Avid songwriter hits perfect note with disability charity

An avid songwriter supported by disability charity Leonard Cheshire in Scotland is celebrating a lifetime of musical achievements for this year’s World Music Day.

A male wheelchair user in a recording studio

Paul Graham is a resident at Leonard Cheshire in Scotland’s Pinewood social care service in Livingston. Born in Dundee in 1965, he was brought up surrounded by the world of music and started playing guitar at the age of six.  

Influenced by his Dad’s old rock n’ roll records, Paul began writing songs at a young age and wanted to become a rebel just like his hero Elvis Presley. Paul lost his sight at the age of 12 after developing a condition called Hydrocephalus. This didn’t stop Paul, who pursued his musical dream.

His songwriting has displayed various styles taken from his influences, from rockabilly to country and western to the odd ballad. Paul would use rhetorical questions as song titles, such as ‘What’s the Use?’ and ‘Is This What I Get?’ Some lyrical content is closer to home, such as writing a song called ‘Audrey’ for a nurse who helped Paul shortly after he developed his visual impairment.

Paul has composed a few songs under his alter ego Captain Kizzy, named after the protagonist in the children’s story book he wrote called ‘The Adventures of Captain Kizzy and the Grapes’. Some of these songs were used for The Captain Kizzy Band with some local musicians, who helped record at Banana Row Studios in Edinburgh. Paul’s prolific output stacked up seven albums of material.

Paul’s bedroom at Pinewood gives anyone a glimpse of the rock n’ roll lifestyle he led. While guitars decorate the walls, his impressive CD collection boasts the music of his heroes – including the likes of Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Dire Straits and The Kinks.

Andrew Bremner, a Support Worker at Pinewood, was the ideal fit to help Paul lead an independent life and reignite the spark he had with music. An instrumentalist himself, Andrew has galvanised Paul to become involved with music again and is possibly the most engaged he has ever been.

The two initially laid down some recordings on a small portable device for Paul to listen back to his vocals and music. Following promising results, more equipment was brought into Pinewood for the two to experiment with and a rapport developed along with it.

Claire Murray, Deputy Manager at the Pinewood service, said:

“Paul’s music brings out his creative side and he uses his songs to share his own experiences and individuality.

“He has always admired having someone to jam with, which is when someone who had an admiration for music was recruited at Pinewood. Andrew and Paul struck a chord immediately and it has enabled Paul to lead an independent life doing something he adores.”

Paul has started to re-record some songs and already has a three-track demo to send to local musicians who will form a band called ‘Captain Kizzy and the Backstabbers’ to contribute towards the new recordings. These musicians, ranging from the West Lothian community and music shops, have volunteered to play instruments on Paul’s recordings after hearing his fantastic story.

The idea behind re-recording songs is to capture an honest account of Paul’s voice after previous mixes obscured the vocals through a dominant lead guitar. Paul is still practising and singing along but also willing to allow someone else to sing with him or completely take his lyrics into their own.

While most of this project is on hold because of lockdown, it has allowed Paul to work on new material with Andrew. The duo have converted his bedroom into a makeshift recording studio to lay down the foundations of future songs with Andy playing guitar and Paul singing. These demos are ideas – “a scribbling pad of how things will go,” as Andrew puts it.

The ultimate goal is to record and master five tracks with his band for a new EP and celebrate the release with a social occasion. Andrew knows, however, that the two will be back on full steam once normality resumes.

Andrew Bremner, a Support Worker at the Pinewood service, said:

“Paul has a great sense of humour and we clicked immediately after his gentle swipe at heavy rock music – he used to say, ‘you don’t want to be into that, it won’t go anywhere!’ But after long conversations and banter we soon realised we had something in common with Paul’s dad introducing him to rock n’ roll music and my mother introducing me to heavy rock music. I think it was quite invigorating for him to hear me playing the likes of Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran on guitar. 

“He sometimes gets very excited about these things. We are trying to bring the songs up to date and help Paul realise his potential. Again, it’s all about the journey – the idea that he’s going to meet up with the musicians.

“It’s very important that he meets people in the local community. We have been going to Wall to Wall Music in Livingston to play some guitar then have coffee and cake and a blether about music. He’s had some good, fun conversations and he’s picked things up. He meets people to help him complete the songs and develops an organic relationship out of this, to the point where they might phone each other up for a pint.”

Media enquiries

For further information, high res images or interview requests please contact: Kieran Scott (Communications and Research Officer) at kieran.scott@leonardcheshire.org or 07711 188 161.

  • Paul Graham’s music can be found on his YouTube channel or on Bandcamp.
  • World Music Day is an annual celebration of music, staged every year on June 21.