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JONATHAN BOROUGH

WE INTERVIEW JONATHAN BOROUGH, WHAT HAPPENED?

What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

Growing up I have always been into music. I can remember my dad taking me to my first ever concert to see Arthur Lee & Love, it was awesome and I remember being the youngest person there! Throughout my whole life music has always been there in the background, but I never really considered pursuing it as a career. 

Following my spinal injury in 2007, everything was flipped upside down, to say that my life has been tough would be a massive understatement, but I am not a quitter. After finally being discharged from various hospitals I studied Media at college before going on to pursue Media Arts at the University of Plymouth. After graduating with a First Class Honours, I was nominated for ‘Student of the year’. I remember going down to Plymouth for the Media Innovation Awards Ceremony with Mum and Dad. I won the award and remember going to collect it and getting a bit emotional. However, for some reason I just didn’t feel like I was where I belonged. That night Open Mic Night happened to be on at the Student Union and I remember feeling as if it was almost calling me. 

Introduce us to you your musical history.

Growing up I played violin, piano, and sang in the local church choir. Following my injury, I started beatboxing and formed a band whilst studying Media Arts at The University of Plymouth. More recently thanks to having a new ventilator, I have started trying to experiment with singing again. At first my voice was extremely weak and difficult to project, it was exhausting, but the most challenging thing I found was timing the vocals with the breaths that the ventilator would give me – at times no sound would come out at all!

What was life like for you before music?

I have always been pretty active, I left Marling Grammar School with three A levels in Geography, Biology and Food. Alongside this I cycled everywhere, ran 10K’s and half marathons for Stroud AC, and raced in national Dry Slope Slalom Ski races for Gloucester Ski Club. I was also part of the church youth group and was an Explorer Scout too. 

Whilst on my gap year I worked as a ski instructor at Gloucester Ski Centre and a Kitchen Assistant at The Woolpack in Slad. Then I flew to Canada to train as a Ski Instructor on snow. I was having the time of my life, in my element and nothing could stop me, but then one day I woke up in the hospital surrounded by medical staff. They broke the news that I had contracted Bacterial Meningitis and needed to be operated on, I had little chance of survival. Unfortunately, there were complications during the surgery, and as a result I am now left paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak, or even breathe without the use of a mechanical ventilator. 

My life had been flipped upside down in the blink of an eye. I spent six months in hospital unable to speak a word, this was extremely frustrating. I wasn’t sure whether I would ever be able to speak again, but then one day in Salisbury Spinal Unit, the tide turned. The consultant changed my tracheostomy, (a tube in my throat), and then deflated the cuff, (a balloon in my throat). Air could once again pass across my vocal chords, and, finally I could speak again.

JONATHAN BOROUGH

What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?

Smashing A Perfectly Good Guitar by John Hiatt.

Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?

I feel that I would sit within the Acoustic genre, whilst making music based upon my experiences of living with a spinal injury.

Whats the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry? 

My amazing great uncle Bill who is 102 taught me to gargle saltwater and aspirin if you have a sore throat.

Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.

In 2017 I went skiing to Chamonix in the French Alps. I was in a Sit Ski and had an instructor skiing behind me and controlling it. Partway down a black run, one of the skis on my Sit Ski snapped meaning that the front part was pointing upwards into the air. Whilst still on the mountain and facing down to the valley below, the instructors with me had to remove the broken ski and replace it with a ski from another Sit Ski in situ! (true)

One of my films, ‘Perseverance Beyond Doubt’ was selected for Henley Film Festival. I attended the festival and following the screening of my film, someone came over and introduced themselves to me. He said that his name was Ben and that he was a cameraman who’d been filming Game of Thrones. He then invited me to go to The Titanic Studio’s for the filming of the upcoming series of GOT. Of course, I went and it was incredible, one of my carers Nick even got to sit on The Iron Throne! (true)

Following my injury, I wrote an email to Lewis Hamilton to tell him about what had happened to me and that I was a massive fan. He replied and invited me to go and meet him at Silverstone, I was ecstatic! I went to the circuit and met him in the Mercedes Garage and we then raced around the track, (Lewis was in a wheelchair too!).  (false)

If you could wish for one thing to aid your career what would it be?

I’d love to play Glastonbury. 

What was the worst experience on stage?

‘Six Months’ is an extremely poignant song. When I performed it for the very first time I choked up inside and could feel the emotion inside me. My voice wasn’t the best and yet the audience still cheered. I remember driving my wheelchair off after without speaking to anyone and trying to avoid all eye contact.

Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about. 

During lockdown I did a virtual climb of Mount Everest to raise money for NHS. I drove my wheelchair, (using a stick in my mouth), up and down hills in my local area and measured the elevation using Strava. This equated to me going from sea level in Nepal, up to the summit and then back down.

What are the next steps you plan to take as an artist to reach the next level?

I’ve written a fair few songs. I plan to get the rest of them recorded and then released, making an album would be cool.

Whats your thoughts on Elon Musks contribution to the world?

I think he’s a very clever man and that the inventions that he’s made could really benefit the world we live in. For example, Tesla could help to reduce Climate Change, which is something serious and that affects us all. Additionally, the progress that he is making with SpaceX is really exciting and could open up a lot of possibilities.

Do you have any dreams?

I’d love to jam with Coldplay.

I hear you have a new single, what can you tell us about it.

My new single ‘Six Months’ tells my own personal story of how I finally got my voice back after not being able to speak for six months. I wrote this song because I wanted to convey to people just how much I went through. Add in not being able to speak for six months and you might just get a very vague sense of what things were like. The levels of desperation were off the chart. It made it even more momentous when I did finally get my voice back. Despite being the tiniest of a whisper, it was like summiting Mount Everest. 

I wrote this song one summer evening after driving my wheelchair, around my local 5k training route, (I use a stick in my mouth to control my race chair). With the song I wanted to get across just how physically, emotionally and psychologically challenging the entire journey has been. The song was produced by myself and my team of Personal Assistants, we are all self-taught!

What was the biggest learning curve in creating the new tune?

Due to being on a ventilator, singing can be pretty challenging at times. It made recording tricky because we had to find a day and time that my voice was strong enough (otherwise the sound just wasn’t quite there).

Would you change anything now its finished?

I’d like to re-record the vocal to make my lyrics clearer and easier to understand.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

During lockdown I did a virtual climb of Mount Everest to raise money for NHS. To do this I drove my chair, (using a Microjoystic that I control with my lips) up and down hills in my local area. This equated to going from sea level in Nepal up to the summit at 29,031.7 ft and the back down again afterwards.

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