The Venn diagram of a good Billy Bragg song shows an overlap between the personal and the political and that’s reflected in my concern for ‘The gap between the man I think I am and the man I want to be’. I’m conscious of my position as a white middle-aged man – I’m used to people listening to what I have to say. After all this time, I don’t think it hurts to ask if the behaviour that I manifest lives up to my own standards as the man I want to be.

As a mid century modern geezer, I’m aware that my notions of personal relationships were formed almost fifty years ago, likewise my politics. To cling to that and imagine that you’ve nothing to learn from younger generations, you’re in danger of becoming a dinosaur. Kids have got new priorities and new ideas. Thatcher’s dead. The world has moved on. I’m trying to respond to the things I’m hearing now, rather than reminding folk of ‘the good old days’.

“I read somewhere that the second most googled thing after pornography is ancestry. People want to know where they come from, why they were born, where they were born. You can get facts from the web, but details are priceless and can often only be learned orally from relatives. Yet too many of us rue the fact that we are left to piece together family stories from fragments we recall because we never asked our elders those questions.”

“I like my albums to finish with a stomper. My son Jack helped me out with this one. That’s him playing electric guitar in the video. He’s a pretty good songwriter himself, and when I played him what I had, he said it’s good but it needs some work. I said well you go and do it then. So he came back and he’d added a middle section and, you know what, he was right. I was really pleased. People have asked if there might be a ‘father and son’ album down the tracks. All I will say is you never know what the future might bring. ‘Ten Mysterious Photos…’ is about life online, both good and bad. I try not to get sucked down too many wormholes, but it can happen.”

It was always my intention to record a new album in 2021. I’d planned to spend most of 2020 on the road, where I could crank out ideas for new songs in soundchecks and maybe even try a few in the live set. Things didn’t quite work out that way, of course. In the past, it has been purely personal issues that have kept me off the road and I’ve sought to come to terms with those events by writing songs that draw the listener’s attention to my individual experience.

The manner in which this pandemic has unfolded is something we’ve never faced before – a universal experience that has impinged on all of our lives. When the first lockdown was declared, I filled the space left by cancelled tours with clips and playlists that made me feel connected to my audience. When hopes of a return to normal were thwarted by the second lockdown in late 2020, I struggled to find the motivation that had driven my response to the first.

Looking for something to focus on, I booked some studio time with Romeo Stodart and Dave Izumi and began pulling songs together for a new album. Twice the dates we booked had to be postponed due to pandemic restrictions, but Romeo and Dave carried on working, creating backing tracks based on the demos I’d sent them. When we were finally able to get together in April this year, they presented me with a different way of making songs, something I found highly engaging after the lost of momentum brought on by the lockdowns.

The Million Things That Never Happened isn’t about the pandemic per se, but the highs and lows of what we’ve been through provide the backdrop for the album, as they have done for all our lives over these past two years.

“To me, I Will Be Your Shield is the heart and soul of the album. I’ve come to the conclusion that empathy is the currency of music – that our job as songwriters is to help people come to terms with their feelings by offering them examples of how others may have dealt with a situation similar to that in which listener finds themselves. After what we’ve all been through, the idea of being a shield – physically, emotionally, psychologically – resonated deeply with me.”

It was always my intention to record a new album in 2021. I’d planned to spend most of 2020 on the road, where I could crank out ideas for new songs in soundchecks and maybe even try a few in the live set. Things didn’t quite work out that way, of course. In the past, it has been purely personal issues that have kept me off the road and I’ve sought to come to terms with those events by writing songs that draw the listener’s attention to my individual experience.

The manner in which this pandemic has unfolded is something we’ve never faced before – a universal experience that has impinged on all of our lives. When the first lockdown was declared, I filled the space left by cancelled tours with clips and playlists that made me feel connected to my audience. When hopes of a return to normal were thwarted by the second lockdown in late 2020, I struggled to find the motivation that had driven my response to the first.

Looking for something to focus on, I booked some studio time with Romeo Stodart and Dave Izumi and began pulling songs together for a new album. Twice the dates we booked had to be postponed due to pandemic restrictions, but Romeo and Dave carried on working, creating backing tracks based on the demos I’d sent them. When we were finally able to get together in April this year, they presented me with a different way of making songs, something I found highly engaging after the lost of momentum brought on by the lockdowns.

The Million Things That Never Happened isn’t about the pandemic per se, but the highs and lows of what we’ve been through provide the backdrop for the album, as they have done for all our lives over these past two years.

Billy Bragg 2021

“I read somewhere that the second most googled thing after pornography is ancestry. People want to know where they come from, why they were born, where they were born. You can get facts from the web, but details are priceless and can often only be learned orally from relatives. Yet too many of us rue the fact that we are left to piece together family stories from fragments we recall because we never asked our elders those questions.”

“I like my albums to finish with a stomper. My son Jack helped me out with this one. That’s him playing electric guitar in the video. He’s a pretty good songwriter himself, and when I played him what I had, he said it’s good but it needs some work. I said well you go and do it then. So he came back and he’d added a middle section and, you know what, he was right. I was really pleased. People have asked if there might be a ‘father and son’ album down the tracks. All I will say is you never know what the future might bring. ‘Ten Mysterious Photos…’ is about life online, both good and bad. I try not to get sucked down too many wormholes, but it can happen.”

“To me, I Will Be Your Shield is the heart and soul of the album. I’ve come to the conclusion that empathy is the currency of music – that our job as songwriters is to help people come to terms with their feelings by offering them examples of how others may have dealt with a situation similar to that in which listener finds themselves. After what we’ve all been through, the idea of being a shield – physically, emotionally, psychologically – resonated deeply with me.”

In these challenging times, we all need something to hang on to. Like everyone else, my plans for 2020 have been disrupted by the pandemic, but today I’m announcing an extensive UK & Irish tour for this time next year to give me something tangible to work towards. My hope is that, by then, we’ll be able to get together again and enjoy the uplift that live music brings, to audience and performer alike. Hope to see you next Autumn.

 “After more than three decades of travelling around the world in a van, or spending all day flying vast distances to play a gig, I’m looking forward to having some time to explore cities that I usually only get to see between the soundcheck and the show. And this three night stand format is a way of keeping things interesting, both for me and the audience. I tried it out in Auckland recently and had a lot of fun revisiting my back pages.” Billy Bragg 2019

In each town Bragg will perform three unique shows on consecutive nights.The first night’s performance will feature Bragg’s current set, which ranges across his 35 year career. The second will see Bragg perform songs from his first three albums: his punk rock debut Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy (1983), its similarly raw follow-up Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (1984) and Talking with the Taxman about Poetry (1986). The third performance will see Bragg perform songs from his second three albums: the positively jangled Workers Playtime (1988), the pop classic Don’t Try This at Home (1991) and the back-to-basics William Bloke (1996).

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An absolutely brilliant gig from empathy promoting @billybragg tonight in Folkestone, had the audience crying, laughing and singing, sometimes simultaneously.

A great show from @billybragg, a fellow Barking Boy, tonight in Folkestone. Allyship with trans and non-binary communities, speaking out against violence against women and empathy for people looking for a better life.
The songs were pretty good as well!

Well I suppose we'd better hope that the cunning plan for Global Britain isn't based on having world-leading tailoring. https://twitter.com/AndrewPRLevi/status/1463823292326895616

Fri Nov 26th, 2021

Billy Bragg
Singing live again with the wonderful Cara Tivey, all in a good cause. My honorary number one hit single.Find out more via the video description, with more videos coming every Friday: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYAsFcomp8qLy3LRlk-AwkmAW0MhTzSr3 ... See MoreSee Less
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Wed Nov 24th, 2021

Billy Bragg
There were a bunch of protesters outside the Brighton Dome last night, kicking up a fuss over the fact that the venue required proof of Covid status to gain entry. I tried engaging with a few of them on my way in, but it quickly proved fruitless. Holding a placard that said No Vaccine Passports, a guy tried to tell me that it was a form of apartheid to ask someone to take a rapid flow test within 24 hours and show the negative results at the door. I walked away at that point - such odious comparisons are utterly disrespectful to the victims of racial discrimination, whose treatment is not based on their personal choices, unlike those who refuse to get vaccinated.The protestors idea freedom appeared to be based on the belief that you shouldn’t have to do things that you don’t want to do. It’s the classic libertarian argument that puts the individual at the centre of the universe, echoing Margaret Thatcher’s maxim that there is no such thing as society. While I support their right not to be vaccinated, I have no time for their demand that they be free from the consequences of their decision. Being able act with impunity is not freedom, it’s privilege. In order for us to be truly free, we need more than just individual liberty.Freedom also requires equality and accountability: giving equal respect to the rights of others and, if we hope to hold others to account, being willing to take responsibility for the consequences of our own actions. This last idea is going to be crucial if we hope to address the climate crisis. If each of us takes responsibility for what we consume, we may stand a chance of reducing the rate at which the planet is warming. The concept of the common good, the notion that we may have to do some things that we don’t want to do in order to achieve a greater goal is anathema to libertarians. The protestors last night were handing out copies of The Light, ‘a people-funded paper’ that has sprung up during the pandemic. Full of anti-vaxx hysteria, it is notable that the current issue also carries a double page feature denying the existence of man-made climate change, dismissing what they describe as “the very gentle warming influence of CO2”. It ends by stating “Our current (climate) condition is hardly a crisis, and the frantic attempts to eliminate fossil fuel use are of highly dubious significance”.This last sentence is revealing because it shows common cause between the anti-vaxxers outside the Dome with the oil and gas corporations who are doing everything they can to undermine efforts to curb man-made climate change. Yet those refusing to follow Covid protocols imagine themselves to be anti-establishment rebels. Have they not seen Boris Johnson’s constant refusal to follow mask wearing rules wherever he goes, including into hospitals? He’s on their libertarian side. And by embracing climate denial, the protestors are turning a blind eye to the suffering of millions of people around the world whose lives will be upended by the climate crisis.It doesn’t surprise me to find this connection between the fossil fuel corporations and the anti-vaxxers. Both seek to shirk their responsibility to the greater good. The former have no care for the planet they live on and the latter seem indifferent to the suffering of the tens of thousands in the UK whose compromised immune systems mean that they cannot leave their homes until we have brought the virus under control. What about their freedom? Where’s your compassion? Your empathy? Your sense of responsibility to your fellow citizens?Sadly, the libertarian has no time for such considerations. All of their compassion is used up on themselves. ... See MoreSee Less
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