“If we don’t hold on, we’re lost” says singer-songwriter John Smith, speaking on the meaning behind his new single ‘Hold On’. The new track embodies a thread of hopefulness in a blanket of bad news; a thread that runs through his upcoming new album The Fray which will be released on March 26th.
‘Hold On’ features The Staves’ own Jessica Staveley-Taylor who lends her ethereal vocals to the track. You can listen to it here….
Against the backdrop of a universally difficult 2020, songwriter and guitarist John Smith found himself facing personal and unrelenting change. In the Spring, Smith and his wife lost a pregnancy, and his mother was diagnosed with cancer. With his touring schedule of two hundred days a year on the road suddenly on indefinite hiatus, for the first time in over a decade, John was home.
“With newfound pain coming from so many directions, dealing with the uncertainty it brings, I closed the curtains and picked up the pen, turning to song-writing as a lifeline” explains Smith. On The Fray, it’s unsurprising that the new songs reflect a shift in priorities. Smith gives us an uplifting perspective on the path forward but pays beautiful homage to the difficulties along the way.
Smith co-wrote a couple of songs for the album whilst on tour before the pandemic. Driving a rental car from Asheville to Nashville, John stopped to write the standout track Eye to Eye with North Carolina-based Sarah Siskind. The Americana influence is a red thread throughout the album, which beautifully compliments Smith’s unmistakeable British Folk roots.
Smith co-produced The Fray with long-time friend and producer Sam Lakeman. They recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio, with pianist Jason Rebello (Sting, John Mayer), bass player Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman, Nadine Shah), Drummer Jay Sikora (Paolo Nutini) and Jessica Staveley-Taylor of The Staves. The album is a true reflection of the times, with American collaborators Sarah Jarosz, Courtney Hartman, The Milk Carton Kids and Bill Frisell recording remotely and sending contributions over international borders. John’s frequent touring partner Lisa Hannigan contributed via a virtual studio session in Dublin.
On the The Fray, Smith’s vulnerability throughout is offered to his listeners, unadorned. “It’s been a hell of a year, but I feel I’ve created my most honest work as a result, and as a necessity. A lot of these songs are about accepting that life is hard, but just holding on and trying to enjoy it anyway.”