As a child David Beckingham spent a few years in Kenya, living with no electricity and no phone line – just an acoustic guitar and a knack for writing soulful, melodic folk-pop songs. He never dreamed of stages, tours or stardom — but 20 years later those things found him, as his Vancouver band Hey Ocean! hit the radio waves and started climbing the alternative charts.
Beckingham and bandmates Ashleigh Ball and David Vertesi formed their singer-songwriter power-trio in 2005, penning hits like Big Blue Wave and picking up a nomination for a 2013 Juno award. Hey Ocean! released three albums, signed to Universal Music in 2011, and toured North America extensively.
But living the dream of being a lead guitarist/vocalist on tour doesn’t necessarily translate into happiness, as Beckingham found out. He struggled for several years through an addiction, a vocal chord injury that left him temporarily mute, and the slow breakdown of an eight-year relationship. He always spent time on the side working on his own songs, and in May 2016 released his first solo album, Just When The Light.
From its first dreamy, piano and drum-infused track, Forest, the album is loaded with contrast between the songwriter’s profound existential gratitude, and deep, personal unrest. It’s about light and shadow, and the human predisposition toward always yearning for something other than what you have.
Upbeat tracks like Explosion, and Places paint vivid, poetic imagery inspired by the highs and lows of lost love, and nostalgia for Vancouver’s vanishing music venues, such as Richards on Richards, where Hey Ocean! got its first break. Catchy folk-pop songs like Montreal and Sleepless City are about Beckingham’s restlessness living in Vancouver, and ruminations on addiction. The powerful single Soldier is a heartbreaking metaphor – a caricature of a man trying to save his relationship even though he knows he won’t be able to. And Adi’s Song may be the most sophisticated on the album, inspired by a pivotal moment in the breakdown of his relationship and revealing Beckingham’s eclectic singwriting influences such as Ray LaMontagne, Rufus Wainwright and Van Morrison. The album is entirely self-produced and released, with all original songs except one cover, In Spite of All the Damage, written by the Be Good Tanyas.
A six-year project in the making, Just When The Light was recorded at The Space, Monarch, and Vertical studios in Vancouver, and at Beckingham’s home. Various friends make guest appearances, including his childhood songwriting partner Ashleigh Ball, and Vancouver’s Twin Bandit. The rich musical landscape is created using guitar, bass, drums, piano, organ, synthesizers, cello, violin, accordion, and trumpet.
Ultimately, Beckingham hopes it speaks to people going through similar challenges in life and makes them feel less alone. This year he launches his first ever solo tour, with select summer shows in Vancouver and Victoria — proving that once the dust settles from a tough year, or hell, even a tough decade, we can always find happiness by taking stock of hard lessons and moving on to the next thing.