|“I think most musicians come up playing more from a stylistic tradition, but I needed to find a way that would work for me. I’ve always learned a lot from my contemporaries and the great musicians that have come before, but I’ve been more interested in how the music felt, rather than its history. I looked for the music that moved me the most and tried to understand how it worked. My goal was always to feel both free and grooving – to get the music to feel both spontaneous and grounded at the same time. I?knew that I’d have to find my own way of having that feeling when I play. Learning a musical language was a help to get that happening, but never an end in itself. It took me a long time to get to what I considered the bottom-line.” |
Born in Montreal in 1956, Kiermyer’s family helped form the foundation for his interest in music.
“My grandfather gave me my first drum when I was 8. He was a great Charleston and Swing dancer. My mother learned from him and she also became really good. The Saturday morning services in our local Synagogue are some of my earliest memories of the power of music. I always felt very warm in that environment. The singing would get very intense and passionate. There was a drone underlying the chanting that would really move me. Even though I was too young to understand much, I knew there was something special happening.
My father loved New Orleans and Swing music, especially Big Bands. I?spent a lot of time listening to his records, from Kid Ory and Fats Waller to Count Basie and Duke Ellington. I loved that and it influenced me a lot. Sid Catlett. Baby Dodds, Minor Hall and Gene Krupa really impressed me. All of these guys had a big beat. It felt loose and sure and I really responded to that. I’ve always gone for that feeling of power and release in my playing.”
Percussion studies began at age twelve.
“Playing tympani introduced me to the sensation of drum tuning and tone quality. I learned how to let the notes ring out and overlap. I tried to play my drumset with that kind of resonance. I’ve?always heard the drums and cymbals as one instrument vibrating together, rather than a set of different instruments.”
His professional career started at supper clubs and private parties with his high school music teacher, Tony Kershaw. The Hungaria social club, a frequent venue, presented great Gypsy trios that alternated with the standards and jazz tunes Kershaw’s trio played. Franklin was struck by the similarities between the Gypsies and the sounds of his own roots.
“I felt the same thing in a lot of Bela Bartok’s music too. He cut to the roots of the music around him. The Gypsy players at the Hungaria had a spirit and urgency to their playing that felt familiar to me. It felt like a ritual and a celebration at the same time, like the music in synagogue.”
In his mid-teens, Franklin’s spiritual yearnings found more focus.
“I never really gave up on those questions about life I had as a boy. I thought that all the world’s spiritual traditions had freedom and peace as their goal. My intuition told me this couldn’t be reached through philosophical studies – that it would have to be experienced.”
Books his older brother gave him about Tibetan Buddhism led him to a practice of meditation that would intensify over the years. Around the same time, a close friend introduced him to the mid-60’s music of the John Coltrane Quartet with drummer Elvin Jones. This music had an immediate and profound impact.
“Records like ‘Transition, ‘Sun Ship’ and ‘First Meditations’ became great inspirations for me. This felt like real spiritual music – a spiritual practice of using honesty and faith to transcend concepts and get to the heart of things. I?didn’t really think of it as jazz. This openness, honesty and faith became my goal. I felt that if I could share that feeling of freedom, reverence and awe, I’d be doing something worthwhile. I knew that I’d have a long road if I went this route, but I was sure that it was what I should do. I’m still trying to reach that level of musical experience. Of course I’ve battled with a lot of discouragement and doubt along the way, but I think that’s helped strengthen my heart.”
Montreal of the 60’s and 70’s was an important part of the East-Coast Jazz scene. Just a fast 6-hour drive, or an hour flight from New York City, all of the great bands would make it part of their touring itineraries. Growing up hearing and watching legends like Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Philly Joe Jones, Count Basie, Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, Elvin Jones and many others was an important part of Franklin’s education.
After leaving music college at eighteen, where he studied percussion and composition, Kiermyer started to take road trips with U.S. Rhythm & Blues bands. Most of the next couple of years was spent at different spots up and down the East Coast.
“It was good to be playing with good musicians and travelling, but I was also dissatisfied. I felt I could develop more quickly if I?could focus my energy more on what I was hearing. I came off the road to live in Montreal again and locked my self away to practice and study.”
Craving the experience of playing with an undeniably excellent bassist, he travelled to Woodstock, New York to study with Dave Holland. On the same trip, Franklin spent a few days at the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery at the top of Woodstock Mountain.
”My first time at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra was like coming home. It felt natural for me to be in that environment. Playing with Dave was an invaluable experience, but not what I expected. I had been listening to him, with Jack DeJohnette, for many years. He was excellent and I thought I’d learn a lot and gain confidence playing with him. I did learn a lot, but I found it difficult. Before I went to him, I thought my playing was getting pretty good, but when we played, I couldn’t get with him. It was like his notes were clear and nimble and bouncing, but mine were heavy with a lot of gravity. I was perplexed and dejected. It was only much later that I understood that I was hearing things differently – that my sensibility was a bit different. I was instinctively trying to open things up by pulling back, instead of pushing forward.”
On July 21st, his 21st birthday, a fire burned him out of the loft where he was living, destroying all of his belongings, including his drums and all the music he had written up to that time. A musician friend of his invited him to stay at his house in Amherst, Massachusetts.
“I spent about 6 months in Amherst and another 8 or 9 months in Paris, France after that. Then I came back to Montreal. This was an important period for me because I got much deeper into what I was hearing. While in Amherst, I’d make frequent trips to New York City to listen and sit-in. In Paris, I found my way into some studio and TV work for money and had a practice space set up in the basement of a music store in Pigalle where I spent most of my time. Back in Montreal, there were some really dedicated young musicians on the scene and I?developed close relationships with a few of them. I think most of them wanted to develop as excellent jazz players, but I was hearing something a bit different. I?thought that if I?could just work hard enough and not get distracted I’d develop something really strong and compelling. I’m sure some people thought I was odd in my convictions.”
Soon, Franklin was organizing his own projects with the best players he could. Sometimes encouraged, sometimes humbled, he kept on trying to set up occasions and rise to them. As his vision grew, so did his reach. This became his method of moving ahead – composing to deepen and clarify his vision and improvising with the best musicians he could, to develop his playing.
“I was trying to get my music out there so I tried a lot of different things. At one point, I recorded an album’s worth of my music with saxophonist Carter Jefferson, bassist Juini Booth and Fred Henke on piano. The next year, I put together a week at Grand Café with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, guitarist Mick Goodrick and Bruce Gertz on bass. Two years later, I recorded duets with percussionist Don Alias and then, a few months after that, duets with guitarist John Abercrombie. I intended both the quartet and the duo recordings for release, but I wasn’t satisfied with my playing.”
When a young player’s wings grew beyond local territory, New York was always the place to go. Kiermyer had been spending time there, visiting relatives, since he was a kid. In his early twenties, he started taking trips there to get closer to the music. At age 26, he moved to New York City.
“Living in New York was very exciting. So much creative energy and will is focused there and it was great to be able to go around to venues and hear so many excellent musicians. It was also hard making enough money to pay for a place to live and food to eat. For the first few months I was living at a recording studio on 48th street near 9th avenue owned by some friends of mine. It was a great studio with a lot of activity, but not a great place to live peacefully. Instead, I found an inexpensive room in an old building downtown. I spent a lot of my time doing odd jobs for some money and most of my other time playing with the musicians I was meeting and playing the few gigs that came around. I even remember playing the Kool Jazz Festival in Cuban percussionist Daniel Ponce’s band. It was good being in New York, but also a scuffle and after about a year of that I decided I should find a place where I could spend less time scuffling and more time developing.
I needed to reach another level in my playing. I moved to Toronto, set up a practice-living space and got down to more focused development again. A good friend of mine in Montreal, a great guitar player named John Farley, told me about Michael Stuart, a Toronto-based saxophone player who had played in Elvin’s band. I looked Mike up and we formed a close connection. He’d come around my loft almost every day and we’d shed together. It wasn’t as hard to find odd jobs to pay the bills there. It was a very good period of development for me. I stayed in Toronto for about a year and reached another level where I could start to do some of what I intended. I had started playing much broader phrases across the bar line. I tried to bring it down to a single event – one phrase in answer to all the rest that would stretch the time and cause it to open. I tried to expand the energy as much as possible while staying focused on the chant in the center.”
Following the breakup with his girlfriend, Franklin moved from Toronto back to Montreal.
“It was a heavy time for me. I was sad and confused and felt a bit aimless. It took me a few months before I really got back down to work. Even though I felt a lot of pressure inside to get some recordings out and perform, I didn’t feel the music was ready. I thought I had brought the drumming to some bottom-line, but I still didn’t have a format or repertoire that would work. I imagined music with nobility, reverence, courage, fire and density, but I didn’t know how to manifest it. I remember being drawn to this one section in the first movement of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra where the brass build this incredibly majestic ladder. It sounded like the heavens were opening up, or walls were tumbling down to let the light shine through. It reminded me of the story of Jericho. I started writing music for an imagined ensemble with that name.”
In the fall of 1986 Kiermyer recorded the first incarnation of Jericho with a brass quartet led by trombonist Alain Trudel. Using this recording as an introduction, he began splitting his time between Montreal and New York, setting up meetings and rehearsals with many different musicians.
“I needed to find musicians that would work well with what I had in mind. I asked around to try and find the right players. I got together with many good ones, including Steve Kuhn, Chris Botti, Dave Kikoski and Chip Jackson, to name a few. Then I made a short list of the best contemporary trumpet players, hoping one of them would sound just right and also be interested enough in my music to help me connect with other brass players. At the top of my list was Chris Gekker, then a member of the American Brass Quintet. We had a really good first conversation and he agreed to meet and listen. That was the start of a great friendship.”
Years later, Chris would write of this first encounter:
“Sitting in a coffee shop in 1987, I heard Franklin’s music for the first time. The impact was immediate: the swirling rhythmic interplay, the circular momentum, strong intervals that seemed often to spill upon each other, always driving forward, extending up and beyond. Sitting with this young man I had never met before, I was returned to musical images that have never left me, since long ago when I first heard Afro Blue, hearing Elvin Jones push McCoy Tyner and Trane into that kind of spiral that was travelling somewhere I desperately wanted to follow. I agreed to get the brass section together … all of us felt a strength and focus that we wanted to be part of. Franklin’s vision, in both his playing and his writing, is one of an extended search – I believe this reflects to a large extent the influences that one can readily hear. Who could ever listen to the young John Coltrane, and not feel a yearning, a seeking spirit that transcends categories of of whatever people want to call that music. It’s difficult to open up this way – every normal instinct tells us to find a safe harbor. There is in Franklin’s conception an innate refusal to accept this.” CHRIS GEKKER
At age 33, Kiermyer moved back to New York City and began a residency that lasted more than 15 years. This was the tail end of the 80's, the height of what some people called the neo-conservative movement in jazz. It could have been distracting – Franklin’s music was focused more on creation than re-creation – but he was strong in his convictions.
“It was still a scuffle to pay the bills, but I had a mission. I tried to get gigs at the many small venues in and around the city. I started recording some of the Jericho music with the brass players Chris had picked along with Peter Madsen on piano and Tony Scherr on bass.”
‘Break Down The Walls’, Kiermyer’s first album, released on the German Konnex label, met with some critical acclaim.
“Never has an album been so aptly titled. The music of Franklin Kiermyer, a drummer with an Elvin Jones-like intensity on his drum kit … is like the music of classical composers Bruckner and Mahler, one of searching and extending the search. That he imbues the search with such a range of physical motion and psychological emotion is remarkable … This isn’t free jazz, nor is it out jazz. This is methodically realized composition in the modal jazz idiom that reveals its unquenchable desire in every bar. (Think of Coltrane’s Africa Brass sessions with the spiritual and emotional underpinnings of A Love Supreme and you can glimpse it.)” Thom Jurek – ALL MUSIC GUIDE
“Even though some people seemed to like Break Down The Walls, I wasn’t satisfied with my playing on it and I felt that I hadn’t reached my goals with this format. A lot of the music was composed and I couldn’t get a strong and spontaneous feel. I needed to play looser and with more conviction, find a better format and learn more about leading a band, so I kept going.”
His next record, ‘In The House of My Fathers’, with Dave Douglas on trumpet, John Stubblefield on saxophone, John Esposito on piano and Anthony Cox or Drew Gress on bass, was released by Konnex in 1993. This album focused more on improvisation and less on writing. One cut featured two guitars – Tom Chess and Eric St. Laurent – and two cuts had another brass quintet led by Chris Gekker. Like Franklin’s first album, it was received well and, even though it was a marked step forward, it also left him feeling somewhat letdown.
“I was still holding back and trying to direct things from the drums. It took me some time to see that there was too much conception and not enough freedom. I was still listening instead of hearing.”
It would be 1994's ‘Solomon’s Daughter’, featuring Coltrane alumnus Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone (Evidence Music), that would finally begin to satisfy some of Kiermyer’s criteria. Reaction to this album was very strong, garnering highly favorable reviews, even beyond the jazz media.
The church of Coltrane has a street-sharp new priest: Franklin Kiermyer, a charismatic, 38-year-old drummer who is bringing the late saxophone god’s style of eruptive jazz rapture into the realm of pure rhythm. Saxist Pharoah Sanders, an original ‘Trane disciple, contributes elder cred-not that it’s necessary here. Kiermyer plays (and composes) with an almost evangelical belief in jazz as a form of pure inspiration. David Hajdu – ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
“With Solomon’s Daughter, I felt I could finally do some of what I intended. It had taken me a long time to get to that stage. It had always been difficult to find people that could play with a high enough level of energy, conviction and faith so that I could really open up. Pharoah could do that – perhaps one of only a few people who could. Even though the structures of my drumming were still somewhat vague and I wasn’t able to control the energies, I felt that I had reached a milestone. Pharoah was very happy with what we had accomplished and that was gratifying. We made plans to perform together. Our first date was a release concert in New York City. For some reason, he pulled out at the last minute. I’m still not sure why. I didn’t know who to call to fill in. At that time, Joe Lovano had just come to great prominence. It turned out he was a fan of Solomon’s Daughter and he graciously agreed to join me and it went very well.”
Franklin Kiermyer Quintet featuring Joe Lovano – Sweet Basil, NYC: “Kiermyer supercharges spiritual modality … I predict it won’t be long before he’s a headliner.” Herb Boyd – DOWN BEAT
Following Solomon’s Daughter, momentum gathered quickly and Franklin began to receive offers to perform as a leader at leading venues and festivals.
“I needed to get out there and perform, so I put together a quartet with Michael Stuart on saxophone, John Esposito on piano and Dom Richards on bass, hoping that we’d be able to advance the music together. We worked hard on a new repertoire, trying to open up the energy and sharpen the focus. Taking this next step wasn’t easy. The music needed a high level of energy and faith and I saw after a while that it was a real challenge to get it there. We were playing gigs around and certain things were progressing, but overall it was frustrating. This was showing in my attitude. I was often irritable and discouraged because I knew that what I was putting out there wasn’t right.
During this period I was listening to a lot of traditional spiritual music of different cultures. That was my study. I was also getting together to play with many different people in a rehearsal setting, looking for some alternatives, but nothing really seemed to fit any better. I didn’t give up on the quartet. I hoped that it would grow over time. Eventually, the label wanted another record and so I began working on Kairos.”
The repertoire for Kairos (1995, Evidence) grew out of Kiermyer’s study focus. Pieces that intertwine his drumming with historic field recordings of various traditional ritual music alternate with simple themes improvised on by the quartet. Two of the cuts include saxophonist Eric Person and there’s also one sextet cut that includes Sam Rivers as well. The momentum that had been triggered by the release of Solomon’s Daughter was further fueled by Kairos’ reception.
“Most happenings are beyond expression; they exist where a word has never intruded,” Rilke said – recalling this year’s favorite inexplicables: Franklin Kiermyer Kairos the drummer pulses and pushes his group into middle Impulse!-era Coltraneland. What a journey, what a view.” – Christopher Porter – WASHINGTON CITY PAPER
“We were playing around more and more and after about a year I felt I should try to take the next step, with even less writing – relying more on the spontaneity. I thought that might help open things up more and let the natural energy come out.”
Kiermyer’s growing interest in the techniques of recording his music led him to purchase a used 8-track digital recorder, some microphones and other gear. He started recording rehearsals.
“I wanted to learn how to record what we were doing, as we were doing it. That way, we’d be playing in a natural, relaxed way – no studio time pressures, no headphones, no isolation booths – and capturing the spontaneity more. I was expecting the music to grow into a very free but deep-rooted heart-song, but it wasn’t really working like that. I was hearing something different, but I wasn’t able to communicate that, or the others were just hearing some other things. We just weren’t reaching the levels of energy and faith the music needed.”
Franklin’s frustration was still there, but his attitude was changing. Instead of looking to change the music or the musicians to move things ahead, his focus shifted.
“This is when I really started to understand the deeper elements behind the music. I started to see that I’d have to address the personal underlying conditions that allow music like that to manifest. I realized I?had to open my heart and mind more. I had been looking around me for what was holding the music back, but ultimately it was me. I turned further toward spiritual practice. I remember I was living up in Harlem at the time – 129th & Lennox. I started spending more and more of my time alone in my flat, meditating and studying.”
Back in touch with the Monastery in Woodstock, Franklin was offered an opportunity to record with one of the chief ritual musicians of the Kagyu lineage, Umdze Lodro Samphel, who was soon to visit from his home at Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. The Kagyu lineage, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, follows the path of the 11th century lord of yogins, Milarepa. Greatly inspired by his example and teachings, Kiermyer developed a plan for a recording based on the liturgy for the Milarepa puja. This recording, featuring his drumming with Umdze Lodro Samphel and other monks of the Kagyu lineage playing ritual instruments, was released as Auspicious Blazing Sun (1999, Sunship).
“Absolutely amazing stuff!” – Michael Cuscuna – MOSAIC, BLUE NOTE, IMPULSE, VERVE
“During this period, I was very fortunate to meet a great Tibetan Buddhist teacher. In him, I saw the depth and openness I knew was at the source of great music. I would ask him for his instructions on how to practice. He’d tell me what to do and I’d go and do my best to fulfill that. When I completed a set of instructions, I’d go back to him and ask him again how to proceed. This went on for a few years and the instructions became more and more direct and challenging. As my experience slowly grew, I became happier and more flexible. Following his instructions like this, I spent most of the next five years in Nepal and India and other places – very often in remote solitary retreats.”
Halfway through this period, Franklin returned to New York and recorded Sanctification (1999, Sunship) with Michael Stuart, John Esposito and Fima Ephron on bass.
“His quest is grounded in spiritual music … In the tradition of the ecstatic expressions of post-Coltrane acolytes such as Pharoah Sanders-a previous Kiermyer collaborator-Sanctification establishes a roiling atmosphere of journey to enlightenment.” Willard Jenkins – JAZZTIMES
“I was freer in my conception by then. I had these very simple themes for us to play on and I meant it as a kind of invocation. I was feeling that things were changing for me. The part of my life where I was chasing was ending and the part where I was finding was beginning.
As my meditation practice slowly deepened, I became more confident in that feeling of openness. At one point, my teacher suggested I stop playing drums. He said, ‘Many people know how to play drums, but those that know that drumming is impermanent and empty of self-nature are miraculous.’ I had never been challenged like this before. I thought I was leaving drums behind forever. This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but it was worth it. When I eventually got back to playing after about six months, I had taken a big step in my looseness, openness and faith in the moment.
I was studying the Uttaratantra Shastra at the time, which is translated into English as the Treatise on the Sublime Continuum. Known as the Gyu Lama in Tibetan, this text is a commentary on the Buddha’s teachings describing primordial nature. I think many musicians feel that music comes from that primordial nature we all share. My teacher asked me to make music using the twelve verses that refer to the metaphor of a drum.”
‘One who has arrived at the True Nature is like Indra, a drum, clouds, and Brahma – and like the sun, a precious jewel – and an echo, space, and also the earth.’ GYU LAMA
Great Drum of the Secret Mirror (2002, Sunship) has each of the twelve ‘drum’ verses of the Gyu Lama set in a different traditional spiritual music. Ranging from a South Indian Carnatic inspired temple dance to an African inspired balafon and drum ensemble, this album features only a little of Kiermyer’s drumming – notably the last piece entitled ‘Aspiration to Fulfill the Guru’s Instructions’. The vision of a global ecstatic music orchestra made up of master musicians from various spiritual traditions inspired him during this creation. This inspiration was the impetus for him to form Great Drum Foundation, a non-profit corporation dedicated to realizing that vision.
“I created Great Drum Foundation to help integrate my activities further. I wanted the music and my spiritual practice to be more closely related to what I was producing and sharing.`”
Over the next few years, GDF was the focus of Franklin’s work. Activities ranged from weekly Sunday afternoon concerts called ‘Sound Revelation – NYC’ that featured different musicians from New York City’s many spiritual communities to performances featuring master musicians from other countries, like ‘Masters of Spirit’.
In the Fall of 2004, at age forty-eight, Franklin stepped away from GDF and his other musical pursuits to follow his spiritual path more fully.
“I had good experiences with Great Drum Foundation. It was a lofty goal and a lot of my time was taken up with business things. Looking back, I can see that I’d always been more interested in going further into the source of the music than developing the business side of things. I felt I had come to a junction because my playing had grown deeper, but I was certain that it was meditation and my other practices that helped me develop more than anything else I was doing. I knew that my career required much more attention, but meditation was leading me toward a deeper understanding.
Then my teacher suggested a course of action that sliced right through my indecision. He told me about an isolated mountain retreat on an island off the Pacific coast of Canada. He thought I should move to that area, do short retreats in that place, and work at any simple job in between. He handed me some money for a plane ticket and a couple of months sustenance and said it would be good to do that for three years.
My girlfriend at the time was Norwegian. We had originally met in Kathmandu many years before and she would spend time with me whenever she could, wherever I was. She had worked with me on GDF. Some of my decisions were difficult for her. Nonetheless, after I had moved to British Columbia, she would come to visit with me when I wasn’t in retreat.”
It was during one of those visits that they conceived Franklin’s first child, his daughter Hanna. Since the mother was adamant about living in Norway, he moved to Oslo in June of 2006. He turned fifty in July and they married in August. Hanna was born in September. A few days later, his wife disappeared with the baby. Everyone was dumbfounded. They were formally separated in October and eventually divorced.
Franklin decided to live in Norway to be there for his daughter. In 2008 he met a woman named Gun that would become his real life’s romance. Their daughter, Ava was born the next year.
“I’m certainly happy that I did focus more and more on my spiritual practice and I’m happy I decided to be there with my family. I really feel these have done more to deepen my music than anything else I’ve ever done. Being together with my wife and daughters, and ensuring my girls grow up as sisters, has allowed me to go a bit more beyond myself.
I had been laying pretty low for a few years, focused on other stuff, but my goals and motivation never left. I decided to see who was available in Norway to play with. I was introduced to a talented young saxophone player named Joe Mathisen who expressed an interest in learning my music. We spent a lot of time developing together and eventually started performing. We put together a very good workspace with great recording equipment and began documenting our progress, mostly in duets, but other formats too. That had been going on a couple of years and when it felt like it was time for me to put together an album (‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ – only available at kiermyer.com), I had a lot of music to choose from. My friend, the great producer Michael Cuscuna, helped me put it all together.
Michael and I continue to work together, most recently co-producing my newest album with my present quartet that features Azar Lawrence, Benito Gonzalez and Juini Booth. What brings Azar, Benito, Juini and I together most of all, is this sense of music as a spiritual practice – a vehicle for uncovering. Our goal each time is to connect heart-to-heart and spirit-to-spirit with each other and with the listener.”
“Franklin Kiermyer conveys a spiritual feeling through his music that reaches each listener in different ways. He has a way of expressing his work without being locked into a musical category. What’s unique about Franklin’s music is that as different as various settings are, it always sounds like it is him. The language created by John Coltrane with works like Sun Ship and First Meditations and by Pharoah Sanders with albums like Karma opened an avenue that proved popular and innovative in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but few chose to expand upon that language until Franklin settled in New York City in the 1990s and recorded Solomon’s Daughter with Mr. Sanders on tenor sax. Franklin has steadily built upon that foundation and this latest chapter in his musical step is a breakthrough. With this project, he is building a body of work that is wide-ranging with a singularity of purpose and an ensemble with which he can tour.” Michael Cuscuna
Franklin Kiermyer feels it’s the right time to do what he’s meant to do.
“Over the years, I never gave up on my goals. I shifted my focus to working through what was holding the music back. If you listen, you’ll hear it’s further now. It feels like all the things I’ve worked on and learnt have led to this period where it all comes together. I feel I’ve overcome a lot of what was holding the music back. It feels like a big step forward for me and I’m grateful for that.”