JD Weaver reached out to me a few weeks ago. He has an incredible tale to tell and his vehicle, is music. He has eloquent thoughts that reflect deeply on his music and how his life has shaped his music. JD’s EP, Where Eagles Fly, was funded by a charity called Roundtable UK. Read all about him below and listen to his music while you read. Unless, you read this interview after he’s released his EP officially, in which case you will be able to purchase it!
MFL: How did the dream of making music and recording it become a reality?
JD: It was their 6-7 years ago, but really the last 4 years have been such a massive overhaul for me in terms of health that I have sat up and take proactive steps to make a dream come true.
I had to build confidence through home recorded demos but now I feel like I’m there and I have something to share if people give me that chance.
MFL: When and how did music become part of your life?
JD Weaver: After I was diagnosed (end of 2005-2006) I had to find a way of expressing myself or I would have gone crazy. I decided to start writing music and I have been playing for 12 years, but I have really been consistently writing for 5 years working on small ideas I had noted down in my younger, more innocent years.
I have always been surrounded by great music, fortunately. I was raised on bands like the Scorpions, Def Leppard, Styx, Thin Lizzy and many more great stalwarts of the rock scene and if you’d ask me what I’d love to have done with my life at 6-8 it would have been to be singing on stage with Joe Elliot (lead singer of Def Lepp).
As I got older and possibly, due to life experiences, had visited every area of the emotional spectrum, I sought after music that possibly was more diverse than the testosterone filled, heavy sitting sound of rock and I wanted something deeper.
That’s when my deep love for the blues developed, also helped by the fact that my Aunty Josie (who lives in Missouri) was a huge blues fan and often went to some of the most prestigious blues houses in places like Nashville.
I began listening to the crackly, unrefined styles of Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker. This is some of the earliest distributed blues and it was better than anything that has been released since, in my humble opinion. It’s raw emotion, it’s soul and it is absolutely fantastic! I can’t explain my love for it but the blues does something for me, it makes me feel that yes I have sorrows but I’ll get through them. The fact that they are stripped down records actually increases my love. To have the best blues, it needs to be unpretentious, working class and from people who’ve lived a life of woe. The African American population of USA knew what that was like, through economic inequality, to daily abuse on the street and just general abuses of power towards them, it would break most people, and it’d break me! It didn’t break them and I suppose to anybody on the cusp of society, as I feel, there’s nothing more touching and inspirational than people who have been mistreated carrying on and doing in spite of the history of abuses towards them… there’s nothing more in this world that inspires me than that.
Then you have the country/folk elements, which even I’m wondering what made me get into those genres of music. Well I’ve always had an element of the Celt within me, and so I had always wanted to expand my reaches into folk. After all, like the blues, it is about telling a story often dealing with subjects that are more serious than the bubblegum, candy-floss nature of the mainstream.
All I will say is Joni Mitchell! That woman could write, she put her heart and soul into what she did and she was popular at a time of cultural change in America and the world in general. I feel like I’m conforming ha-ha but there are worse things to conform to, but songs like ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ are written so cleverly and deal with the idea of areas of settlement knocking down a landscape in an upbeat manner, that’s so clever.
The country element is from a musician called John Butler, who leads the John Butler Trio, who leads the way in modern music in my humble opinion. With their mix of roots, blues, rock and folk you don’t get much better than that. From a land down under yet he sits right at the to (see what I did there ;)), I feel it suits my needs as an audience member. I would love to play on stage with him as he has a similar mentality, ideologically, to me with his music, but to much more effect currently.
MFL: When and how did your disability become part of your life? If you don’t mind, comment on your disability.
JD: I have not always been disabled (well I have just didn’t know), until the age of 9 I was like every other kid dreaming I could be a Power Ranger or at least play for my football team who I support Liverpool FC. I knew I was different though, I couldn’t run around like the rest of the kids I used to get hurt easily and I just in an odd way had ideas in my head that possibly something wasn’t alright. Anyways, for years I had been having tests/scans/blood-tests, but in my innocence I was unaware as to why. I can only now talk to my parents about this, but my mother always had an idea and even knew maybe a year before I did that I was ‘disabled’.
Then the fateful day came when I had the day off school and went to hospital and was told the news, but you switch that off and it still took me a while to realize the full extent of what the Dr’s were telling me.
I now know I suffer from a condition called Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, a muscle wasting condition that leads to eventual degeneration of muscle tissue.
This affects a lot of my day to day activities and already I’m wheelchair bound, with every day feeling more lethargic than the last, but it’s life I still live it as well as I can but it’s wrong for me to tell people everything’s fine, I want to maintain an honest relationship with my possible audience and I feel if I’m honest about my disability then that gives me an integrity, sort of a code of honor to live by.
Unfortunately I am labeled ‘disabled’ but as a human I will be defined and that’s one thing I try to fight, for me the real difficulty still is realizing that no matter what I do I can’t fix my health, every day is still a struggle but one which I fight frequently.
MFL: What do you hope to attain out of releasing your music? For example, are there certain people you want it to reach out to?
JD: I need to get my voice heard and need to challenge the ongoing problems that disabled people continue to face in a modern society, whatever the country. There is a criminal lack of awareness of it and I really want to open people’s eyes to it and hopefully share some of my experiences with others who face a similar life to mine and those who possibly want to enlighten themselves on a prevalent issue in society, which is lack of understanding towards minority groups, be that racially, culturally, or based on health.
I don’t profess to be the most talented nor do I feel I have any right to demand success but I have something special in my EP that I’m hoping to roll out and I feel there is enough in what I do to show I have promise.
I really don’t have that long to achieve it due to the fact I’ll lose the ability to play within a couple of years but I can make now count and get my voice heard over the crowds of musicians and make music; as a result hopefully putting disabled musicians on the map.
Moreover, on a personal level, I want to make enough money to move and start up on my own near a hub of music, for me that would be London, or the South Coast and just being able to say music gave me the chance to not be defined by my disability and not be confined to a life of economic inequality and relying on a system that is so out of sync with many echelons of society.
MFL: You mentioned that the music you write reflects upon how disabled people feel in society. Do your songs come from personal experiences or fictional characters?
JD: I have created an EP (entitled ‘Where Eagle’s Fly), which explores my feelings, through a native character who I feel represents what intolerance can do to people. We have so many native people who have been targeted (Maori, Aboriginal Australians, Native American etc) and attacked unfairly solely on this basis that they are somehow different, which I can relate to. I am in a minority that often is targeted as being weak and insubordinate to society. If we all realised that human’s share indifference and that we all are part of a great race, the Human race, then maybe just maybe we could have a world to be proud of and one that has little room for improvement.
For me, I feel a close bond to native people and I am hugely interested in their history and culture. I woke up one day and my whole life changed, I went from someone who was accepted by society and now I feel like someone who is shunned by society and the bottom of the pecking order. That’s why I made it a concept EP because well I wanted to not talk about my disability as it would alienate audiences who weren’t disabled, and my music is about bringing people (all people) together regardless of ability, gender, race/creed etc.
I wanted to widen the net, metaphorically speaking. I can make a wider social statement, which is: ‘A lot of people of often treated unfairly solely on the basis of the fact they are deemed different’.
Deeper into the ‘lore’ of the ‘Where Eagle’s Fly’ story, there are two main characters (who appear in the songs). The Native man has left the world below to settle above society, as he is above that, he has too much respect for himself and people akin to him to put up with any more of the abuses down below. I wanted a character that symbolises mistreatment, and Native Man/Woman depending on how you interpret him/her ticks all those boxes for me.
I didn’t want the character to offend anyone due to the fact my music explores treatments of native cultures in order to exemplify how societies across the world often marginalise certain groups (i.e. disabled people). I wanted some ambiguity to the character so maybe like a shadow figure similar to the cover I have had created. The ambiguity adds to the power of the message, it really could be anybody that the character could symbolise. We are all natives of the same race the human race, and I feel we need to empathise with groups who have been repressed, such as native cultures/disabled to really improve and grow as a society.
The Eagle is the 2nd character, and that’s supposed to symbolise society. However, society just looks over all the wrongs that are going on in the world below. In one of the tracks ‘Eagle Song’, it explores when the Eagle actually sees the remnants of what he has done. The Eagle will depart the world soon, but he has let people down and he realises all he has actually left is a ‘withered throne’ that know longer symbolises anything. As a result you have two characters perspectives, the perspective of the Eagle who until the last track of the EP is unaware of the repercussions of his actions and the Native Man who’s life is affected by the Eagle (or society).
People say you can’t account for your history as they weren’t around when the majority of this treatment took place so why bring it up, be that the institutionalisation/mistreatment of the disabled community, racism or the suppression of native cultures. However, I say that should be guideline of where to improve on and society should, like nature, progress to be better. I’d love to live in a world that I could be more proud of, who knows in time we may speak in a more positive light about society, but for now there are many people left in the wilderness.
MFL: Have you taken your music to a performance level thus far? If so, tell me about one of your favorite experiences.
JD: I don’t want to sound like I’ve been hard done to, but the facts are that the majority of venues just aren’t accommodating for wheelchair user or people(s) with mobility impairments. Even in the ones deemed accessible, a venues idea of disabled facilities is far from what actual I would envisage as accessible.
There’s a lot of discrimination with disabled musicians, with the majority being unsigned and often not being about talent, sometimes labels feel their audience can’t relate to it.
I feel I deserve more opportunities than I currently get. For me online and radio has given me a lease of life and I hope it will allow to find management who can set me up with regular gigs.
MFL: What was the recording process like for your EP, Where Eagles Fly?
JD: Well mine was actually quite a weird story, I think. I got funded by a charity (Roundtable UK) who help raise money for various projects. I got in touch with a local producer, hired some session artists. I went through what I wanted in terms of tablature, but I played some guitar parts with session musicians I sang and did backing vocals. A lot of the work went through me but the drums and violins were too hard due to my condition, which is weird as only last year I could play them.
MFL: Finally, what is your life outside of music? You are 19 as I recall so tell me what you do when you’re not recording, writing songs or performing.
Can I be honest? ; My life is very tedious at the moment. It seems my existence is confined to four walls and a roof. I at the moment feel as if I am falling into a stereotype, every day I feel my body get weaker and because all my friends have either moved on with their lives or are at University/have employment I have little interaction with people. Although it’s not a life I’d wish on anyone, it is what it is and so I have to keep going.
I have to manage myself because if I didn’t jealousy could set in. Music is my life, and that sounds cliché, but it’s all I get up every day for, I put every ounce of my being into music and I will fight Tooth and Nail to make me fulfilled as a person.
Other than music I have an ongoing History degree that I am studying for but it’s nothing to shout about, I just do it because my alternative will stand me in even less stead of getting a job if, in the worst case scenario, my music career never fully develops.
JD Weaver’s EP, Where Eagles Fly, will be available for purchase as soon as he can get the final pieces in place. Please stay tuned and if something in JD’s music strikes a chord in you, please contact him. He’s full of enthusiasm and wants nothing more than to share his life and love for music.