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The Boxer Rebellion: “It’s okay to feel troubled, but be good to yourself”

Since launching in 2006, CALM has always worked closely with bands, artists and the music community. We believe music can help us through some of life’s tough times, so we were delighted that The Boxer Rebellion chose to work with us to help spread the CALM word. 

The lads will be playing at our Torch Songs 1st Birthday Street Party this weekend in London – more information on that here – and with a new record just around the corner, we caught up with lead singer Nathan Nicholson to hear all about new songs, new purposes, and Norwegian death metal…

CALM: You certainly caught our attention when you released a song called ‘What The Fuck’ recently. Tell us about that tune.

Nathan: It’s a song about looking within. It’s also very relatable to the state of the world at the moment – just not knowing what’s going on and all the confusion. And looking at myself and thinking ‘where do I fit within that confusion?’ It’s that feeling of ‘what am I going to do about this situation?’ It’s trying to make sense of the mess and my place within it – what kind of example am I setting to the ones around me.

Your new single ‘Love Yourself’ seems to have a bit more of a positive feeling. What’s the message behind that song?

Love Yourself is a lot more positive. It’s about realising that change can come from within and that your life can be what you make it.

We’d actually written this song quite a few months ago, but oddly, it didn’t resonate with me fully until some recent personal tragedies. And afterward, when it came time to record the record, the song made a lot more sense. It’s strange because songs don’t usually go that way. It definitely struck a chord with me after that.

So was it hard to listen back to that song after going through that tough time in your life?

Yeah, it was a bit. Sometimes you write a song and it will be a while before you record it and by then you’re out of that headspace – this one was different. We recorded it in February, soon after everything happened within my family, so the tune took on a whole new meaning for me. In the end, I just want the audience to take away a message that it’s okay to feel troubled, but to be good to yourself.

In the end, I just want the audience to take away a message that it’s okay to feel troubled, but to be good to yourself.

Does creativity and making music help you to process things in your own life?

I find that because I write a lot of songs and a lot of lyrics that I am able to get that stuff out a lot easier. I don’t find it hard to communicate or show my emotions which, particularly for men, is maybe not an easy thing to do. So I find that I don’t have a lot of the pent up issues that some others do. It’s a good to have an outlet – songwriting is very important for me.

What about when you’re listening to music – do you find helps you to process the world too?

When I’m listening to music it’s more of a personal thing. It’s an internal thing. If I listen to a love song, it’s almost like watching a romantic movie – idyllic love. It’s relatable because I’ve had experience and I can put myself in that situation. Music helps me process the world because it helps me tune out!

So the new Boxer Rebellion material is quite different stylistically. How hard was that to navigate?

It was a lot easier than I initially thought it would be. Andy, our guitarist, is very much an acoustic singer-songwriter. He’s a proper musician in every sense of the word. Once we knew what songs we wanted to do and what would work within this realm, he was able to arrange a lot of it. He’s a very good acoustic guitar player, so we just went from there.

We always want to change a little bit stylistically with every record, and we’ve always done slower songs mixed with heavier, up-tempo songs. There’s never any one blueprint, but with this record we had a fairly specific starting point. Maybe the next album we’ll indulge our Norwegian death metal side, sprinkled with a touch of rap rock…

Maybe the next album we’ll indulge our Norwegian death metal side, sprinkled with a touch of rap rock…

There are some interesting reports and opinions at the moment around whether the music industry does enough to support artists’ mental health. What do you think about that?

The culture of being in band is not very conducive for people who are struggling. For one, you’re touring on the road and being supplied with booze and very little sleep. I don’t think it caters for that, and ultimately can lead to some very dark roads ahead. The music industry can run people ragged, sometimes with very little regard, and when combined with the entertainment machine as a whole it can really take advantage of an artist.

And does being in a band provide you with support when you need it?

It definitely does. Andy’s been in the band almost four years now and the other guys, we’ve been together since 2001. They’re like family. We’re essentially like brothers. We know each other’s deepest secrets and that really does help.

I’ve known Adam since he was 17 or 18, we’ve grown up together. And, miraculously, we don’t argue either. If this was a poisonous environment I don’t think we’d have lasted as long as we have.

We’re essentially like brothers. We know each other’s deepest secrets and that really does help.

You’re a relatively new father. What impact, if any, has that had on your music?

I remember my dad always saying to me that it would light a fire under my ass, and it did. It gave me a new purpose in songwriting and it made me want to do it even more. My career isn’t just for me anymore – it needs to be something positive if I’m going to justify being away. It has to be worth it. So I have to do my best.

The Boxer Rebellion are supporting CALM and will be playing an acoustic busk at a very special Torch Songs event on Sunday November 19th in London. For more information, click here.

Want to get hold of your very own Torch Songs Jukebox? Course you do. Click here to get yours.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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