Behind ‘The Likes Of Us, An In-Depth Interview With Big Big Train’s Greg Spawton

I caught up with Big Big Train’s de facto leader Greg Spawton for a highly enjoyable chat ahead of the release of the band’s highly anticipated new album and a tour which, for the first time, takes in multiple venues across the US, as well as Europe and, of course, the UK.

Progradar: Do you think that ‘The Likes of Us’, while generally moving away from the historical stories of past BBT albums, still has a strong link with the band’s past?

Greg: Yes, I think it does, we were pretty keen not to try and reinvent the wheel with this album. The most important thing to us was to absolutely make sure it was us at the top of our game. One of the issues we had during the covid era when all of the touring gets cancelled was, what do you do now? make an album! and I think that one of the problems for us was that we were almost pushed into the album thing without having a masterplan for the two albums that we made in that time and I’m very much a person who likes a masterplan for albums.

I don’t like albums that are just an accumulation of songs, it needs to be an entity in its own right. There were two things, firstly with the terrible tragedy that we’ve been through, and the new singer in Alberto (Bravin), we knew it had to be us at the top of our game, secondly we needed to make sure we thought about it, planned it and made an holistic album that works as an entity rather than just a collection of tunes.

Progradar: It’s a proper ‘old school’ album where you would listen to it from start to finish. It’s not a Spotify album where you just pick and choose the odd tracks to listen to.

Greg: That’s exactly right! I listen to Spotify etc. myself but I like to be drawn in to a recording. The great albums, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Selling England By The Pound’, albums like that, you put them on, maybe you only intend to listen to a couple of songs, you almost can’t help yourself and they pull you in because they’re so well paced and constructed thematically. You just can’t help yourself and that is what we were trying to do with this one for sure.

Progradar: While the last few albums have all been veery good, to me, ‘The Likes Of Us’ has taken the band back to the heights of ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the ‘English Electric’ duo of releases, do you feel that you are firing on all cylinders and pushing that creativity again?

Greg: To be honest, I think we’re in a battle for survival, David (Longdon) was my musical brother, he was a hugely well loved character and an incredible singer and songwriter. You can’t lose a character like that without potentially losing the heart and soul of the band so, therefore, for us to try to do what we’re trying to do, to carry on and keep the heart of the band going, it is a battle for survival. I think that we can thrive and survive, I am very proud of this album, we sought to look at albums like the ones you mentioned (‘The Underfall Yard’ etc.), learn from what we did then and try and make sure that’s where we are.

One of the things that’s been really beneficial for me is Alberto’s attitude to this. This is a big deal for him as well, he was singing in Italy’s biggest progressive rock band, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), he wasn’t one of the older guys in the band, he wasn’t leading the band like he is in Big Big Train. It’s a big step for him and the way he’s put his heart and soul into it, the way he’s following in David’s footsteps without trying to be another David, on all those things, his judgment’s been very sound all the way through.

He’s had a huge impact on this album with songwriting and he’s mixed it with Rob Aubrey as well, that’s taken a big burden off my shoulders, I’ve been carrying this load for a long time. Without David I was kind of frightened that it would be just me, NDV (Nick D’Virgilio) and Rikard (Sjöblom) carrying the burden but we’ve got Alby, we’ve got Clare and Oskar, we’ve got the people that we need to keep things moving forward.

Progradar: Do you feel that the release of the album and the forthcoming tour is bringing the cathartic process to a close after David’s death?

Greg: It will never completely go away and neither should it, I still think of David every single day and I’m sure I always will. Grief is an interesting thing, time doesn’t heal but time certainly helps the scars close over a little bit. I think the thing with me, NDV and Rikard, the three that have been in the band the longest, we were thinking what else can we do, almost, we had that conversation about whether or not it’s right to continue or whether or not WE want to continue.

We’ve all put our hearts and souls into this, as David did, so we felt that we owed it to ourselves, and also to the memory of David, to try to carry on but what we didn’t want to was just to carry on and try to be David again. It had to be on our terms with a new singer who brought his own thing, his own talents in to it, so that’s how we’ve tried to move forward. Yes, it has been a cathartic experience but it will never completely go away, it just never will.

Big Big Train | Trieste, May 2023 | ph Massimo Goina

Progradar: The current line up seems extremely strong, does it have the longevity of the classic line-up and does it feel strange to be the last original member of the band?

Greg: It does feel strange in that respect, I’m the ‘old guy’ in the band from every aspect, I’m the oldest band member and I’m also the last person from the original line up, there’s also NDV from the re-booted line-up of 2009 of course. I don’t know how it makes me feel to be honest, I’m still carrying the torch for the band. The main thing is, does the music have integrity, does it still carry the hearts and souls and passions? it sounds like a pat answer but it has to have integrity.

I think you can sniff it, sniff if a band is either coasting or doesn’t have integrity in what they’re doing and I think that, on this album, the attention to detail, you can hear how carefully we crafted the material. People might come along and say that their affection for the band’s previous personnel is such that they can’t really go with the new line up, that’s fine, that’s up to them but I hope that they will at least listen and, if they do go, okay, that may not be for me but the band’s got integrity and it’s kept its soul.

Progradar: I think what you were saying there about integrity harks back to the Spotify generation. I use Spotify, 99% of the time for my running playlists but, if someone mentions to me or points out a record, things aren’t cheap anymore and I like buying vinyl. Therefore I’m not going to lay out £30 or £40 on something I haven’t heard, I will check it out on Spotify first and if I like it, then I’ll go buy it! There are certain artists who I have a history with, Big Big Train for instance, and I will buy most things they release without having heard the music.

Greg: I’m no different, there are a handful of bands whose music I will just buy, for a sense of loyalty, a sense of supporting them, Elbow is a good example. I will always buy their records, I haven’t connected as much with the last couple of records they’ve release as I have with some of their earlier stuff but I’ll still support them because they mean something to me as part of my being really.

I’m like you, I use Spotify as a sampling device, it’s a great way of just checking something out. There’s a wall of music out there now, especially for someone like you and the work you do in progressive rock, you must be inundated with stuff. You can’t not use Spotify to check things out otherwise you just end up going bankrupt frankly!

Progradar: Has signing with InsideOut put any requirements on you as a band where, before, the whole creative process and release was controlled by yourselves?

Greg: We signed with them cautiously, it was a big deal for me to actually to become a ‘grown up’ band and sign but they’ve been brilliant. I was so used to us being completely in control of our destiny and that was the fear, that we would lose some degree of control, they’ve been fantastic though. The thing is, Freddy (Palmer) and Thomas Waber, they knew who they were signing so they know what Big Big Train is all about, it’s that 70’s progressive rock vibe, historical songs, that sort of thing. They fully understand it and they understand our back story, that we’ve been used to doing things ourselves.

They’ve been incredibly respectful, will tell us what they think is right and, at the end of the day, they will make the decisions but they listen to us. I feel totally in partnership with them and they want us to do well, it helps them, as well as us, if we do well. InsideOut is part of Sony Music and Sony Japan have got completely behind the album and have had it all translated into Japanese, really pushing us there and maybe, someday, we’ll get out to Japan. We’re delighted with the relationship, people slag record labels off, sometimes for good reason but I couldn’t speak more highly of InsideOut.

Progradar: You said that Alberto has been brought into BBT not just as a vocalist but, also, for his musical skills and songwriting ability. Has this given an extra dimension when you create new music now or has he seamlessly filled the gap left by David?

Greg: I’ve got to the stage in my life where I’ve been through a couple of terrible tragedies recently, David passed away and my stepfather has had a nine month illness which killed him, you read about how dreadful long term illnesses can be and end of life care at the extreme end of that. I’ve been through a couple of very traumatic things in terms of the people around me that I love so I try to find things in life that are positive because I’ve been though so much that has been negative.

One of the positives is the relationship that I have developed with Alberto, he’s become a very dear friend, we’ve been writing songs together, we talk all the time. When we’re on the tour bus he and I get up early in the morning and we go for a walk together and we go and investigate things. We were at a museum, in Copenhagen I think it was, and we were bouncing ideas off each other about what we were seeing there. He’s very much become a musical soulmate and that’s not to diminish in any way, shape or form the relationship I had with David.

I just feel blessed, absolutely blessed, that I’ve got another person in my life, It’s a different relationship but it’s also a very important one. The relationships I’ve got with Rikard and NDV and all the others have all been important to me and I do need those people around me, I’m not a Steven Wilson, I need to bounce things off other people and discuss things with those around me to make the most of what I can do.

Progradar: It is the band’s first tour of the US, was that a difficult thing to organise logistically and how much are you looking forward to playing in the US?

Greg: Logistically everything is difficult to organise with Big Big Train! Along with all the other complexities of having an American drummer, a Swedish guitar player and all the rest, I then go and choose an Italian singer! Our manager was going, oh my god, no, please! It makes everything really hard and more expensive but you’ve got to go with the people you think are the right people to work with and every decision that’s been made with regard to the personnel in the band has been a good call and we’re multi-national and it’s expensive.

The States is a nightmare, it’s a nightmare because the United States government don’t make it easy for bands to get out there and most bands at our level can’t afford to do it, we can only just about afford to do it. As it did during the Covid era, it’s cost us something like ten thousand pounds in visas and also there’s the bureaucratic rigmarole to go up to the embassies and stuff like that. It’s not to be undertaken lightly, we’re going to lose money on that tour, ticket sales are kind of okay, they’re not amazing.

The States is a huge place, us Europeans, we all know it’s a continent but we still struggle to get our heads around quite how much of a continent it is! You’re not dealing with the UK, you’re dealing, effectively, with something the size of Europe and with all the challenges that gives you. It’s a big thing for us but all I can do is look back on the 70’s bands like Genesis, one of the stories I remember is that they played New York and they went down great, they thought they’d conquered America, of course, they hadn’t even started, they’d just dipped their toe in the water in one city in a huge country.

We’re going to try and go through that process if we can, the visas last for a year so, if we can, we’re going to try and get there twice in the year and see how it goes. We need to build the audience across the world, I have to be honest with you, my hunch is that the Cruise (To The Edge) is going to be just as important to playing the States in itself because I think most of the fans on the cruise are American so, hopefully, they enjoy us and go back and spread the word a bit.

Progradar: The band has always had a strong and supportive following in the UK, does playing live in the UK almost feel comfortable now? if that’s the right word?

Greg: The UK is definitely our biggest fanbase so it’s easy to connect with, it’s still very patchy though. We put the tour out there yesterday and it certainly looks like within a week or two the Manchester show will be sold out and Milton Keynes will be sold out but some of the others haven’t sold many tickets at all yet. Obviously, we’ve got a plan over the next six months to sell a lot more tickets, so we hope to get a number of shows sold out, we’ve got to reach regions in the UK that we haven’t been to before, we’re trying to do that. On the continent, we’ve only played one show in Italy, which is bonkers! We need to get there as well.

The truth is, the future of the band has to be an international thing, we need to be able to play across the world, we have to have listeners across the world because the progressive rock audience is dedicated, it’s hardcore but it’s thinly spread, unquestionably it is thinly spread. If we were a prog-metal band, I think we’d be able to access a bigger audience more easily but with the sort of music that we play, sort of 70’s style prog, it’s definitely harder. The UK is a great place to build from but we’ve got to spread the word across the world.

Progradar: Where is your favourite venue to play live?

Greg: My favourite so far has been Loreley because of the scale and the ‘prog’, when you’re on the stage, if a dragon flew past it wouldn’t surprise you! I also love the Boerderij, the Boerderij is brilliant, we’re doing a weekend residency there, so those two venues. The Boerderij is great because it is a brilliant, purpose built venue, the staff there are fantastic supporters of prog rock and the fans come out.

Progradar: Have you already started the creative process for the next album or are concentrating on this one (‘The Likes Of Us’) first?

Greg: No, we have, there’s lots of conversations about when we’re going to record it and where, as you know, this one was recorded in a room together, we’re going to do the same thing with the next album. There’s talk of it being a concept, or part of it will be a concept album, the management are a little wary about that, they’re like, please don’t do that!

We may smuggle in a bit of a concept, maybe half a concept album and then finish it off, I don’t know, we’re still talking about it. There’s lots of writing going on and I’m delighted that Rikard has written a nice long, chunky piece of music, we’re all looking forward to getting our teeth into it and it’s going to be a good thing.

Progradar: What do you see as the future of the band with all the talk about streaming and people not buying physical product as much anymore? I see BBT as a ‘physical’ band and have all the vinyl, you could say that this grates with the Spotify culture?

Greg: There’s definitely a clash of cultures there, the interesting thing is that the record companies own a significant proportion of the streaming sites so they know that’s the future, realistically. I just hope it can be a future that can incorporate the value of physical product, alongside the value of the ease of streaming.

I think the future for us in the next two or three years is we’re going to gig hard but I hope ‘The Likes Of Us’ is a successful album in terms of sales. We’ve had a couple of Top 40 albums in the UK and I think if we can sneak back into the Top 40 then I think it will feel like we’ve got momentum again. There’s a line in the album, ‘make the most of the light left in the day’ which is what we’re trying to do.

Progradar: I think it deserves to be a success, I think it’s up there with ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the ‘English Electric’ albums, I really do!

Greg: Thank you, it’s important, your word carries weight for people that aren’t sure. I’ve read a couple of responses to your review where people are saying, ‘that’s interesting, you obviously really believe in this album’. The reviews are important.

Progradar: Do you have a favourite track on the album or is that like asking you who is your favourite child?

Greg: It’s hard for me to answer that, on different days, different tracks hit me differently. Sometimes I get a big lift from a certain track, sometimes I get a bit of a wobbly lip from other tracks. I’m wimping out but I genuinely can’t say which of the eights track is my favourite.

Progradar; I find it very similar for myself, there’s times when it’s Beneath The Masts, because I love a prog epic but when I was listening to it as I was writing the review, the one that really stood out for me was, well there’s two, I love Love Is The Light, it’s up there with Curator Of Butterflies, in my opinion and then the other one that really hit me was Light Left In The Day. It’s a brilliant opening track, it’s just everything that I feel is brilliant about Big Big Train in one song.

Greg: Yes, it (Light Left In The Day) came together really well, it’s mostly written by Alby. It’s clever, he’s brought together most of the album motifs, which is a really difficult job to do and I added a little bit at the top of it, the ‘tailenders’ thing.

I think what I like about that is that is does set out our stall, you get a bit of 12 string and a vocal, so you hear Alby right at the top and then you get the brass band coming in and it’s like, whoa! there’s a little bit of warmth comes in.

I think the Big Big Train fans of old will be thinking, okay, I’m on steady ground here, and then you get this four minutes of kind of showy musicianship which a prog band does, like an overture thing. I agree, it’s a good starter, it kicks the album off well.

Progradar: Just one last question, recommend me an album that you like, that you are listening to at the moment?

Greg: Okay, I can do, a recent one, an album by The Twenty Committee.

Progradar: I think I wrote the first review of that!

Greg: Fantastic! I really, really like them, Geoffrey Langley is their main guy in the band. In fact, I said to him it reminds me a bit of the band UK and I don’t think he was particularly aware of UK. It’s got some fusion chops in it, he’s a really talented guy, that’s the album I’d recommend. I could say that Radiohead offshoot band but, no, this is a younger band as well, this is a fantastic album, I’m glad you asked that and I’m glad I get to mention them because I think they need to start making waves.

Progradar: So that concludes the questions, hopefully we’ll be able to catch up on the tour, I’m attending the Whitley Bay gig, thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.

Greg: Fantastic, we’ll definitely catch up there and, no problem, it’s been great to chat again.

‘The Likes Of Us’ is released on 1st March, 2024 and can be ordered here:

Big Big Train – Miramare (Single Edit) (

The band hit the road for the US, Europe and UK on 1st March, 2024 and tickets can be ordered here:

Live – Big Big Train

You can read my review of ‘The Likes Of Us’ here:

Review – Big Big Train – The Likes Of Us – Progradar

Review – Big Big Train – The Likes Of Us

“Transitions are a part of life, allowing for perpetual renewal. When you experience the end of one chapter, allow yourself to feel the emotions of loss and rebirth. A bud gives way to a new flower, which surrenders to the fruit, which gives rise to a seed, which yields a new sprout. Even as you ride the roller coaster, embrace the centred internal reference of the ever-present witness.” ~ David Simon

I’ve been a fan of Big Big Train since David Longdon first sang on their seminal album ‘The Underfall Yard’ in 2009 and they began that run of English pastoral progressive rock classics that continued with the two ‘English Electric’ volumes (released 2012 and 2013 respectively) and ‘Folklore’, released in 2016. In fact, I’ll never forget going to the launch of ‘Folklore’ at the Real World Studios in Box, Wiltshire, an amazing weekend of music and friendship that cemented my affection for this wonderful band.

The unexpected loss of David in late 2021 put a cloud over the band and their future but one that has gradually lifted with the announcement of Alberto Bravin as the new lead vocalist and the rebirth of the band has come full circle with the release of ‘The Likes Of Us’, Big Big Train’s fifteenth studio album. This new album is the internationally-based group’s first full collection of songs since David Longdon passed away. Besides marking the debut of new frontman Alberto, a former member of the Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM for short), it also heralds the beginning of a new relationship with the Sony Music imprint InsideOut, the group having self-released their music via a label called English Electric for almost two decades.

Since his appointment in the springtime of 2022, Bravin has become more than just a lead singer for Big Big Train. His name appears in the writing credits against five of the eight numbers featured on ‘The Likes Of Us’, and in a massive departure for the group Alberto also stepped up to co-mix the album along with the band’s longstanding engineer Rob Aubrey. Drummer Nick D’Virgillio and co-founding bassist Gregory Spawton had seen Bravin performing with PFM several years ago. Aware that the affable Italian seemed potentially to have the voice to make things work within the context of BBT, Spawton noted his name for his own possible future solo project. However, amid the process of his appointment, little or no discussion took place over what else Alberto might bring to the table beyond the fact that he also played keyboards and guitar.

“I reached out to Alberto purely as a vocalist, not as a songwriter or a friend, but he has become all of those things,” Spawton comments. “I always need somebody to bounce ideas off, and for the second time in my life, after David, I have another musical companion. Finding Alberto, who pays respect to the band’s traditions but also brings his own ideas and amazing energy, has been a miracle. I’m incredibly blessed.”

“I had no idea whether or not the guys would be interested in the other things that I felt I was capable of doing,” Bravin adds. “But luckily they did, and everything has progressed so naturally. Like Greg, I too have sought a musical partner all my life. I’m proud of the two albums I did with my previous band [PFM] and write a lot, but I’ve never had the opportunity to do something like this. Together with this extraordinary group of people I think we have made a beautiful album.”

“Initially, I wasn’t sure whether carrying on [after Longdon’s passing] was the right thing to do, though David and I knew each other so well that we did actually have a conversation during which he told me that should anything happen to him, the band had to continue,” Spawton relates sadly. “BBT was a big part of David’s musical life and it was his wish that the songs he wrote should continue to be heard. We will never forget David; it goes without saying that he is a big part of our story.

“But,” he continues, “had Alby been even only a little bit different [from Longdon] then I’m not sure that it would have been possible. It just might not have worked.”

“Step up to the mark, Make the most, Of the light, Left in the day.”

It’s a magical moment for me as the delicate vocal begins to open Light Left In The Day, a mainly instrumental album opener that sees the every so classy brass section join in as the music gently washes over you. The calm of the opening then gives way to symphonic crescendo of guitar, keys, drums and bass along with brass flourishes as we are treated to an utterly uplifting piece of music that is definitively Big Big Train at their absolute magnificent best. Honestly, tears of emotion threatened to overwhelm me at what I was listening to, the repeated keyboard motif, what an utterly marvellous way to open the album.

“Life was never easy, Walking uphill, Turning his cheek, It became his best skill, Was it something he said, Or could have done? Fade into oblivion.”

Oblivion is a powerful statement of musical intent, the bombastic opening with a crushing guitar riff, thunderous drums and Greg’s stylish bass knocks you off your feet and then Alberto’s vocal begins, this man can really sing, he has a distinctive vocal style of his own but, somewhere in the back of your mind, you feel a little bit of David Longdon’s emphasis in his delivery, a smile and a nod to carrying the torch onward. Then it’s gone, just a fleeting moment, the harmonised chorus is a delight and the fantastic musicianship is all that is good about this band, Dave Foster’s guitar work is intricate and yet dynamic at the same time, this is a song that shows a group of highly talented musicians in perfect harmony and they deliver a track that is potent and moving at the same time.

“On the streets far below, Car lights dance as workers journey home, One last time we sat alone, Words unsaid remain unspoken.”

Victorian Brickwork, The Underfall Yard, East Coast Racer, Curator Of Butterflies, Brooklands, these are all song titles that every BBT fan will instantly recognise, classic epics which the band have become synonymous with and which always bring the house down when played live. You can now add Beneath The Masts to that list, a song cast in BBT’s time-honoured storytelling style. Greg was born in Sutton Coldfield, in the midlands of the UK, and close to where he grew up there exist two huge radio masts.

“For the best part of my youth they were there, lights blinking on and off, to the backdrop of my early formative years,” he explains. In later years the bassist moved to the south coast of England, and it wasn’t until returning to the area of his childhood that the subject of the two masts returned to his consciousness.

“That visit, to see my beloved stepfather who was suffering from a terminal illness, triggered the song,” Spawton explains. “The hospice in which he was being treated was between those masts. Being tethered to the ground, I realised they are symbolic of my Midlands roots,” he continues. “It’s a sad song but it has a surprisingly upbeat ending that reminds us we are always part of a bigger whole.”

It’s a wonderful seventeen minutes plus of wistful, sepia-tinged nostalgic storytelling that instantly draws you into Greg’s world, the tender music and Alberto’s softly emotive vocal just add drama to the song. Clare Lindley really gets to shine on this track, her violin playing is utterly sublime but then again, every single one of these musicians is adding their own skill to the complete whole. As in the best BBT epics, the song builds slowly, adding layers of musicality all the time. This isn’t just music, it is art, there is huge skill involved in creating something as good as this, adding wonder for the listener, taking you on a fantastic musical journey with every twist and turn. I hope Alberto Bravin doesn’t mind me saying this but, while not sounding directly like David Longdon, his vocal performance here really does bring back to mind that incredible vocalist and also conflicting emotions but it is happiness that wins over the sadness and I’m sure David would be really proud of Alberto. Again, Dave Foster delivers some incendiary guitar playing and the brass section send shivers down your spine once more. Greg’s stylish bass playing, Nick’s dynamic drumming, Oskar Holldorf and Rikard Söjblom both adding keys and more emotive guitar, it’s all there and, as this quite wonderful piece of music comes to a close, I don’t mind admitting that there is a tear in my eye, bravo to you all!

Big Big Train | Trieste, May 2023 | ph Massimo Goina

“It’s time to get your skates on, We’re only here for so long, Time to get your skates on, We’re here and then gone.”

Harking back to the band’s pastoral progressive roots, Skates On seems to be telling us to make the most of our lives, it’s a more acoustic number that skips along quite lightly and with a nod to the classic middle England days of the 20’s and 30’s. Uplifting vocals and music that has a definite deftness and lighter touch combine to deliver something quite contemplative and reflective, “Make those memories, Live your dreams, We’re just a flare on a lens, The house will still be dusty, When the kids have flown, When you are gone…”

“Far away from all they have known, They will dream of home, There at the edge of a distant land, New walls rise on old stone.”

Alberto had a storytelling idea of his own, rooted in his own childhood. All he sought was help in bringing it to life. When the singer raised the subject of Miramare, a 19th century castle in Spain that had been built by the order of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife Carlotta of Belgium, a lightbulb went off in Greg’s head. He bought three giant books on the subject of the castle’s former residents to transform Alberto’s musical sketch into a full-blown musical novel. More than ten minutes in duration, Miramare marked the first significant collaboration between the pair, setting the bar at an astonishing level for the album that followed.

“It’s like a Shakespearean tragedy, with madness involved, and he [Maximilian] ends up before a firing squad,” Spawton states. “Alberto handed me the story on a plate.”

Telling stories is how music really started, troubadours singing tales around campfires, that’s how news passed from remote village to remote village and that’s at the heart of everything that Big Big Train create. When it is done as well as this then it is something quite remarkable to behold and the songwriting skill has to be applauded. Miramare is like a glorious ten minute audiobook set to music and you are drawn deep into this compelling and tragic tale as Alberto’s voice dominates proceedings, almost hypnotic in its timbre and delivery and the music is just exquisite, Clare’s violin imbuing some of the heartfelt passion that the story invokes. The highs and lows are superbly created and the crescendos reached are irresistible, Greg has really found another songwriting soul mate in Alberto and the partnership promises so much to come, musical storytelling really doesn’t get much better than this.

“Love is the light, Hiding in the corner of my eye, Love is your smile.”

I doubt you will hear a piece of music quite as beautiful as Love Is The Light this year, or any other come to mind. Poignant and heartfelt from the start, as Clare’s yearning violin plays, it’s a song that majors on Alberto’s gracefully profound vocals and the utterly mesmerising brass section, led once again by Dave Desmond. Ethereal and exquisite from start to finish, you find yourself lost in the moment, rooted to the spot, as the world carries on without you. This stunning song then reaches new heights with an incredibly moving, soulful guitar solo, one of those moments in an album that you will always cherish.

“One day we rode out, Side by side, For the last time, Nobody there, Knew we’d not, Ride together again.”

My whole body shivers as if someone has walked over my grave, Alberto’s vocal at the start of Bookmarks is a dead ringer for David’s, it’s uncanny and memories come flooding back. Another song that harks back to the future with a feel of classic BBT and the English pastoral prog they are so well known for. Initially, quite a subtle and subdued piece of music where keyboards, mellotron and vocal are all that is required to create a hushed, almost mesmeric, atmosphere. When the music builds, it does so carefully, still relying on the elegant, harmonised vocals to be centric to everything. A nostalgic, wistful track that flows serenely along with the accompaniment of the graceful guitars and violin.

“Shallow enders, Last eleven, Are we nearly there yet?, Can the likes of us, Find a place to call our own?”

None of the album’s eight songs were worked on with David Longdon. Although originally intended for an album entitled ‘Shallow Enders’ that never came to fruition, Last Eleven, the first song heard with Alberto’s voice, was written during the lifetime of his predecessor. An urgent guitar opens the song, there is feel of movement and pace about the music and Alberto’s high energy vocal delivery and Nick’s drumming is animated and spirited. An ode to the ones that make up the numbers, the oversights and the extras, it’s a track full of hope and optimism and that can be felt through the music and its catchy, infectious rhythm. A really uplifting and upbeat way to close out the album and one that leaves you almost breathless but full of confidence and belief, “Shallow enders, Last eleven, Are we nearly there yet? Can the likes of us, Find a place to call our own?”

What an emotional rollercoaster, I have spent the last four weeks listening to ‘The Likes Of Us’ at every opportunity. In the best tradition of Big Big Train albums of the past, it is not merely a collection of songs, it is a musical masterpiece that becomes part of your life and, for me, that means this album stands tall with the likes of ‘The Underfall Yard’ and English Electric’ 1 & 2. I know it is early in the year but it is going to take something incredibly special to topple this off the top of album of the year list and, for a long time fan of the band, that fills me with joy and makes me very happy indeed!

Released 1st March, 2024.

Order the album here:

Big Big Train – Miramare (Single Edit) (

Big Big Train launch video for ‘Miramare’; second track taken from ‘The Likes Of Us’

The award-winning progressive rock band Big Big Train will release their 15th studio album ‘The Likes Of Us’ on 1st March 2024 (InsideOutMusic). The album is the internationally-based group’s first full collection of songs since the unexpected passing of long-serving lead vocalist David Longdon in late 2021. Besides marking the debut of new frontman Alberto Bravin, a former member of the Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi, it also heralds the beginning of a new relationship with InsideOutMusic, the group having self-released their music for almost two decades. 

Today the band are pleased to reveal a second track taken from the forthcoming album. ‘Miramare’ is an edited version of a song that features in a longer format on ‘The Likes Of Us’. You can watch the video for ‘Miramare’, created by Miles Skarin of Crystal Spotlight, here:

Gregory Spawton comments of the track: “BBT is known for its story songs, and I was keen to find a story which is set in Italy. Alberto lives in Trieste and mentioned the story of Maximilian and Carlotta, which was both a romantic (but doomed) love story and also a tale of the end of empires. 

Miramare was their castle home, a castle of dreams, set on the shore just outside Trieste. It turned out to be a grand folly and a place of madness and nightmares. Alberto had written a lovely piece of music and melody to set the words to and so it was simply a process of reading some books on the history and finding the way to tell the story.”

Alberto Bravin adds: “Having grown up in Trieste, and recently returned here after living for some years in London and Milan, the Miramare castle has been a backdrop for most of my life. 

Putting the story of Maximilian and Carlotta into music with Greg has been hugely satisfying for me. It was very fulfilling to co-write this song together and create what will hopefully be regarded as a Big Big Train future classic. With all its twists and turns as the story progresses, Miramare should be great to play live as well.”

Watch the recently released clip for ‘Oblivion’ here:

‘The Likes Of Us’ will be released on several different formats, including for the first time as Dolby Atmos mixed by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, while the stereo mixes were undertaken by the band’s regular engineer Rob Aubrey together with Alberto Bravin. The Dolby Atmos mix will come as part of the Limited CD & Blu-ray Mediabook edition that also contains the album as 5.1 Surround Sound & 24-bit high-resolution stereo. The album will also be available as a Gatefold 180g 2LP (available in black, sky blue, olive green and orange formats), Standard CD Jewelcase and Digital Album. The stunning artwork was created by the band’s longstanding collaborator Sarah Louise Ewing, with layouts by Steve Vantsis.

Pre-order now here:

Big Big Train – Miramare (Single Edit) (

The album’s full track listing is as follows:

1.     Light Left In The Day 06:10

2.     Oblivion 05:27

3.     Beneath The Masts 17:26

4.     Skates On 04:28

5.     Miramare 10:17

6.     Love Is The Light 06:11

7.     Bookmarks 06:23

8.     Last Eleven 07:55

Big Big Train will perform for the first ever time in the USA in March 2024, including an appearance on Cruise To The Edge. The full list of shows can be found below:

1st March – Sweetwater Performance Theatre, Fort Wayne, Indiana

2nd March – Rivoli Theater at the Williams Center, Rutherford, New Jersey

3rd March – Rivoli Theater at the Williams Center, Rutherford, New Jersey

5th March – Regent Theatre, Arlington (Boston), Massachusetts

8th-13th March – Cruise To The Edge, Miami, Florida

The band have also confirmed two summer 2024 festival appearances at the final Night of the Prog Festival in Germany on 21st July, and Cropredy Festival in the UK on 9th August.

Look out for more dates to be announced soon.

ALBERTO BRAVIN – Lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

NICK D’VIRGILIO – Drums, percussion, vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar, vocals

DAVE FOSTER – Guitars 

OSKAR HOLLDORFF – Keyboards, vocals

CLARE LINDLEY – Violin, vocals 

RIKARD SJÖBLOM – Guitars, keyboards, vocals

GREGORY SPAWTON – Bass guitar, bass pedals, 12-string acoustic guitar, Mellotron

Featured image by Massimo Goina.

Big Big Train announce new studio album ‘The Likes Of Us’; launch first single ‘Oblivion’

The award-winning progressive rock band Big Big Train will release their 15th studio album ‘The Likes Of Us’ on 1st March 2024. The album is the internationally-based group’s first full collection of songs since the unexpected passing of long-serving lead vocalist David Longdon in late 2021. Besides marking the debut of new frontman Alberto Bravin, a former member of the Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi, ‘The Likes Of Us’ also heralds the beginning of a new relationship with InsideOutMusic, the group having self-released their music for almost two decades. 

The band comments: “We are delighted to announce the release of ‘The Likes Of Us’. After the events of the last few years, this is a particularly important album for us, both as a band and individually. We’re very proud of the new songs, which we recorded principally in a studio in Italy. Working together in one room brought additional inspiration, real energy and a clear sense of purpose. We’re thrilled with the results.”

To coincide with this announcement, the band have launched the first single from the album, a track titled ‘Oblivion’ which the band were seen performing on their UK and European tour in August and September 2023. The video was filmed by Tim Sidwell of Toward Infinity at Urban Recording Studio in Trieste, and you can watch the clip here:

Big Big Train – Oblivion (

‘The Likes Of Us’ will be released on several different formats, including for the first time as Dolby Atmos mixed by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, while the stereo mixes were undertaken by the band’s regular engineer Rob Aubrey together with Alberto Bravin. The Dolby Atmos mix will come as part of the Limited CD & Blu-ray Mediabook edition that also contains the album as 5.1 Surround Sound & 24-bit high-resolution stereo. The album will also be available as a Gatefold 180g 2LP (available in black, sky blue, olive green and orange formats), Standard CD Jewelcase and Digital Album. The stunning artwork was created by the band’s longstanding collaborator Sarah Louise Ewing, with layouts by Steve Vantsis. 

Pre-order now here:

The album’s full track listing is as follows:

1.     Light Left In The Day 06:10

2.     Oblivion 05:27

3.     Beneath The Masts 17:26

4.     Skates On 04:28

5.     Miramare 10:17

6.     Love Is The Light 06:11

7.     Bookmarks 06:23

8.     Last Eleven 07:55

In May 2023, six members of Big Big Train left their homes in England (bassist Gregory Spawton, guitarist Dave Foster and violinist Clare Lindley), the United States (drummer Nick D’Virgilio), Sweden (guitarist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom) and Norway (keyboardist Oskar Holldorff) to gather for a week in lead vocalist Alberto Bravin’s home town of Trieste in north eastern Italy. They convened at Urban Recording, a studio recommended by Alberto, to lay down the basic tracks for the band’s new studio album ‘The Likes Of Us’. Being face to face in a room, as opposed to emailing sound files, the intimacy of the process generated moments of inspiration that would otherwise have gone unheard.

The process would prove emotional. “There were some tears; I cried a few of my own,” recalls D’Virgilio. “There are many reasons to explain why we hadn’t worked that way in quite a while, but the process brought out the best in everybody.”

“These were stories from our lives and we have a deep, personal connection with them,” Spawton remembers. “If there was blood on the tracks, we did everything possible to let that sink into the music.”

On the group’s most recent tour, two selections from ‘The Likes Of Us’ – first single ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Love Is The Light’ – were introduced to an ecstatic audience response. During a tidal wave of rebirth and celebration for Big Big Train, Alberto Bravin was accepted as one of the family. Indeed, the chemistry of the band’s latest line-up has delivered mouth-watering results. “We’ve got a great mix of people that want to be here and go the extra mile to do something very special,” D’Virgilio concludes. “There’s a big world of talented musicians out there, and luckily some of them want to hang out with us.”

ALBERTO BRAVIN – Lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

NICK D’VIRGILIO – Drums, percussion, vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar, vocals

DAVE FOSTER – Guitars 

OSKAR HOLLDORFF – Keyboards, vocals

CLARE LINDLEY – Violin, vocals 

RIKARD SJÖBLOM – Guitars, keyboards, vocals

GREGORY SPAWTON – Bass guitar, bass pedals, 12-string acoustic guitar, Mellotron