We sat down with the lead singer of Cushion, Mark Acton, to talk about their new charity single, ‘Song For Jack’
All proceeds that are made from this single go to Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Q- Hi Mark. Could you explain a bit about how this song came about?
A- Hi Rhys. Last year my nephew, Jack, became very ill with a rare brain tumour that affects only about 20-30 children a year, called DIPG – which is Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. There’s no known cure for it so it was a very difficult time for the family. My brother, Jamie and his wife, Clare, were brilliant. They tried to make sure that he had as much fun as possible in his last few months and took him on holidays and days out. He loved trains and giraffes and doing jigsaws and he had this big smile and infectious laugh. When Jack passed away last November, I wanted to do something for Jamie and Clare and I’m pretty useless at most things so writing this song was my way of sending them some love, really. I wanted to try and write the song from their point of view as a message to Jack, so it would be their song.
What was great was all the support I got in recording the song. The rest of the band, Cushion, were on board straight away and pulled out the stops with some great performances and then students from Access to Music in Manchester, where I work, got involved. Joe Cockx improvised a beautiful trumpet part in the outro and Velma Dandzo-Manuel put together the choir with some of the Vocal Artist students – Kike, Georgia, Maisie, Matt and Roosevelt – and they were just brilliant. When it all came together, I felt very emotional. What was a very simple, child-like song, just builds and builds into this big, dramatic piece.
Q- What’s the video made up from?
A- The video was the thing that took longest to put together, really, and those images are just so moving. Kids in Jack’s class at pre-school and in his brother, Ben’s class in Primary school, drew these pictures that were all put together in a book so I scanned them all and animated them. Some of them have really lovely messages to Ben about love and brothers and friendship. And there are the recurring themes of giraffes and trains in there that only really make sense because of Jack.
Q- What do Starlight Children’s Foundation do?
A- Starlight are a fantastic organisation that provide special days for children with serious and terminal illnesses and they provided a Christmas for Jack last October. I think we knew that Jack wasn’t going to make it to Christmas so he had a really special last Christmas at the Chill Factore near the Trafford Centre and he saw Santa and got presents, including a new giraffe. He was quite poorly by then but he still really enjoyed himself. Those days mean a lot to the kids and their families. I think it’s a really important charity.
Q- Was it a challenge to try and have a serious song, considering some of the other songs Cushion have released?
A- Ha! You mean like Sex Flares? We’ve always done serious songs. We just do whatever we feel like at the time! It’s not a well planned out career but this band is the most fun to be in. There are some great musicians in the band but the egos never get in the way and we all just love music so when we get together we can write loads of stuff really quickly. I’ll happily play a disco track, followed by a metal track, followed by an acoustic track and try to work out how they all fit together on an album. That’s part of the fun. I do like writing lyrics with a serious message but sometimes it’s fun to sing, ‘put your sex flares on and dance with me’.
Q- How do you plan on getting the song out there, without trying to be too pushy ?
A- That’s quite difficult for me because I always feel guilty about pushing my own stuff, especially with being a music teacher. I feel much more comfortable saying, ‘listen to this great song by my students’. But I think this song is more important and so I’ll put more effort in. And, of course, any money raised will go to Starlight. So far, quite a few people have shared the video and the Spotify links. Anything that anyone can do to get people to listen to the track or download it from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play or wherever, is massively appreciated. Interviews like this one are also really helpful so thank you for giving me the time.
Q- What would it mean for you, your family, and the rest of band, if this song was to become viral?
A- Well, it’s funny. It was always the plan to put it out but once it’s out, it doesn’t feel like yours anymore. I was speaking to my brother the other day and he was saying that he almost wanted to keep it to himself and I really get that because it’s so personal. But the love and support from everyone who’s listened to it so far has been amazing. We’d all love it to go viral. It would be great if people could be more aware of the plight of kids like Jack and this could be Jack’s contribution to the world. Also, it would mean that we could give Starlight a bigger contribution that could make more of a difference to more children and their families. How good would that be?
Watch the video here. (Get the tissues ready first)