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The Boxer Rebellion: What’s Your Torch Song?

Everyone has moments when things get tough, but we all have a favourite track that can turn things around. A single song can change how you feel. That’s your Torch Song — it lights the way out of the dark.

Since launching one year ago, our Torch Songs campaign has seen artists including Elbow, Years & Years, Mallory Knox and Enter Shikari record exclusive covers of the songs that have lifted them out of life’s low points.

So what is it about your Torch Songs that makes it so special to you? We asked each member of The Boxer Rebellion exactly that…

Piers Hewitt – drums in The Boxer Rebellion

My Torch Song: Bruce Springsteen – ‘Into The Fire’

To have music lift myself out of sadness in general, I have often thought I need more than a three minute party song to put a smile on my face, I need something to grab me and to inspire me to think differently and act differently. This particular song couldn’t be less of a party song, lyrically dealing with the tragedy of 9/11, and in particular the brave actions of the fire fighters who responded on that day. Indeed, not only was all of the album that this song was lifted from written in response to 9/11, but “Into The Fire’ was itself dedicated to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives at work.

We all saw it (or have seen it since) and were touched by it, not least Springsteen being a proud New Jersey resident, and his lyrics are an inspiration; take the harrowing details of something so hard to deal with, and to bring hope through it all.

“May your strength give us strength,
May your faith give us faith,
May your hope give us hope,
May your love give us love.’

This chorus line is repeated a lot and by the end it is less of a hymn, and more of a call to be inspired by the selfless actions of others in their life’s most trying situation. I don’t know what could be more galvanising to pick yourself up and do better than a chorus as stirring as this one.

Adam Harrison – bass in The Boxer Rebellion

My Torch Song: Bill Withers – ‘I Can’t Write Left Handed’ (Live at Carnegie Hall)

When I feel down, or stressed over my own personal situation, this song puts my worries into context and reminds me to show empathy. The protagonist in the song is writing to his mother from a war he was likely drafted into against his will and believes that death is imminent after being shot in his right shoulder. He uses ‘bless his heart’ when describing the enemy and urges his mother to stop his brother from getting caught up in it. All on top of a beautiful arrangement and Bill’s incredible, emotional delivery, live at Carnegie Hall.

People have all sorts of coping mechanisms for dealing with negative aspects of mental health and this Torch Song might have the opposite affect on others, given it’s rather morbid subject matter. For me, putting my troubles into the context of the wider world, a place still so full of war and suffering, and then reflecting on and recognising my own relative safety and happiness, is a go-to way of pulling me back into a better place.

Andrew D Smith – guitar in The Boxer Rebellion

My Torch Song: Talking Heads – ‘This Must Be The Place’

All my favourite books, songs and people teach me to live in the present. To me, this is a song about engaging with the moment, about stepping outside of the imagined order of things and regaining clarity. I often need to be reminded of my place in the scheme of things and to realise how fleeting it is, to just appreciate the passing of time.

Talking Heads are great at fusing deep emotion with a rough-edged, scrappy attitude and production, and this sentiment has proven helpful to me when I’m feeling overwhelmed. My situation is rarely as dark as it sometimes feels and wherever I am, that is where I should be.

Nathan Nicholson – vocals, guitar & keyboard in The Boxer Rebellion

My Torch Song: Louis Armstrong – ‘What A Wonderful World’

I remember quite vividly hearing this song for the first time when I was about 10 years old. My dad had the soundtrack to ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ and I was instantly hooked. A lot of times I find songs that are positive to be cheesy and it’s only the truly great songs that can transcend that – ‘Imagine’ being another one. I’m not sure if it’s because it almost sounds like a nursery rhyme or Louis Armstrong’s voice sounding like a loving grandparent, but it transports me away from worry. It also helps me to reflect on the many good things in the world right now, even though they can be sometimes difficult to see. It’s not a love song, not about anyone in fact – it’s about noticing the seemingly mundane and often hidden beauty around us. It’s a good reminder that it’s not all bad.

The Boxer Rebellion will tour the UK in February. For information and tickets, click here. For more information on the Torch Songs campaign, visit here or join the conversation on social media via #WhatsYourTorchSong.

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