The Venn diagram of a good Billy Bragg song shows an overlap between the personal and the political and that’s reflected in my concern for ‘The gap between the man I think I am and the man I want to be’. I’m conscious of my position as a white middle-aged man – I’m used to people listening to what I have to say. After all this time, I don’t think it hurts to ask if the behaviour that I manifest lives up to my own standards as the man I want to be.

As a mid century modern geezer, I’m aware that my notions of personal relationships were formed almost fifty years ago, likewise my politics. To cling to that and imagine that you’ve nothing to learn from younger generations, you’re in danger of becoming a dinosaur. Kids have got new priorities and new ideas. Thatcher’s dead. The world has moved on. I’m trying to respond to the things I’m hearing now, rather than reminding folk of ‘the good old days’.

“I read somewhere that the second most googled thing after pornography is ancestry. People want to know where they come from, why they were born, where they were born. You can get facts from the web, but details are priceless and can often only be learned orally from relatives. Yet too many of us rue the fact that we are left to piece together family stories from fragments we recall because we never asked our elders those questions.”

It was always my intention to record a new album in 2021. I’d planned to spend most of 2020 on the road, where I could crank out ideas for new songs in soundchecks and maybe even try a few in the live set. Things didn’t quite work out that way, of course. In the past, it has been purely personal issues that have kept me off the road and I’ve sought to come to terms with those events by writing songs that draw the listener’s attention to my individual experience.

The manner in which this pandemic has unfolded is something we’ve never faced before – a universal experience that has impinged on all of our lives. When the first lockdown was declared, I filled the space left by cancelled tours with clips and playlists that made me feel connected to my audience. When hopes of a return to normal were thwarted by the second lockdown in late 2020, I struggled to find the motivation that had driven my response to the first.

Looking for something to focus on, I booked some studio time with Romeo Stodart and Dave Izumi and began pulling songs together for a new album. Twice the dates we booked had to be postponed due to pandemic restrictions, but Romeo and Dave carried on working, creating backing tracks based on the demos I’d sent them. When we were finally able to get together in April this year, they presented me with a different way of making songs, something I found highly engaging after the lost of momentum brought on by the lockdowns.

The Million Things That Never Happened isn’t about the pandemic per se, but the highs and lows of what we’ve been through provide the backdrop for the album, as they have done for all our lives over these past two years.

“I like my albums to finish with a stomper. My son Jack helped me out with this one. That’s him playing electric guitar in the video. He’s a pretty good songwriter himself, and when I played him what I had, he said it’s good but it needs some work. I said well you go and do it then. So he came back and he’d added a middle section and, you know what, he was right. I was really pleased. People have asked if there might be a ‘father and son’ album down the tracks. All I will say is you never know what the future might bring. ‘Ten Mysterious Photos…’ is about life online, both good and bad. I try not to get sucked down too many wormholes, but it can happen.”

“To me, I Will Be Your Shield is the heart and soul of the album. I’ve come to the conclusion that empathy is the currency of music – that our job as songwriters is to help people come to terms with their feelings by offering them examples of how others may have dealt with a situation similar to that in which listener finds themselves. After what we’ve all been through, the idea of being a shield – physically, emotionally, psychologically – resonated deeply with me.”

It was always my intention to record a new album in 2021. I’d planned to spend most of 2020 on the road, where I could crank out ideas for new songs in soundchecks and maybe even try a few in the live set. Things didn’t quite work out that way, of course. In the past, it has been purely personal issues that have kept me off the road and I’ve sought to come to terms with those events by writing songs that draw the listener’s attention to my individual experience.

The manner in which this pandemic has unfolded is something we’ve never faced before – a universal experience that has impinged on all of our lives. When the first lockdown was declared, I filled the space left by cancelled tours with clips and playlists that made me feel connected to my audience. When hopes of a return to normal were thwarted by the second lockdown in late 2020, I struggled to find the motivation that had driven my response to the first.

Looking for something to focus on, I booked some studio time with Romeo Stodart and Dave Izumi and began pulling songs together for a new album. Twice the dates we booked had to be postponed due to pandemic restrictions, but Romeo and Dave carried on working, creating backing tracks based on the demos I’d sent them. When we were finally able to get together in April this year, they presented me with a different way of making songs, something I found highly engaging after the lost of momentum brought on by the lockdowns.

The Million Things That Never Happened isn’t about the pandemic per se, but the highs and lows of what we’ve been through provide the backdrop for the album, as they have done for all our lives over these past two years.

Billy Bragg 2021

“I read somewhere that the second most googled thing after pornography is ancestry. People want to know where they come from, why they were born, where they were born. You can get facts from the web, but details are priceless and can often only be learned orally from relatives. Yet too many of us rue the fact that we are left to piece together family stories from fragments we recall because we never asked our elders those questions.”

“I like my albums to finish with a stomper. My son Jack helped me out with this one. That’s him playing electric guitar in the video. He’s a pretty good songwriter himself, and when I played him what I had, he said it’s good but it needs some work. I said well you go and do it then. So he came back and he’d added a middle section and, you know what, he was right. I was really pleased. People have asked if there might be a ‘father and son’ album down the tracks. All I will say is you never know what the future might bring. ‘Ten Mysterious Photos…’ is about life online, both good and bad. I try not to get sucked down too many wormholes, but it can happen.”

“To me, I Will Be Your Shield is the heart and soul of the album. I’ve come to the conclusion that empathy is the currency of music – that our job as songwriters is to help people come to terms with their feelings by offering them examples of how others may have dealt with a situation similar to that in which listener finds themselves. After what we’ve all been through, the idea of being a shield – physically, emotionally, psychologically – resonated deeply with me.”

In these challenging times, we all need something to hang on to. Like everyone else, my plans for 2020 have been disrupted by the pandemic, but today I’m announcing an extensive UK & Irish tour for this time next year to give me something tangible to work towards. My hope is that, by then, we’ll be able to get together again and enjoy the uplift that live music brings, to audience and performer alike. Hope to see you next Autumn.

 “After more than three decades of travelling around the world in a van, or spending all day flying vast distances to play a gig, I’m looking forward to having some time to explore cities that I usually only get to see between the soundcheck and the show. And this three night stand format is a way of keeping things interesting, both for me and the audience. I tried it out in Auckland recently and had a lot of fun revisiting my back pages.” Billy Bragg 2019

In each town Bragg will perform three unique shows on consecutive nights.The first night’s performance will feature Bragg’s current set, which ranges across his 35 year career. The second will see Bragg perform songs from his first three albums: his punk rock debut Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy (1983), its similarly raw follow-up Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (1984) and Talking with the Taxman about Poetry (1986). The third performance will see Bragg perform songs from his second three albums: the positively jangled Workers Playtime (1988), the pop classic Don’t Try This at Home (1991) and the back-to-basics William Bloke (1996).

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I first saw @billybragg at 'The People's Festival' at the Pier Head in the summer of 1985, when I was just 14 years old. I've seen him many times since then, but tonight's show at the Philharmonic will live long in the memory.

Had a great time tonight in Liverpool, thanks to everyone who came along. Sorry I couldn’t come and do photos and handshakes at the merch table afterwards, but picking up the virus will end the tour so will have to wait until next time. On to Oxford tomorrow!

Awesome night in the company of @billybragg in Liverpool. New material is touching and he’s reassuringly still a man trying to change the world…

Sun Oct 24th, 2021

Billy Bragg
Still buzzing from last night’s gig in Glasgow. The audience there has always been very expressive and the Barrowlands Roar that greets the end of a favourite song is legendary. But last night, they were cheering so loud DURING the songs that at some moments I couldn’t hear my guitar onstage, despite it being on overdrive. What was equally astonishing was that this same audience were pin-drop silent during songs like Tank Park Salute and I Will Be Your Shield. I can’t really put into words how that amount of respect for the sentiments of the songs made me feel. The crowd were so into it that I ended up playing six more songs than were on the running order. It was an unforgettable night. I can’t pretend that I wasn’t a bit apprehensive about how this tour would be received given the current situation and the length of time since my last gigs, but the warmth I felt in Gateshead, the intimacy of the crowd in Dundee and the sheer unbridled enthusiasm of the audience last night at Barrowlands have filled me with confidence and excitement about the rest of the tour.Here’s a great picture from the back of the hall at the Barrowlands Ballroom at the height of the show last night, courtesy of Paul Lumsden ... See MoreSee Less
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Fri Oct 22nd, 2021

Billy Bragg
While I was getting some breakfast this morning, someone asked me why I was wearing a face mask. Did you see those images from the House of Commons this week, I replied, showing a bare-faced government facing a mask-wearing opposition? I don’t want anyone in here to think that I’m a Tory. https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58993387.amp ... See MoreSee Less
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Thu Oct 21st, 2021

Billy Bragg
First day on the road has certain rituals that are unavoidable in the transition between home life and van life. One of the most common is heading into the centre of whatever city you are in to find decent coffee and buy the things that you’ve forgotten to bring with you. Today it’s Newcastle (although tonight’s show is over the river in Gateshead) and the things I needed to find were toothpaste, guitar strings and a warm hat. The usual stuff. What was different about this trip was that I also had to find myself a box of rapid flow Covid tests. Why? Because none of the venues where I’m playing will let me into the venue without a negative test.The other constant challenge when touring in Oct/Nov/Dec is avoiding whatever viruses are about. It’s never nice being ill on the road, but a cold seriously dents my ability to put on a show. What’s different this time is that catching a virus could mean the end of the tour. And it doesn’t even have to be your humble artist who catches it. If one of my four fellow-travellers - pianist, sound man, tour manager, merch seller - succumbs to Covid, we all have to go into ten days of isolation. So I’m glad the venues are demanding we each submit negative tests. And it’s a requirement that will apply to the audience too. The tour takes me to England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland and, in the past week, both the Scottish and Irish governments have changed the protocols for mass gatherings. The new requirements for the Scottish shows have been sent to ticket holders (see message below) and the Dublin and Galway dates will now be seated only.Given the infection rates seen on the graph below, I think it’s a good bet that the rules for England will change sometime between now and the last show at the Roundhouse on 27th November, so if you have a ticket, please keep abreast of the protocols for the venue you’re attending.It seems that some people - notably the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet - think that the best way to deal with Covid is to ignore it. I want the pandemic to end and believe that we need to get the infection rate under control, to the extent that the immune-compromised feel safe to go to the shops and the cinema again. We do that by each of us taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.So please, if you’re coming to a show, comply with the protocols that are in force to ensure that we can all have a great time and see each other again soon.Please also note that there are no support acts on this tour. I will be taking the stage at 8.15pm. The theatre shows will have an interval, club shows will not. And I will be accompanied onstage by Thomas Collison on keyboards. Unfortunately I won’t be able to do any after show meeting and signing by the merch stall due to the current situation, which is a pity as it’s a key part of the gig as far as I’m concerned. Maybe next time. ... See MoreSee Less
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© Billy Bragg 2021