poignantly in ‘Waiting For the Rain’, a song transposed from a poem by the poet Patrick Jones, verses which imagine a new kind of home in Wales for those forced to flee their home in Syria.
Over his own storied career Martyn Joseph has become well known for amplifying the lives of marginalised people in troubled situations from Sunderland to Palestine. His charity ‘The Let Yourself Trust’ founded eight years ago has now raised and given away well over half a million pounds worldwide across sixteen grass root charities.
“I’m not very good at making up stories”, says Joseph. “Pretending is not my forte. But tell me a truth, be it good or bad, and I can write all day. Give me someone’s story and I can most probably write you a song about it and bring it home.”
Whether the days are wearing us out or waking us up, this is an album which suggests life’s existential signposts are an invitation to stop and notice the passing of time – and a reminder that there’s plenty to be thankful for.
“When I hit the stage all of those emotions are present”, he reflects, “but I try to make sure we always end up together in that same space, a place of hope and community. There’s a promise in that, even when all the signposts point to chaos”.
Artist’s website: www.martynjoseph.net
‘Folding’ – official video:
11 Jan 24 BIRMINGHAM Midland Arts Centre, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH
Tel: 0121 446 3232 | Website: https://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/martyn-joseph
12 Jan 24 SHOREHAM-BY-SEA Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High St, Shoreham-by-Sea BN43 5EG
Tel: 01273 464440 | Website: https://ropetacklecentre.ticketsolve.com/ticketbooth/shows/873649024
13 Jan 24 ISLE OF WIGHT Wootton Bridge Community Centre, Brannon Way, Wootton Bridge, Ryde, IoW, PO33 4NW
14 Jan 24 SOUTHAMPTON The Brook, 466 Portswood Road, Southampton, UK, SO17 3SD
18 Jan 24 EXETER Phoenix, Candy St, exeter, EX4 6LS
Tel: 01392 667080 | Website: https://exeterphoenix.org.uk/events/martyn-joseph/
19 Jan 24 BRISTOL Bristol Beacon, Trenchard Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR
Tel: 0117 203 4040 | Website: https://bristolbeacon.org/whats-on/martyn-joseph/
20 Jan 24 CARDIFF Acapela Studio, Heol Y Pentre, Pentyrch, Cardiff CF15 9QD – EXTRA DATE ADDED!
Tel: 02920 890862 | Website: https://acapela.co.uk/events/martyn-joseph-winter-tour-2nd-night/
21 Jan 24 CARDIFF Acapela Studio, Heol Y Pentre, Pentyrch, Cardiff CF15 9QD – SOLD OUT!
Tel: 02920 890862 | Website: https://acapela.co.uk/events/martyn-joseph-winter-tour/
25 Jan 24 WORCESTER Huntingdon Hall, CrownGate, Worcester WR1 3LD
Tel: 01905 611427 | Website: https://worcestertheatres.co.uk/huntingdon-hall/whats-on/martyn-joseph
26 Jan 24 SHREWSBURY Theatre Severn Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury, SY18FT
Tel: 01743 280 281 | Website: https://www.theatresevern.co.uk/shows/music/martyn-joseph/
27 Jan 24 MILTON KEYNES The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, MK17 8LU
Tel: 01908 280800 | Website: https://stables.org/event/martyn-joseph
28 Jan 24 CANTERBURY Folk In The Barn, Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2EH
01 Feb 24 LONDON Bush Hall 310 Uxbridge Rd, London W12 7LJ
Website: Dice – https://link.dice.fm/a123a77cb79a Or See Tickets – https://www.seetickets.com/event/martyn-joseph/bush-hall/2763183
02 Feb 24 LIVERPOOL Philharmonic Hall Music Room, Hope St, Liverpool L1 9BP
Tel: 0151 709 3789 | Website: https://www.liverpoolphil.com/whats-on/contemporary-music/martyn-joseph/8848
03 Feb 24 NORTHWICH, CHESHIRE The Saltworks Sessions, Lion Salt Works, Marston, Northwich, Cheshire
Tickets: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/591224 |Venue info https://www.facebook.com/lswsessions/?locale=en_GB