THE journey from despair to redemption has been carefully plotted through the songs of a Donegal man’s new album ‘Fearless’ which has just been released.
Tom Bonner from Ballybofey works with Donegal ETB. He also the father of three young children, twins Lola and Rueben (11) and eight-year-old Iris.
An arts graduate from NUI Galway, Tom (45) completed a Masters in History at Magee, Derry.
In early 2018, he suffered a severe bout of depression. It was a terrible, scary and dark time but thankfully with incredible support, medication, counselling and exercise he experienced what was a rebirth of sorts.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Tom spoke about life, music, depression and family.
“As strange as it may seem I hated singing as a younger child and flatly refused to sing in school,” he said.
As a teenager, he got more and more into music and by the time ‘Out of Time’ by REM came out in 1991 it was to set his course in music for years to follow. Fascinated by Michael Stipe’s lyrics he started writing his own.
‘The Verve’ were the love of his early 20s and by the late 90s he was in a band ‘ Nascent’ with his brother and some friends from home.
He moved to Hungary in 2003 to work as an English tutor. While there, he wrote and recorded his debut album ‘Some Belated Truths’ under the moniker ‘Urban Hermits’.
Due to family commitments, Tom took a break from the music scene from 2008. He recorded the occasional single and in 2012, was commissioned to compose music for a poem by Stranorlar Poet Frances Browne. For the next six years he played acoustic cover gigs around Donegal before a severe bout of depression stopped him in his tracks.
“The thing is with depression is that it’s crippling and debilitating but when you get to the other side, absolutely nothing can phase or scare you. You’ve already faced your demons down and stared into the abyss so your fear nothing. That’s where the album title (Fearless) came from.
“I recall going up to Terry McGinty at Valley Music Studio to start a new song, ‘Straight in the Eye’ I think it was.. I had so much in me, I did the vocal in one take! That’s the vocal that remained on the album version,” he said.
“Creatively, both myself and Terry were on it and were willing to try and experiment anything on this record. It’s a testament to his talent and bravery that the album sounds as good as it does.
“As time progressed, the song order was becoming clear. Songs one to ten chart the journey from despair to redemption. That’s why the songs are in the order they’re in. Artistically, it made perfect sense to me. We had a surplus of songs. There were two that were on the record but I decided to drop, not because they were bad songs but rather because they didn’t fit with the overall tone of the album. The whole thing from demo to mastering took a little over a year,” he added.
There were several wonderful musicians who played and sang on this record. Seamus Devenny, Rhys McBride, Deborah Devenny, Damien McGlenaghy, Jonathan Ball, David Oliver, Ally Doherty and Seamus Curran.
“They all gave so much to this album with their talent, creativity and their willingness to push the envelope. I’d also like to give a special mention to James Hennigan who designed the album cover and Kieran McCormick who shot and directed the video for my first single, ‘Cycle the Volcano’.
“I’m so proud of this record and really want it to be heard as far and wide as possible and as many people as possible,” he said.
More than that, he hopes it raises mental health awareness and helps those who are struggling with mental health issues.
“It’s audible proof both in music and lyrics that there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel and to keep moving inch by inch to get there. That’s what’s most important to me,” he added.
The CD is available in Spar (Kinlough & Ballyshannon), Centra (Donegal Town & Ardara), Andie’s Superstore Stranorlar, Bradley’s Supermarket Crossroads Killygordon, Universal Books Letterkenny and Mac’s Newsagent’s in Buncrana
The album is also available online at https://strawman.ie/