“Before” Album Music

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By Joe Holtaway

I’ve been in love with songwriting for as long as I remember. Some chords, a melody and some words; a sharing from the heart—this collection of songs, the first of my own, is something I’ve been coming to for many years. Though over the last year or so, the conditions have come together to make it possible.

I grew up writing and playing, and being in many wonderful band projects with friends. In my mid-20’s, I remember the need to draw to a more regular spiritual practice. I read Thay’s books and went to Wake Up London and the Quakers. My songwriting became rooted more into what I call peace or spiritual activism.

We sing often in those groups. Thanks to this, I felt inspired to write more and Wake Up London and I started Peace Sounds, our record label project. In 2015/16, I stayed in Plum Village for the 3-month winter retreat and then did an internship with Wake Up Schools. Part of the project was to record songs. For a few days a week, I was in the little recording room in Son Ha, reworking some of the Plum Village songs and recording other artists’ songs and conversations about peace. You can read more about that here.

Some early mornings, before the office day began though, I arrived to make a tea, sat with guitar and mandolin, and began to shape what has become a EP of the following four songs:

“Be Still,” a song for a friend who decided to rest; “Lay Down,” inspired by the poetry of Christian writer Maya Angelou; “A Little Love,” a quote from a friend about what a little love can do and “So Around,” inspired by my grandmother. What I began in Plum Village later finished at All Saints Church in Peckham, London.

These are the first four of a collection of 10 songs to be shared some time next year and are available for download. Please don’t let money be a concern and accept them as a gift by passing through that page with my blessing. Any donations would go toward my recording and travel fund.

I also keep a journal where I write about peace and song, including travels to visit other artists and activists to record sharings and hear experiences alongside my song recordings.

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