They always say the second album is the hardest for any band, but try telling that to Toby Jepson.

Inspired by the current state of world events, and themes such as Brexit and climate change Jepson went through one of the most prolific writing periods of his life and subsequently Wayward Sons sophomore album was born.

National Rock Review recently caught up with the former Little Angels frontman to get the lowdown on the band’s new record, his thoughts on Wayward Son’s difficult second album and their plans going forward.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

First of all, you guys have had a busy summer. You’ve been out on tour with the likes of Living Colour. We also saw you at Ramblin Man as well. How has the summer been for you guys?

Yeah, it was great for me. We set off with the intention this year, of just sort of sowing the seeds for this record. And so we put our toe in the water with some European festivals. We went and played in Sweden and we played in Belgium and then Ramblin Man. And we did a couple of little things. We did the Stone Deaf event, which was fantastic. And it was a way of just getting started really on this album because we’ve been making this record for a long time really. It’s taken us almost a year or so to sort of pull it together. And we only really finished it at the beginning of the year – these things take a long time to get right.

So we wanted to start playing the songs, and it was just a good opportunity to do that. I mean, I think next year, festival season-wise, I think you’re going to be seeing us a lot more on some bigger, and a more wider scope of festivals. But it’s been great fun.

I think the Living Colour tour especially was great. I mean a slightly different audience for us because that band and the way that they are and everything their music is slightly different from ours. So that was cool. So we were playing in front of a different audience that didn’t know who we were. So that hopefully means that we broaden our fan base a little bit there. And it’s just been great. I mean, I just love playing.

I think that’s the thing about this band you know, the records are very, very, very important. They are the centre of what we do – I don’t adhere to this concept that you make an album to go out and play. I adhere to the concept that your album is your document, that’s what you are representing, that’s your thing, that’s your world, your universe. And then the live playing is a way of demonstrating that universe, you know? But yeah, no building up, there’s enough stuff coming on, there is plenty of stuff we’ve got going on. So, I think it’s just been a nice way to gently introduce the record.

You are currently getting ready to release a brand new album, which is titled The Truth Aint What It Used To Be. And I have to say before even listening to a single song from the record, the title has already got me intrigued. And ironically on a day like today with the news that we hear that the Supreme Court has ruled that suspending parliament was unlawful – a title like that feels even more pertinent. So I was just wondering, when you were writing and recording this album, how much were you inspired by the current political climate in the UK and everything that was going on, particularly with Brexit and such like?

I was enormously inspired by it, in fact, it is the central reason why I made this record. It’s the central reason why this band exists really in lots of ways. Because, going back to the first album, you know, Ghost of Yet To Come and Until The End, all these songs are protest records, both protest songs they were designed and written with, with me really as an angry 50-year-old bloke. Frankly, observing the world from a distance and getting more and more frustrated, and angrier.

I mean, I’m not an angry person, please believe me, but you know, I am a very passionate person. I’m a humanist, I have a great deal of sympathy and with the plight of the disenfranchised people of the world. I mean with people on my own doorstep, you know, homelessness and anything to do with immigration.

And I find the whole incendiary nature of the way that the world has developed over these very, very important issues, which cannot be as glibly ignored. And pushed away based on the concept that nationalism is the right thing to be. I find those sorts of conversations deeply hurtful and deeply distressing because we’ve only got one place to live. We’re all trying to survive. Everyone’s got the same idea that they want to have a decent life and they want to have that right. And, I do think the world is turning into a very ugly place right now. I’ve never known a time in my life in 52 years that I’ve been on this planet that it’s been quite so terrible. I say that unreservedly. And so as an artist, I think it’s my responsibility, even in my own tiny little way to report upon this stuff and to talk about this and to raise the conversation and to get people talking about it.

Because I’m not prepared to stand around and just basically go along with the sheep and say, Oh yeah, it’ll be fine. No, it won’t be fine, you know, everything from climate change, and the climate disaster that is befalling as of right now. The absolute lack of leadership that surrounds people’s understanding of that and their willingness to completely ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist, which is threatening us all. And I find all these kinds of things extremely distressing and difficult and the only way I can talk about them is to put it into music. And so the entire centre of this album is about these exact things. It’s about talking about the nature of where we are right now as a species on this planet. Because you know what, this is probably the only one we’ve got. As much as I would like to believe there’s something somewhere else, the likelihood is that there probably isn’t, or at least not within our reach. And so I’m thinking, what the hell are we going to do?

So that’s the central ethic of this record and specifically centred on the stupidity surrounding this whole post-truth. You know, alternate facts nonsense. There are no alternative facts there are just the facts and I find the discussion annoying, and it lacks credibility. It lacks a sense of just common sense, you know, where’s the critical thought? Just because you can say something that’s a non-truth enough, it doesn’t make it true, you know? So this is what this whole album was about, you know?

I’ve seen people describe this record as a concept album, I’ve seen people describe it as a protest record and those themes like you say, they kind of link the 12 tracks of the record together. When you were starting with this project, was it your intention to come up with a sort of concept album or an album where the tracks were linked? Maybe like some kind of story? Or did it kind of just come together organically?

Well, I think it’s a bit of both. Once I kind of got the bit between my teeth about what this record was going to be about, which was entirely by the things I’ve just been talking to you about, but specifically about the kind of heightened sense of Brexit and the whole Brexit debate and how it’s turned normal people into idiots frankly. And the debate on both sides of the aisle has become utterly ridiculous and lacks total credibility because no one’s looking at the truth of what’s going on here at all. So that’s what drove me into writing this record and to talk about the wider subject matter, that pertains therein and how it affects the whole of the world, not just on that particular one subject.

And so I think as I started writing and I got the bit between my teeth it started to materialize. I started to realize that a lot of these songs and themes we’re interlinked, one thing song led to another. I mean, I wrote 56 songs for this album – that’s the truth. I know it’s ridiculous, but I had a very, very fertile period. I mean not all of them were great obviously, but what you tend to do as a writer, and certainly the way I do it is that I have a stream of consciousness. I get onto a trail, tap a vein, and it all comes tumbling out and one thing tends to lead to another. And a lot of these things are joined up. So my task really, or our task was to look at what the material was available and to look at the themes within it and to join the dots, you know, but I had a very strong ethic with this record.

I mean, I wrote everything for this album, apart from I co-wrote one song with Sam, which he brought the riff too and I wrote a song around it sort of thing, but the rest of the songs are all my songs that I brought to the band and we carved them out, if you know what I mean. So, yes, it wasn’t apparent to start with it that it was going to be a protest record or any kind of concept record, but as it evolved and as we started putting it together in the studio, it was really clear that it was most definitely a protest record. I think it’s a little bit of a stretch to say it’s a concept record, but because the narrative is connected and also the sequence in this album is not by chance. We’ve thought very hard about why these songs sit together in the way that they do.

So some of the connections are lyrical, most of the connections are lyrical actually, but there are some other sorts of thematic things that are connected. And I think as you get into this album and listen to it more and more you realize what those things are. And, I wanted it to have very much a start, a middle and an end. I didn’t want to just to drift away and have a sort of like a weak ending, I wanted the final song to be one of the strongest songs on the record, which I think it is.

The first track that we heard from the record was the Jokes on You and I just wondered, can you tell us a little bit about that song? I know you’ve been working on a video with that one as well. Can you give us a bit of a rundown on how that all came together?

Well, I mean Jokes on You is kind of one of the central songs on the album really. So that’s why we released it first as it kind of sums up a lot of the concepts about this, like what are we doing? What is this all about? You know, if you choose to believe something idiotic and the joke really is on you when it all falls apart.

Actually, it was inspired by a relationship I had with an old colleague of mine who manipulated me for years and made me sort of believe I didn’t have the thing that he wanted but was always leaning on me for the answers etcetera. It wasn’t until the fog of that relationship cleared and I got out the other end of it, that I realized looking back on it, that an awful lot of what that person was talking to me about was utter bullshit. And it was all non-truths. It was manipulative. It was a very much a damaging narcissistic relationship really in lots of ways. It damaged me for years.

So that was what started that song. But I thought as I started to write it, I realized there was a lot bigger and broader theme about it, which was to do with us all, you know, that we’ve all got responsibilities. You know, we’ve all got a responsibility to seek out the reality of where we are and what our language is. You know, it’s not good enough just to say, as we all do and I do it and we’re all guilty of it with social media these days of just knee jerk reaction and just reacting to something on a post on your Facebook page. And a lot of its letting off steam. Of course, I realize that. But also some of it can be misconstrued and also badly thought out and in the end, it can haunt you for years if you don’t watch it I think these things.

And so I think there’s a responsibility in those communities around the world to look at the things that we’re saying and look at the actions that follow those things and how that affects us all because it does affect us all. It’s like flapping of the wings. The old saying in chaos theory of the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in a forest affects something across the other side of the planet. You know, blah blah blah. And I think it’s the truth. Everything that we say, everything that we do affects us all. And I think you’ve got to be very, very careful. So that song sums that feeling up of, look, just be careful because you might make a mistake and it’s going to live with you forever, you know?

They always say that the second album is the hardest. And I just wondered, after the success of Ghosts of Yet To Come, did you kind of feel the pressure was on to follow up with this record?

Oh yes, I did. Oh my goodness. It was a daunting task. I mean it’s only the second time in my career I’ve been faced with this because, you know, with Little Angels – Don’t Pray For Me. By the time we’d finished the album campaign, it was a very successful album because, you know, Radical Your Lover broke us out onto the Top 40, and all of a sudden we were playing to a lot of people. And so the follow-up album to that which ended up being Young Gods was a struggle and it took a long time to write and I found it very, very difficult. And this was the same thing for this record. I’d taken my eye off the ball. I thought to myself, well you know, we’ll see what happens with Ghost of Yet To Come and see where it goes. Maybe people won’t give a shit, you know, but of course, people did give a shit. And you know, we’re picking up tours left, right, and centre.

We did decent record sales and you know, and we’re all over the radio, etc. So I started to think maybe there is something in this and maybe I’ve done something correct here, you know? So but the one thing I didn’t do was, I didn’t continue to write in the same way. Because I’m a prolific writer. I do write all the time, but I write for other people and I’ve been writing for a film recently and this that and the other, and whilst I was between these two albums, I was doing other projects and I kind of dropped the ball a bit and I didn’t have anything ready to go, you know? And so, when it came to the sort of realization I had to write this next record and Frontiers were all over it and the manager was saying, look we need to get on with it.

And I was like, Oh my God, what am I going to do, you know? I think it was a shock. And I went into a kind of a bit of a writer’s block period that lasted probably about two months where I literally couldn’t think of anything to say. And it was panic, is what it was. But, because I think at the time, a lot was going on around the Brexit debate. A lot was going on around the Trump nonsense that goes on in America, specifically about, I think it was about Trump and the kids that were being imprisoned at the Mexican border and it incensed me. And I felt so angry about the whole thing. And so basically it tipped me back into the world of, well, I’ve got stuff to write about and now and I know what it is.

And as soon as I started writing the flood gates opened and there you go. And I didn’t look back and I kind of didn’t know what I had. I mean I certainly documented everything. Like I said, eventually by the time I turned around and the dust had settled I had 56 songs on my slate. A couple of which had been older songs I’d revisited, one of which was Fade Away, which is on the album, which was an old song that is 20 years old actually, but I revisited that song.

So by the time I’d sort of finished, I looked around and I went, Oh my God, this is probably the most prolific period I’ve ever had in my life. It was great, to sort of sift through it and sort of start to figure out what was working. And I think that’s the reason why the record ended up as it is because we had so much material to work on. It wasn’t like we had eight songs and I was scrapping around for two more. I had 56 and I was trying to figure out which ones to use. And so it was kind of the other side of the coin. So, yeah, it was the difficult second record in as much as it felt difficult at the time, but once I got into it, it didn’t feel difficult at all.

We’re fast approaching the end of 2019. I just wondered have you got the kind of next 12 months mapped out. What’s on the cards?

Yeah, pretty much. I mean, I’ve got a great agent, Steve Strange he’s my agent, he’s an incredible agent. And he’s world-famous for building careers for bands very, very carefully, for the long term. And so me and Steve are very, very close friends and we’ve been working together for over 10 years now. So he’s got a plan and we’ve got a very steady plan.

There’s going to be a lot of festivals next year. Obviously, headline dates in the UK and hopefully some headline dates in Europe. I mean, as you all know, we’ve just announced the Steel Panther dates in Europe, which is going to be great – different audience as well. You know, that’s a kind of calculated approach as well because we don’t just want to play to the same old people and we need to broaden our horizon as much as possible.

And so, Black Star Riders into Steel Panther through in January is going to be fantastic. And then, you know, we’re looking at our headline tour in the UK and then festivals through the summer and probably I’m hoping some headline dates in Europe and then also quite possibly the release of the third album at the end of next year. We’ve already recorded six songs for the third album.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be by Wayward Sons will be released on Friday 11th October via Frontiers Records.

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About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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