Recovering addicts find healing through new Brighton album

Eight recovering addicts in Brighton have found healing in music at what could have been one of the worst times of their lives.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 6:00 am
Callum Johnstone

The musicians, all in recovery from some form of addiction, turned their talents to creating an album during the first lockdown.

Liberation Through the Looking Glass is now out (22 January 2021), the first ever vinyl release from the not-for-profit record label and live music company We are Not Saints and is limited to just 200 copies. It is an album inspired by how it feels to be in recovery during lockdown.

We Are Not Saints based in Brighton, was established in 2018 by Chris De Banks who himself had struggled with addiction over the years.

Chris said: “With the prevalence of alcohol and drugs in contemporary music culture, it's often difficult, if not impossible, for artists to have the same opportunities as other musicians without putting their recovery at risk.

“We Are Not Saints was designed to create a platform for musicians to enable them to write, record, distribute and perform their music in a safe, supported way that puts their recovery at the heart of what they do.”

Chris said: “In the early days of lockdown and Covid, there was a lot in the press about people in recovery and the problems they were facing with fellowship meetings closing and face-to-face support all but disappearing. In response, we commissioned eight musicians to write about their experiences of isolation and loss of connection, what had become important to them and what they had learned about themselves, and their recovery when normal connections were removed. The result was Liberation Through the Looking Glass.”

The album represents the equality, diversity, and the ethos of inclusivity that We Are Not Saints is built on. There is a 50/50 split of male and female, but also individuals from the LGBTQ community, the BAME community and artists from different economic backgrounds to create as diverse a collection as possible.

The tracks feature artists Callum Johnstone, Full Spectrum, Deiphos Jay, Annie Murray, Jim Trickster, Helena B, 40 Wildsages and Man Like Malcolm, all artists who have struggled at some point with their addictions. Liberation Through the Looking Glass is a genre-spanning collection of pop, indie, soul and singer/songwriter originals.

Chris said: “We hope it represents a fair cross-section of the UK recovery community and that the individual songs express identifiable experiences for the listener whether they are in recovery or not. The record represents hope and emotion and it's something We are Not Saints are hugely proud of.”

Callum Johnson, aged 38, who recorded Love at a Distance, said, “We Are Not Saints have provided support and encouragement, giving me recording experience that I simply would not have got otherwise, but also creating a network and supportive environment. I have been able to collaborate with other fantastic artists thanks to We Are Not Saints.”

Annie Murray (37), from Brighton, recorded the track You on the album and has been in music for years. She started her career in the West End and has performed at some of the most prestigious venues across the country such as the Clapham Grand, Shepherds Bush Empire, Water Rats and The 100 Club as well as playing alongside Jools Holland musicians in Open air UK tours, before she descended into addiction.

Annie said: “Lockdown has been a time to work harder than ever before on myself so I didn’t think I’d have time to be musically creative. I worried I wouldn’t be able to write the songs in time for the album.

“One day, when both my work and personal life just seemed too hectic to handle, I felt compelled to sit down and write – and out came these songs, one after the other. It brought a sense of calm to my hectic, whirlwind of a lockdown life. One thing that spurred me on to write, was for my father, who had suffered a stroke during lockdown. My music meant the world to him and so I felt it was so important to do this with him in mind.”

Profits from the sale of Liberation Through the Looking Glass will be reinvested back into We Are Not Saints to allow them to expand their scope and reach more people seeking recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction and to provide new opportunities to enhance individual recovery through creativity.

There are 25 recorded tracks on the album which can be purchased exclusively through http://www.wearenotsaints.co.uk