Folk singer Neil Brophy picked up his guitar to explore the world and never looked back. He tells Keisha Spencer about life on the road and why the UK is slowly luring him back home.
When you’re part of the music industry travel comes with the territory.
But while many think of touring and the festival circuit as just part of the job, for Neil Brophy being on the road became a way of life.
The front-man for Neil Brophy Band grew up in Northamptonshire and from an early age had two passions – music and travel.
“I always wanted to travel,” he says. “I did a mechanical apprenticeship as soon as I finished that I was out, I went to Australia, on an open ticket with no plans at all, I had a year [ long] working visa in Australia, went through Asia and didn’t really see any reason to come back to England.”
His passion for music started with the poetic storytelling of Bob Dylan, who he discovered from a song book when learning to play guitar. Soon he was listening to Billy Bragg and The Pogues who fired him up with ideas of both music and travel.
Although he’s now known on the UK and the Danish festival scene with appearances at events such as Skagen and Langerland Brophy started out by taking his guitar playing out on the streets to support himself.
“When I left the UK, I played a little bit of guitar but not much then I picked up busking and I created a self-sufficient lifestyle where I could go to any town,” he says. “I just really enjoyed that lifestyle.”
Folk music is known for highlighting what’s going on in the world and alerting people to this. It also chronicles the more fun aspects of life such as drinking, partying and having fun and this is why Brophy puts that at the forefront of all his performances involving both his skill of storytelling and the audience as he gives them a performance they won’t forget in a while.
The main drive for the band is the energy and fun that each member brings to the stage. And Brophy says that throughout his many years of entertaining his main objective is still to watch people’s reaction and see the audience on their feet to a catchy chorus and a good rhythm.
His lifestyle of travelling and revelry is inseparable from his music, forming the inspiration behind the songs he pens for his full power folk rock band. And while these days he may not be standing on street corners he’s no stranger to standing out to get his music noticed.
The band’s single, “The Record Collector” was championed by BBC Radio 6 DJ Steve Lamacq after Brophy found a unique way to get himself noticed by the presenter.
“You can’t just send in an email saying, ‘Please play my record’. They get a million and one of those a day.” he explains. “Because my record was about collecting records, I actually sent a small record player into Steve Lamacq with a record on it and he played it. Don’t just hide behind an email do something different and make yourself seen in some way or form.”
Their latest song, the politically charged, Fear of Fear, both relates to Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quote and also Brophy’s personal stand against fear-mongering, that he believes is damaging the world. “I think all musicians are really speaking out at the moment and I think it can make a difference,” he says.
Although currently based in Copenhagen with his band, Brophy is spending more time in the UK and feels he may slowly be working his way back home.
After playing festivals across the globe, his favourite is still Beautiful Days in Devon where they performed a decade ago.
“It’s like a small Glastonbury,” he says. “I couldn’t see myself going back to the UK, but I’m now wanting to come back more and more.
“Maybe it’s that time in my life where I’ve done a lot of things out of the UK and I like the UK music scene so want to try and be part of that as well.”
The band are back in Denmark for the release their new single, The Viking Rover on 17 March 2017, where they are performing in venues across the country. For details visit www.neilbrophy.co.uk