David O’Connell and friend Nathan Marshall set up Host Recordings in May to give homeless musicians an opportunity to write, develop and sell their own music.
David said playing music ‘kept him going’ when he was homeless in Guildford.
“It stopped me going down certain roads that people I was on the streets with did go down. It held me together,” he said.
“The only possessions I had were a guitar and a change of clothes.
“I went around and put my clothes in my case and just busked and played music.
“It’s because I had that everyday, it kept me going. If I didn’t have that I would be nothing.”
David set up the collective Shoreham Allstars 10 years ago to give young people in the town a way to change their lives for the better through music.
It was when he spotted a homeless man in Shoreham writing his own music, and gave him one his own guitars, that the idea for the record label was formed.
“It’s me making an effort to go back and give these people what I would’ve liked to happen to me,” he said.
The name Host Recordings stands for How Our Story’s Told – which reflects the label’s mission to give people an opportunity to sing about their experiences, play music as a cathartic experience and to shed light on the reality of homelessness.
The pair are working with two musicians who were referred from Turning Tides charity – formerly known as Worthing Churches Homeless Project – named Chris Lawson and John Gailbraith.
The recording sessions have been running once a week at the St Clare’s day centre in Marine Parade, Worthing – where centre manager Russell Gallagher also helps out by playing bass.
Since May, the musicians have written an album’s worth of material totalling ten original songs which will be released in January 2019.
A percentage of the profit from sales will be donated to a homeless charity of their choice.
David said of the musicians: “They have both had their own issues to deal with and are still not out of the woods.
“We are there to give them hope and positivity and some kind of focus.
“We want them to be able to tell the world and put across how they feel.
“It’s authentic, there’s so much soul in what they do. Some of the lyrics, they are not holding back about it. They’ve really been down to the bottom.”
David helps with the songwriting process, helping the musicians find a voice and build their confidence, while Nathan focuses more on the producing side.
David said: “The purpose of what we are doing is for them to go from being in desperate circumstances to being professional song writers and making a living out of making their own music.
“There’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t do that, their music is that good.”
He said the project was changing the musicians’ lives already.
“Music doesn’t care if you are a millionaire or if you are homeless, it will help,” he said. “It’s a powerful force.”
He hopes the project will expand so that one day every town will have a Host Recordings setup to develop and promote the work of homeless musicians.