Hair perfectly styled for that “just got out of bed” look. Check. Guitar and microphone. Check. Singing and songwriting talent. Check.
It looks like Blaine Harrison, the lead singer of the British rock group Mystery Jets has everything on the checklist.
He also has spina bifida.
Harrison began his musical training with the drums but found he had no talent for them. His father, Henry Harrison is a musician and lyricist encouraged his son Blaine to keep playing music until he found something he enjoyed doing. Blaine picked up a guitar and also learned the piano before forming the band with his best friend William Rees. Blaine Harrison’s best advice to the aspiring musician is simple. “Stick with it.”
The band’s website is at www.mysteryjets.com
As far as being a musician with spina bifida, Harrison admits in a 2014 interview that it “has its up sides and down sides. I was in the hospital for the last three weeks with pressure sores on my feet. We have been touring constantly for the last three months and I was being a bit silly about not really knowing my limitations.”
The band has released five albums: Making Dens (2006), Twenty One (2008), Serotonin (2010), Radlands (2012) and Curve of the Earth (2016). In 2007, the album Zootime was released in the United States to introduce the band to an American audience.
Their earliest material has a definite British influence and the British accent is apparent in the way Blaine Harrison enunciates the lyrics. The song “Two Doors Down” is about trying to decide if he should ask a girl out on a date.
I think I’m in love/with the girl next door/it’s driving me crazy/I can’t take it anymore/I hear her playing the drums late at night/the neighbors complain but that’s the kind of girl I like.
Much of their material is danceable and fun. The song “Dreaming of Another World” is about trying to figure out who you really are in the world, and taking chances that aren’t expected.
When the sun comes down/night is all around/I shed my skin chain it on your ground/go to a place where the people make a crowd/find yoru pace and do what’s not allowed.
Their newest material has a larger sound with better vocal harmonies than in their earlier songs. The 2016 song “Taken by the Tide” is about losing a friendship.
Brother I thought that you would be there till the end/you were my rock upon which I could always depend/together we fought and never left each other’s side/brother I reached out to you but you were taken by the tide.
In 2009, Blaine Harrison started working with a charity called Attitude is Everything (http://www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/). This charity works to make live music more accessible to people with disabilities in the UK. The band refuses to play small gigs in local pubs if the pubs are not accessible or working on their accessibility issues. Playing music with a physical disability such as spina bifida adds extra conditions because many venues have stages that are not accessible. “A lot of venues don’t have an understanding of how to cater for someone who is disabled,” Harrison explains. “We really want to do whatever we can to make life easier, not only for me, but for disabled people who come to our gigs.”
Sometimes his disability causes other problems. For instance, in 2008, the Mystery Jets had to pull out of various music festivals they were scheduled to play in because Blaine Harrison was sick due to his spina bifida.
“Not a lot of people know that I am disabled,” Harrison says. “I get asked “What happened?’ about five times a day.” He takes it all in stride though and does not rely on his disability to garner sympathy. “We decided that we wouldn’t make my disability an issue… We don’t want to be gimmicks. We wanted people to read our lyrics and listen to our music.”