ABOUT JOHN

"Music has always been my passion;
I love the way it can take you on a journey
and fire the imagination."

Image of John Holden

John Holden is a multi-instrumentalist and composer from Cheshire, England.

‘I have had a strong emotional connection to music for as long as I can remember. In particular, at an early age, I encountered progressive rock. I enjoy music that can at times be pastoral and melodic, sometimes powerful and soaring; but always constantly interesting. The idea that there are no rules or boundaries has always appealed to me.’

Having played and composed for many years, John made the decision to commit to creating a full album of original material.

‘I wanted to see if I could make music that would meet my expectations and earn its place in the genre.’

What that meant in real terms was a succession of learning curves; musically, technically and artistically.

‘If the music needed a particular sound then I would have to learn how to play that instrument. Not only did the songs have to work, but the production also had to be as good as I could make it.’

Once all the songs were in demo form John decided that involving additional musicians would significantly enhance the music.

‘I have been amazed and thrilled by the talented musicians I have managed to bring into the project. The support and advice from some top producers and sound engineers has also been invaluable; everyone made a fantastic contribution. When you are working with people of such high calibre it really elevates the music and definitely makes you raise your game!.’

Two years later the album was completed.

‘It has certainly been an adventure! I have been told that the music sounds like a labour of love, that is absolutely true and how it should be. I am very proud of the album and hope others will enjoy it too.’

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CAPTURE LIGHT

LISTEN TO EXCERPTS OF THE TRACKS AND READ THEIR STORIES

01 TEARS FROM THE SUN

The Seven Cities of Gold is a myth that led to several expeditions by adventurers such as conquistadors in the 16th century. They had heard stories from natives about cities with great and limitless riches. At the same time, the Spanish were performing colonial expansion in the Americas.

The original motivations were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions made by missionaries. This song is seen through the eyes of a priest who accompanies an expedition. The expectation of salvation is eventually replaced by a realization that a culture is being eradicated and that greed and corruption had consumed the once pious hearts of his fellow adventurers.

Inca society held gold in special status. A sacred fluidity that forged a direct connection to the supreme deity, its liquid tears fallen down to earth – Tears from the Sun.

02 CRIMSON SKY

“The westering sun which filled the atmosphere with flame throughout the day, was now wildly setting; and, as he sank behind the hall, its varied and picturesque tracery became each instant more darkly and distinctly defined against the crimson sky” – Rockwood: William Harrison Ainsworth

Imaginings from a gothic dreamscape. Romance, passion, lust and of course a quickening heartbeat of unexpected danger. Memories and infatuation. In dreams crimson skies are most associated with turbulent and tumultuous times.

03 CAPTURE LIGHT

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) rose to fame in Venice from 1520, then throughout Italy and Europe. Tintoretto (Jacopo Comin, aka Jacopo Robusti) was born in Venice around 1518, he loved all the arts and as a youth played the lute. Thirty years stood between him and Titian, who was his master for a while. Yet a mutual disliking seemed to take a firm hold between them, and a ‘bitter rivalry’ over commissions appeared as attempts to outdo or thwart the other man.

Veronese, Titian’s protégé, apparently became a pawn in this rivalry and received a large number of commissions, thereby overshadowing Tintoretto. Eventually, however, Tintoretto became one the most acclaimed Venetian artists. His final major work was, ‘Paradise’, for the Grand Council chamber of the Doge’s Palace, completed in 1592. Initially, Veronese had been given the commission but died before work began thus Tintoretto received the commission in 1588. At approximately 74 x 30 ft., the vast  ‘Il Paradiso’ is one of the world’s largest paintings on canvas.

04 ANCIENT OF DAYS

Life is a constant journey. We can seldom predict where choices and different paths will eventually lead us. These unexpected avenues present challenges and opportunities along the way. We are all curious travellers searching for enlightenment, knowledge and our place in this lifetime.

05 ONE RACE

“I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible; from the air fast down and from the ground fast up.” – Jesse Owens

In 1936 James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens attended the Berlin Olympic Games in Nazi Germany. Hitler was confident these Games would support his assertion that the German people were the dominant race.

Owens faced pressure from both the black community, who wanted the USA to boycott the games, and the American Olympic Committee who stated that not to compete would be “un-American”. Eventually, Jesse decided to participate and won four gold medals, single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of “Aryan supremacy”.

On returning home he was not allowed to travel with the white athletes. After a New York ticker-tape parade, he attended a reception in his honour at the Waldorf Astoria but was prevented from entering by the main doors, instead being forced to travel in a freight elevator. He later said; “I wasn’t invited up to shake hands with Hitler- but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either.”

06 DREAMCATCHIING

I had composed an instrumental piece that needed a strong theme to hang ideas on. It contained a simple repetitive drum pattern that reminded me of a Native American style. I found a fascinating tale about the origins of a dream-catcher and decided to add some spoken word to give a firmer connection to these ancient belief systems.

This song is dedicated to the memory of Red Hawk. He spent his life teaching others about Native American culture and seeking after the truth

07 NO MAN’S LAND

While listening to a radio programme discussing anxiety and depression, the topic of “green therapy” was mentioned. The idea that spending time away from the frantic city and reconnecting with nature is proven to have positive effects on people’s health.

I wanted this song to have a slightly “jazz” feel as I always associate that musical form with the city. The verses describe images of the cityscape. The chorus is a reminder to ourselves not to forget our origins and to embrace the cycle of nature.

08 SEAGLASS HEARTS

Traditional gems like diamonds, rubies and emeralds, are made by nature and refined by man. Sea glass is originally made by man (bottles and jars) but refined by nature to become smooth, frosty, beach-found gems. This duet is about the mending of broken hearts, how time like the sea smooths our edges and healing allows us to love once more.

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TEARS FROM THE SUN PT1

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ONE RACE

THE COLLABORATORS

  • Billy Sherwood
    Billy Sherwood
    Bass/Guitar
  • Joe Payne
    Joe Payne
    Vocals
  • Oliver Day
    Oliver Day
    Guitar
  • Oliver Wakeman
    Oliver Wakeman
    Keyboards
  • Emily Dolan Davies
    Emily Dolan Davies
    Drums
  • Julie Gater
    Julie Gater
    Vocals
  • Pete Jones
    Pete Jones
    Vocals/Sax/Flute
  • Gary O’Toole
    Gary O’Toole
    Drums
  • Max Read
    Max Read
    Vocals
  • Marc Atkinson
    Marc Atkinson
    Vocals
  • Jean Pageau
    Jean Pageau
    Vocals
  • Lee-Anne Beecher
    Lee-Anne Beecher
    Vocals
  • Robin Armstrong
    Robin Armstrong
    Mastering
  • Rob Aubrey
    Rob Aubrey
    ​Sound Advice

SEND A MESSAGE

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Billy Sherwood
Bass/Guitar

I got in touch with Billy in the spring of 2016. Initially he agreed to listen to some of my demos with the possibility of doing some mixes. I sent over ‘Crimson Sky’ and he sent back the track with a much better mix and a wonderful new guitar solo. I was delighted with how it sounded! The next song he worked on was ‘Dreamcatching’. On hearing this he told me, ‘The bass could be moving around and creating a lead element, playing simply under the narration; then flying from there with melodies and a sense of soaring.’ Sounded good to me!

I knew Billy was preparing for an upcoming YES tour but somehow he managed to find time to do the bass tracks. We worked remotely, swapping files and via Skype, so it was great to meet in person when the tour came to the UK.  Billy was the first person I contacted and he was definitely a catalyst in giving me the confidence to approach others. I am in no doubt that having the involvement of someone with such a great reputation gave the project some instant credibility. I will always be grateful.  

billysherwoodhq.com

Joe Payne
Vocals

I read Prog Magazine (of course) and when I saw that someone called Joe Payne had won ‘Best Male Vocalist’ two years running in the Readers’ Poll, I thought I would check him out.

I found some YouTube clips of Joe singing with the Enid. Both Libby and I were amazed at his range and the quality and tone of his voice; we immediately booked tickets to go and see him live. After the show we met up and had a brief chat; I can’t recall exactly but I probably did ask him if he ever did sessions. Fast forward eight months, having left the band Joe was now pursuing a solo career. I made contact again to see if he might be interested in collaborating on some songs. Having agreed, he worked on ‘One Race’; it sounded so good I immediately asked if he would do ‘Capture Light’. I knew that song needed a special voice to bring it to life and technically it required someone with a good vocal range. Luckily Joe has a five octave range so I knew he could deliver. The results were beyond expectation – spine tingling! By now I was working on what would be the final song for the album and again Joe agreed to sing on what would become ‘Tears from the Sun’. Joe is a perfectionist and that is apparent in his approach; his vocal contributions added so much to the ‘emotion’ of the songs and really elevated the material.

thatjoepayne.com

Oliver Day
Guitar

Half way through the project I came to the painful conclusion that my guitar solos were just not good enough! So putting on my producer’s hat, I went in search of a guitarist. I found Oliver on YouTube; a young musician playing in a YES tribute band. He was nailing all of it -in every song! My thought process was, ‘If he can play Steve Howe solos he can certainly play mine.’

With contact made, Oliver proceeded to work on ‘Ancient of Days’ and we developed a style of working that suited us both. Oliver would send me multiple takes on multiple guitars, and sometimes even multiple pick up choices. I would then select my favourite elements and add them to the master track. I kept sending him songs that needed some additional guitar and he just kept delivering outstanding work. For the song ‘Capture Light’ I wanted a string sound evocative of the Renaissance period. I mentioned this to Oliver who informed me he had recently acquired a lute – serendipity! Although a difficult instrument to play, within a week I received the lute part that appears on the finished song. Oliver is a super-talented guitarist; he can play anything, electric, acoustic and in any style – a producer’s dream! He was invaluable in making this album. What a future he has ahead of him!

oliverday.co.uk

Oliver Wakeman
Keyboards

Whilst completing the song ‘Capture Light’ I decided I wanted a better piano sound. This idea then grew into wanting a more lyrical and expansive piano part throughout the song. I was fully aware of Oliver’s abilities having seen him during his tenure with YES, so I made contact to see if he was interested in contributing; and ‘yes’ he was! After some discussions he charted-out the relevant piano parts and sent his tracks through. They were stunning! Just what the song needed.

I immediately asked him to play on what was to be the last track to be recorded, ‘Tears from the Sun’. This was quite an expansive piece and required a full array of keyboard sounds; piano, electric piano, church organ, harpsichord, synths. In all cases the playing was just fantastic. Working with Oliver was a total joy; such a talented musician.

oliver-wakeman.co.uk

Emily Dolan Davies
Drums

I had seen Emily promoting her drumming sessions on Facebook. Her resume was very impressive, so I decided to see what she could do with ‘Ancient of Days’ which had sections requiring complex drumming. Emily took on the challenge and provided some wonderful playing. I think she did a couple of takes on the drum solo and that was it! After that she was my go-to musician for drums. Totally professional and nothing seemed too much trouble for her. She also came up with the goods when, at the last minute, I wanted to replace the drums on ‘Crimson Sky’ and ‘Seaglass Hearts’, even though she had only returned from touring in the States the previous day. Emily is such a lovely person and tremendous player.

emilydrums.com

Julie Gater
Vocals

In many ways Julie was the starting point for the album. She was already a friend of Libby’s, and in conversation mentioned that she was looking to create some music for a new venture. Julie was more than capable of writing and playing the music herself, one of her jobs is a piano teacher; but as she also runs a retail business, teaches yoga and does gigs; she felt she needed some extra help. Libby suggested that maybe I could contribute, so we started working together every few weeks and had a lot of fun.

The more I composed, the more the idea of doing some of my own songs developed. I have no singing voice and that had always prevented me from creating fully; now for the first time I could write songs rather than just instrumentals. It was also around this time that Libby began to get involved with writing lyrics. After completing the music for her project, Julie and I continued meeting and the sessions developed into her recording vocals for my material. The majority of the songs originally had Julie singing on them, even if they were guide vocals that I could send to other vocalists. She also has a fantastic understanding of musical theory and possesses perfect pitch. If I wanted harmonies it was like choosing from a menu, ‘Do you want a 3rd above?’, ‘Or a 5th below?’ Julie played such an important role in making this album happen. Many, many thanks.

julieheavenlyvoices.co.uk

Pete Jones
Vocals/Sax/Flute

I first became aware of Pete when he released his ‘Cocoon’ album under the banner of Tiger Moth Tales. Having already recorded Julie’s vocals, I thought he would be a good match for the duet on ‘Seaglass Hearts. I also asked him to record a simple backing vocal for ‘Dreamcatching’. Pete is always busy and in demand. I had contacted him just as he was rehearsing and ready to go to Japan to play keyboards with Camel, so I had to be patient and wait for a ‘window of opportunity’.

A few weeks after his return, Pete got in touch saying he had done the vocals and had also added flute and saxophone parts, should I want to use them. The new parts sounded just great and now I cannot imagine the songs without those elements. Pete is an amazing person and a tremendous musician who can play just about anything to an amazing standard. I think maybe in future I might just write some tunes and get Pete to play everything!

tigermothtales.com

Gary O’Toole
Drums

I had admired Gary’s drumming for a while having seen him playing live with Steve Hackett on many occasions. I had recorded programmed drums for the song ‘No Man’s Land’, they sounded ok, but I knew it needed some real finesse especially on the hi-hats during the verses. I contacted Gary and he agreed to do the session and kindly added some backing vocals. This was also the first time I had worked with a drummer via the internet, so of course when Gary sent me his finished tracks I got about fifteen individual stems! Different drums, mic positions etc. Next task for me – learn to mix drums! Excellent drumming and top chap!

gotomusicschool.co.uk

Max Read
Vocals

I had seen Max perform with the Enid, and listening to their albums I was really impressed with his production skills and ability to do choral arrangements. The song ‘One Race’ required stacked backing vocals and there really was only one man for the gig. Max did a wonderful job; his ethereal ‘one man choir’ sounded so good. In particular I was able to empty the middle section to really focus on both Joe and Max’s voices. I loved the atmosphere this created. Bravo Max.

lodgerecording.co.uk

Marc Atkinson
Vocals

I was given Marc’s details by Robin Armstrong when I was enquiring about potential singers. Marc had just released his solo album ‘Home Grown’ and I thought he had a great voice. I already had Julie’s guide vocals on ‘Ancient of Days’ and wanted to hear it sung in a deeper register. I emailed Marc with the demo and he promptly produced some great vocal tracks, his voice has such emotion. I really hope to work with Marc again in the future.

marcatkinson.co.uk

Jean Pageau
Vocals

When I came to the final arrangement of ‘Ancient of days’ I decided I wanted a mixture of voices. I thought it would be interesting to have both male and female voices that would combine and evolve throughout the track. I had been very impressed with the ‘Delusion Rain’ album by Canadian band Mystery, especially the vocals of lead singer Jean. So in typical fashion I tracked him down and asked him to add his unique vocals to the track. In no time at all he had recorded several takes of both lead and harmony parts. These fitted in perfectly and blended so well with the other vocals. A delight to work with, Jean possesses a fantastic voice. Merci beaucoup Jean.

therealmystery.com

Lee-Anne Beecher
Vocals

I met singer/songwriter Lee-Anne while I was working in London in early 2016. We quickly established a musical connection and I was excited when she agreed to add her soulful vocals to ‘Ancient of Days’. Another outstanding singer, Lee-Anne added a beautiful element into the song. I am looking forward to working with her on future projects.

Robin Armstrong
Mastering

I was aware of Robin’s work via his Cosmograf releases. During the course of the project Robin has been kind enough to give me his opinions and advice. When it was time to get the album mastered there was only one choice. I wanted Robin to be involved because, not only did I know I would get a great finished sound, but he was already familiar with the material.

Robin made a vital contribution in helping me get a professional sound. He picked up every detail that needed correction. It was like having a masterclass in music production and, although his comments were sometimes harsh, they were always well intended and annoyingly correct! He taught me a valuable lesson: unless the sound is excellent you will not be taken seriously. A real musician’s musician and a very talented man, I owe Robin a huge debt of gratitude.

cosmograf.com

Rob Aubrey
​Sound Advice

I am a huge fan of Big Big Train and Rob has been responsible for mixing their albums. When I’d got some demos together I asked Rob if he would take a listen and offer his opinion. His opening reply: ‘Basically there are a number of problems and I am going to be brutally honest as that’s the only way you will learn.’ Although his response was very critical, I realised that almost every element was simply not good enough.

I had a choice; either I should stop or I had to start again and do things better. I decided that I wanted to start again with the intention of making the music sound as professional as I could. I asked Rob to mix the drums on ‘One Race’ and this gave me a clear idea of how much of a perfectionist he is. Rob has a great reputation and if he says something sounds ‘OK’ then you know it has passed his very high standards.

Thanks Rob for your ‘sound advice’!

aubittstudios.com