A song inspired by the unique way that a young autistic boy sees the world has been released to mark Autism Awareness Day.
The song is the latest in a series of tracks from British singer songwriter Emma Ballantine inspired by true stories from people around the world. “Through Your Eyes” – the fourth and final track from Ballantine’s Somebody’s Story EP, offers a glimpse of the world as seen by 14 year-old James, whose mother Nancy submitted the story (read in full below).
The song credits James as a co-writer and features samples from his own music, created with Baltimore-based producer and beat-boxer Max Bent (listen on SoundCloud).
Released ahead of World Autism Awareness Day (2nd April), the track combines elements of James’ track “Don’t Bore Anyone’s Ears” with layered synths and subtle backing vocals to create a powerful and expansive soundscape to conclude the four-track record.
The EP, recorded with Brixton-based producer Moseley, is available via iTunes, Spotify and other digital platforms, and Ballantine will mark the launch with a performance at The Green Note in Camden, London, on Sunday 9th April (view details).
The previous three tracks in the series have brought to life stories including a 7,000 mile journey to Kenya, inspired by love at first sight (Astronaut); a chance encounter in a dive bar in Chicago (Harmonise); and a young girl’s determination to move on with her life after a harrowing court case (Secret Tunnel).
The full stories behind the tracks can be found at www.somebodysstory.com.
Since releasing the first track “Secret Tunnel“ in December 2016, Emma has had radio play from Janice Long at BBC Radio 2, who said:
“I listened first and thought it was fantastic in every way. Then I read the story and listened again. It is so powerful”.
The EP launch concludes a 12-date tour of the UK for the London-based artist, including dates in Bristol, Birmingham and Nottingham, and also a string of coffee shop gigs in partnership with Caffè Nero.
Told by Nancy
“Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first time or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory”
- Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
My son’s obsession with roads was driving me crazy. “I’ve been interested in Interstate 83 since Mother’s Day 2014!” he told me. Really? It had only been a little over a year? It felt a lot longer. James is thirteen, and over the years his autism has been responsible for perseverations on shapes, numbers, time, music and maps. The interests come on suddenly, last anywhere from a week to a few years, and get pretty intense.
Sometimes the fixations are cool, sometimes mind-boggling, and sometimes just plain irritating. Eventually, no matter what the topic, I get to a point where I JUST WANT TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE!
But my exasperation flew out the window during a recent drive—an excursion to indulge James’s burning desire to glimpse his favorite skyline view of our city from his favorite stretch of his favorite highway. As we sped down the road, James could not contain his gleeful bursts of laughter. I internally shook my head, baffled and yes, slightly annoyed, at the intensity of his pleasure.
“I must be the luckiest boy in the world, because I like so many things!” he exclaimed.
My perspective shifted at sixty miles per hour.
How do I get to where he is?
My son, who needs help understanding so many things, perfectly comprehends what it means to live in the moment and appreciate. Great music, gorgeous sunny days, bike rides (and of course highway drives), family, and HIMSELF. I spend so much time trying to teach my son so many things, but I need to learn this important lesson from him.
To see the positive, not the negative. And not just to see it, but to revel in it. And be grateful for it.
Many people say kids with autism see only the concrete. This is a myth my son dispels almost daily. Last year, on my Mother’s Day card, he wrote, “I love the spirit of you.” I love the spirit of you too, James. Sometimes that gets lost in the clatter of therapists, tutors, protocols, and criticisms that crowd our days. But even though James is, in so many ways, a work in progress, his spirit is a masterpiece.
One recent Saturday afternoon, we were running some errands together. At one point during this ordinary day, James turned to me and said something extraordinary.
“Hmmm?” I absentmindedly replied, bracing myself for another comment about Interstate 83 or a local road.
“I’m thinking about how I feel about my life.”
Astonished, and trying to remain blasé, I asked “Yeah? How do you feel, buddy?”
And in that moment, right there in a nondescript parking lot, so did I.
Thank you, buddy, for showing me how to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Previously published in Chicken Soup For The Soul: The Power Of Gratitude
About Emma Ballantine
Featured by Q Magazine and tipped by Glamour as ‘One to Watch’, Emma Ballantine is rapidly gaining recognition for powerful songwriting and a ‘shapeshifting vocal gift’ (Gigslutz). A finalist in the 2016 UK Unsigned Songwriter of the Year competition, her music has been played by BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing, and she has been described by Resonance FM as ‘a unique voice among modern songwriters’.
Emma has toured around the UK and Germany, playing at festivals including Glastonbury, Sidmouth Folk Week and Home Farm Festival. Originally from Salisbury and now based in London, she has played some of the capital’s best known venues, such as The Bedford and The Green Note.
Emma’s latest EP, Tourist, reached no. 15 in the iTunes chart, and she is currently working on a project called Somebody’s Story, creating a new record based on stories sent to her by friends and followers.
Buy ‘Somebody’s Story EP’ on iTunes: