Interview Bryan Josh (Mostly Autumn)

"Heather's departure marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new decade for us all"

(February 2011, Text by Cor Smeets, edited by Peter Willemsen, pictures by Arthur Haggenburg)

Shortly after the release of their latest album Go Well Diamond Heart (see review) I had the honour to have an interview for Background Magazine with Bryan Josh, guitarist and main composer of Mostly Autumn. In this interview he shows a lot of pure emotion about the break with his musical companion Heather Findlay. Besides he explains the lyrics of the individual songs of the new album.

Congratulations with your new album Go Well Diamond Heart. I liked it a lot.

Bryan Josh : “Well, thank you very much indeed.”

What is your opinion about the new album?

“I love the album very much. I'm very pleased with it. I think it flows very well and deals with the emotions involved in a very concise way; it's definitely a grower.”

Was it more difficult to record this album than usual since Heather Findlay left the band quite suddenly?

“Well, I approached the songs exactly as I would have normally done, but obviously there wasn't the possibility of working with Heather so her angle was not present. It was very sad, almost like a member of your family left home, but those feelings manifest themselves in some of the songs. The album was a good chance to say in music: goodbye and thanks for all we shared, it was an honour.”

Were you surprised that Heather left?

“Yes I was, although she had hinted on it on the winter tour shortly before she confirmed her retirement, but it was still a shock. We shared a lot over the thirteen years of working together and I'll miss her, but nothing stays the same and we will both carry on making music in our own way which is very exciting.”

Does Go Well Diamond Heart refer to Heather leaving Mostly Autumn or is it just a phrase from one of the songs?

“The title was thought up before Heather left, but strangely it fitted when she did. It's the title of a song on the album though it means many things. It is now partly dedicated to Heather.” 

Olivia Sparnenn Heather Findlay

Is there any difference between working with Olivia Sparnenn and Heather Findlay beside the fact that they are different persons?

“Yes, there is. I have worked with Heather for a long time and she has her own way of approaching songs, her own style which she has developed. She has a very powerful presence around what she does and she's unique in this. Heather has become a very complete writer and performer. I've only just started working with Olivia and I feel we're just scratching the surface at present, but it has been thoroughly enjoyable to do so. I'm very excited with the results and for what is to come in the future. Both Heather and Olivia are world class singers who come from totally different angles, but I can tell you the pleasure is all mine to work and have worked with such class, they both deliver totally from the heart and soul.”

Did you reserve a part of the album to show how talented Olivia is?

“Not as such, as I felt her presence would speak for itself as long as there was enough of her present. I was and still am very interested in exploring more textures in her voice. She has a remarkable talent, the potential is amazing and she will grow with her role even though she's a very established singer and writer already. We had limited time to learn to work and write together on Go Well Diamond Heart, but I'm satisfied with the results. We were thrown in rather at the deep end.”

Why didn't you choose both Olivia and Anne-Marie Helder as leading singers?

“Heather left and somebody had to replace her. If I had wanted two leading singers I would have had two before, but I didn't. I feel it can blur the focus. Anne-Marie plays a role as a multi-instrumentalist as well. She's a valuable addition to the vocals.”

Did the other band members have more influence this time or are you now the only leader of the band?

“I am and always have been the leader of the band. I don't believe in committees; that can destroy a band. I just try to get the best out of the people around me when it is relevant.”

Anne-Marie Helder

Would you please tell our readers briefly something about the individual tracks?

For All We Shared is a celebration of all that has happened since the band began, an overview of the whole trip and very much dedicated to the fan's amazing support throughout. Heather's departure marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new decade for us all.

Violet Skies is a letter from me to Heather, a tribute to our past and also a good will gesture to her for the future, the words are self-explanatory and very emotionally delivered by Olivia.

Deep In Borrowdale is all about the magical times shared boozing around a roaring fire under the stars by the river in one of the most stunning mountainous valleys on earth. There have been plenty.

Something Better is a fairly angry song and may, on the face of it, seem a bit extreme. To put it broadly: it's about how the world can be frustrating, disappointing and a heart breaking place. Sometimes you look at the news and you'll see a poor child that has been abducted, abused and murdered and, after a relatively short time the culprit responsible is running free again. This also happens time and again with other hideous crimes. Our soldiers face unseen terrors and are dying on an almost daily basis whether we agree with the wars or not, and in turn innocent civilians all over the world are losing their lives in the thick of the fight. All these things and more can be very disturbing. I used iconic figures like cowboys, Lord Nelson and Julius Cesar as a point of reference to suggest that in the old days some cowboy like Clint Eastwood would deal with obvious bandits in a suitable fashion, or Nelson would go in first fair and square and take on his visible opponent or Caesar would sling the proven rapists, murderers and rogues in the Coliseum and have done with it, so people wouldn't have to put up with all the crap. The world deserves Something Better a lot of the time. The words 'something missing in my world' relate to me missing my dad.

Go Well Diamond Heart is dedicated to the indomitable spirit of Ben Parkinson, a good friend and the most seriously injured soldier in the UK who still won't give up on serving his country and pulling himself back from his terrible injuries.

Back To Life celebrates the band starting anew and forging forward after the change regarding Heather leaving.

Hold the Sun is a tribute to all the love and friendship you have shared growing up with friends and loved ones that have passed and the fact that nothing and nobody can take that away from you and them. It also reflects on the things that still make you smile in this world.

When The War Is Over is all about a moving reunion after someone returning from a war. It's set on the dance floor with the couple in tears of joy, holding close and waltzing. A dance floor in heaven possibly or maybe in their home town.”

What do you think are the best songs of the album?

“I like them all for different reasons, but the ones that are very emotionally powerful when played live are Hold The Sun, For All We Shared and When The War Is Over. These songs seem to really illuminate the concert halls.”

Does the opening track For All We Shared have a link to the debut album with the same name?

“Yes, it certainly has. When I wrote this song I wanted it to echo the sound of our first album which was a little more Celtic in its feel. It was where we properly began and the mood seemed to reflect the sadness of reflection and change. I stood on a mountain side and thought about all that had gone on since that album and that music appeared in my head.”

Has the opening tune a connection with the final track?

“The whole album is connected if you look deep enough.”

What are your plans for the near future?

“Well, more touring and writing and maybe a new live album or a DVD. We hope to record a new album next autumn.”

What's your opinion about the current musical scene?

“As always there's some stuff I like and some I'm not so keen on, but I hope people keep buying CD's as well as downloading music and keep supporting bands live and at home.”

Do you have enough confidence that symphonic or prog music will survive?

“I don't think anybody could stop it. There are far too many passionate musicians who will carry on whatever. It can only grow I reckon and it seems to be getting to more people these days. Progressive rock had some bad press for a long time but that's changing now.”

Do you have a special wish to the readers of the online Background Magazine?

“Well, I hope you have all a great year and enjoy all the music that's available for your consumption and consideration. We hope to see you soon.”

Thank you for the interview and I wish you a lot of success with your excellent new album.

“Thank you for your time, my friend.”

More info about Bryan Josh / Mostly Autumn on the Internet:
       Website Mostly Autumn
       Concert review 18-Apr-2010
       Concert review 17-Dec-2009
       Concert review 4-Apr-2009
       CD review 'Go Well, Diamond Heart'
       CD review 'Pass The Clock'
       CD review 'Live 2009'
       DVD review 'That Night in Leamington'
       CD review Josh & Co 'Through These Eyes'
       Interview Olivia Sparnenn

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