Project 52: Manchester musician writes and records song EVERY week for one year

Manchester musician Richard Lomax is putting his talents to the test, aiming to write, record and release one song a week for a year with his personal project 52.

Last year whilst performing in Birmingham Lomax had his laptop, which contained the only exhaustive back catalogue of a decade’s worth of work, stolen – a devastating loss.

Identity is everything to an artist and where is the identity of an artist if not embodied in their work?

The mammoth task of 52 is Lomax’s attempt to regain his artistic identity and to try to stop life getting in the way of his passion.

He told MM: “Of course it was difficult, those songs chronicled a large chunk of my life, but I managed to use it to my advantage.

“I remembered reading an interview with Burt Bacharach. He treated song writing as a musician treats their instrument, to get good you have to practise, to get very good you have to practise a lot.

“He used to a write a song every single day, it didn’t matter how good it was, he just wanted to hone his skills.”      

The project, while great ‘practise’, will also be a real test for Lomax, who as well as performing regularly holds down a job as a sound engineer at some of the city’s night spots, including The Night and Day Café and First Chop Brewing Arm.

With the self-imposed time constrictions and a busy schedule Lomax said inspiration must be sought in new places.

“It doesn’t allow for perfectionism but conversely ideas cannot become stagnated, there is immediacy with 52. In a strange way it allows you to relax,” he added.

“It’s different to recording an album. That process is so time intensive. You write the songs, re-write them, rehearse them to death, record them, mix them and so on.

“It can take years. I suppose the album is the tantric experience compared to the instant gratification of 52!”

Although the project has certainly injected a renewed sense of purpose and structure to his work it has not been plain sailing, there have been the inevitable peaks and troughs.

He told MM how the pursuit has become more chore than challenge at times – over the summer his computer broke and he was again a victim of theft when his phone was stolen by a man trying to sell him a flyer for the Sea Life Centre.

He said: “I was forced to borrow some equipment, one of the tracks was actually recorded on a Dictaphone.”

It was during this time that the song A Heartfelt Plea to the (Probably Fictional) Gods of Technology was recorded.

It is a delightfully composed treatise on that universally recognisable subject of feeling cursed from above – another musical diary entry of that week in Lomax’s year.

And by releasing these songs through online channels such as Bandcamp and other social media they become permanent fixtures in his catalogue.

The project is now in its 44th week and is going strong.

Lomax said: “It has opened a lot of doors. Without doubt I have improved as a writer, especially through the co-writes that I’ve done.

“They really do reinvigorate the creative process. They provide a fresh perspective and act like the punctuation in the story of my year. They have been one of the most enjoyable and refreshing aspects of this whole experience.”

Co-composers on 52 include Avital Raz, First Name Frank, Natalie McCool, beat-box poet Mark Mace Smith and former band mate Andy Lyth.

“Andy and I are working on a soundscape; it’s a soundtrack piece that we are creating to go with Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Maybe Ron Howard will come knocking on the door in 15 years when he gets round to adapting them for the screen,” Lomax said.     

As well as a rekindling of the creative flow Lomax admits the process has encouraged him to structure and plan his work to a greater degree – he has more of a regime than he previously did and is avid that it has improved his song writing.

However this project seems to have been about more than honing a skill. It is the creation of a new artistic identity, an exercise in self-examination, the throwing down of a gauntlet at one’s own feet.

Project 52 is a time efficient and challenging way of creating a new body of work. It is a concrete testament and ‘aide memoir’ to a year of an artist’s life that cannot be destroyed by theft or misfortune.

Richard Lomax and The Tontine launch their new album Down There For Dancing at Strange Brew in Chorlton on November 27.

To follow Richard Lomax’s progress and find out more or listen to the tracks from 52 by click here.

Image courtesy of selectvisions, via YouTube, with thanks.

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