To Quote Sir Elton John…

“Sad songs say so much.”

Autumn Live at Queen's Park

Yesterday, an exceptionally talented fellow artist, Robin Chapman (seriously, if you get the opportunity to hear this guy, do it) asked me if I was going to sing depressing songs on this beautiful day.  It was a beautiful day, and, yes, I was going to sing depressing songs.  Although, that’s not quite an accurate description. They are written and performed by someone with severe clinical depression, and they reflect a lot of my experience. But, you’re not going to catch depression from them, any more than you’re going to catch my irregular heartbeat.

I have an advantage in that people like sad songs.  Music is a safe place to express and explore what we call negative emotions and life’s pain (and, life is FULL of pain). All the better if you’re good at it (the music, that is).

Yes, I sang sad songs, but I was glad to be doing what I love (even if I did have to wrestle with a keyboard that didn’t want to cooperate with me  – bloody electronic things *&^£”!!! – and everything didn’t go strictly to plan); I was out in the open air, making music for an appreciate audience, and that felt good.

Two moments in the day stand out for me as precious. One was, when the last performer of the day, the delicious Mo Shotter, called me back up on stage to sing some improvisational blues with her.  So, we sang ‘The Queen’s Park Blues’ together. This was a magically spontaneous and pure fun.

The other was when I was singing this song:

There’s a point in this where you see me smile, and it’s where I look into the audience and see my 6 year old son singing my song along with me. It was one of those serendipitous moments, a fixed moment where time stops.

Things had come full circle.

I was on the stage and my child was in the audience proud of his mummy and, very happily, singing one of my sad songs along with me. And, I saw myself at that age, in the audience, proudly looking up at my mother…singing along with the sad songs…’I saw the harbour lights. They only told me you were leaving’…

Pardon me while I wipe the tears. Pardon me while I smile during a very unsmiling song. And, pardon me while I cherish the songs – and the moments – that say more than the sum of their words ever could. Because they interpret what cannot be said, but only be felt.



I don’t know if it was turning 40 or what, but I’ve had a couple of observations, realisations, revelations – whatever you want to call it – come to me. And, I’ve been thinking I should write them down, for whatever reason. Posterity, maybe. Thus, I sit here, tablet and stylus in hand, pondering…

First off, as a child, all I wanted to do was grow up. I suppose that’s not terribly different from the desires and mistaken ideas of many children; I was under the impression and assumption that adults were strong and respected. They appeared to be respected, even if they weren’t all that intelligent. I wanted respect.

I saw in the eyes of adults a disdain for childhood and the foolishness of children, and I wanted to be seen as I was. Even then, I had a hatred for stereotypes. I wasn’t the adult I wanted to be, but neither was I truthfully totally a child…

I didn’t always understand that my brain worked differently from other people’s.
What I did know was that my advanced vocabulary and unusual interests kept me isolated (and incomprehensible) to my peers, while my age kept me locked away from a true association with the grown ups I so wanted to be included in.

I was lonely. I learned both to dislike everyone while craving to be liked by everyone.

It has just dawned on me recently that the disdain I saw directed at children by the “high and mighty” adults was, in fact, a mask for jealousy. Oh, they thought it was disdain, but what they really were was jealous of the freedom (the freedom I saw as a prison) of being a child.

They knew what I didn’t (because I didn’t know they were wearing their carefully crafted masks) that age doesn’t bring respect, it doesn’t make you any more likable – or capable. Age brings responsibilities you may or may not be able to handle. It brings knowledge but not necessarily wisdom. It brings a loss of innocence which may at first seem exciting but is really very sad and empty.

I thought I’d be happy when I grew up. I didn’t know I wasn’t made that way. The lonely child, with her strange interests and over developed vocabulary, is the lonely adult who still struggles to find someone to talk to and with which to hang out.

A lot of my problems, I know, stem from mental illness as well as being slightly autistic. I was never going to fit in this world. But, I wish I had enjoyed being a child more. I wish I had known, old is just old, and it’s filled with all the insecurity and pain that childhood is…and worse. And, respect, validation, appreciation – all those things I wanted – are still not there like I was made to believe they would be by the adults who were trying to believe their own bullshit…but, really, knew better.

That’s the first thing…

Observation (or maybe realisation and acceptance) number two: even if I hadn’t married my first husband who did everything in his power to undermine my self esteem, I still would have ended up making bad, destructive, choices with my life. Because, I was that child, that incomprehensible, mentally and emotionally wrecked child who belonged nowhere but longed to be desired and adored. If my ex-husband hadn’t been there, there would’ve been someone else I would’ve gone out of my way to ruin myself (more than I already was) with. One way or another, the damage would’ve been done because I was already the damaged.

For a long time I wished I could’ve escaped – I even thought that I could have had certain things been different, but… it’s like H.G. Wells’ Time Machine… I’d still be here in the condition I find myself, regardless.

What’s the point of this? Not sure. It’s simply something I’ve come to realise. Maybe it’s just the acceptance, another moment to reflect on the insanity of life, and the fucked-uppedness (it’s a word now!) of it all.

The broken child, the wounded adult, the fucked up world.

I wanted to end this on a more positive note. I’m struggling… but, I’m hopeful these observations, and especially the self-discovery, will help me in some way. Sigh…

The Beginning and the End of Journey’s End

In 2006 my husband presented me with a poem he had written for me. It’s simplicity and beauty struck me immediately. So, also, did its inate singability. This was no poem, these were song lyrics longing to be sung. With no delay, I took his words and sat down at the piano. I didn’t have to search for it; the music was just there. A lot of times, as a songwriter, you try to write a song – and, that’s ok… you get some good stuff out of that. But, the best pieces come from songs that find you and choose you to write them. This was the case with Journey’s End.

I have often performed this song at live shows and it is the song I get the most requests for. I am certain that when I released my first album in 2012, quite a few people expected Journey’s End to, at the least, make an appearance on the album, if not be the title track thereof. But, no… it wasn’t the time and Gloriously Autumnal wasn’t the place.

In February of this year, I released my second album – a full length album entitled Expressions of the Songmistress. It’s a highly personal work. A labour of love for the art, a message for the hurt and hurting. Journey’s End could have found a home here (I could have stuck it in), but I’ve had other plans for this song for some time. Actually, I think the song itself has always had its own plans, you see.

Not without a good cause (or two)…

What do I give? What do I contribute? I sit, navel-gazing, wishful thinking that people would love and rave about my music. I have a handful of loyal fans, but it’s not like I can expect these people to shove my music in everyone’s face and demand that they listen and appreciate it. In the world’s eyes I am, well, if not a failure, I am certainly not a success.  I put up music to buy. It gets greatly ignored. Oh, a few listen, a few even acknowledge the talent, even fewer (those precious ones) buy it… but, I am far from having a successful, consistent career. I can’t do much for me, or for my family. Is it possible for me to do something for someone else?

Journey’s End is a song that lends itself to a message of love and charity. Of giving. Of being there for others when a friend is really needed. It’s about the support that comes from someone loving you, unconditionally, day in, day out, no matter what life throws at you, no matter how the road bends and twists – it’s about being there, all the way, to the end.

And so, if you download this single, I will be dividing the money bewteen two charities. First is The Center for Courageous Kids. This is a camp for children with terminal and life threatening diseases. They provide support for the families of these ill children while providing top health-care and – the most important thing of all – lots of fun for the children, filling what days they have with adventure and beauty and friendship. All the way, to journey’s end.

The second cause is very close to my heart and very close to my home. I want to donate money to my local community centre, the SRKCP, to run some very important music therapy groups. This funding will help buy instruments and equipment, affording us to run drum circles and other music events for the health and well-being of the community. It’s a way of me practically – rolling up my sleeves – giving back.

I hope these two awesome causes will touch your heart and you will download this single because you, too, want to do something you can do. For your gift, you receive a song, a beautiful song. And your gift can make a positive difference in the lives of a variety of people, insuring that these good works continue when they are so very needed. It’s such a win win win. The way the payment is set up on Bandcamp is that the track costs £1 or more. You can give however much more you wish to. All the proceeds will be divided between Courageous Kids and SRKCP.

I’d love people to download my music because they really dig my music. I have a little handful of people who do that, and it’s lovely. I wish it was more, but that doesn’t stop me for being grateful for what I have. Journey’s End may be the last thing I ever release for others to buy. I don’t know…  but, I do know, I want the legacy of this song to be about what the message of the song is about:

I will walk with you
With your hand in mine
Anywhere the road will take us

Be your company
Made of you and me
On this road
To journey’s end

I’ll be by your side
At the sound of my name
Anytime you choose to call me
I’ll be there for you
When you want me to
If you call
My heart will hear

I will sit with you
Ease your cares away
Any place you wish to send them

Be your honesty
Be your chance to breathe
All the way to journey’s end

I’ll be your honesty
Be your chance to breathe
All the way to journey’s end

I will walk with you
With your hand in mine
Anywhere the road will take us

Copyright ©James Leader & Autumn Dawn Leader

Listen, then click and give! It feels good to give.