The Boat That We Built

Sailing their baby!

Online Live Screening & Post-screening Rendezvous Sunday 31st May 11am UK & 8pm AEST 
Just click on the link to join the video hangout anytime here. No google account, exceptional technical abilities or need to leave the house required. We’ll play the video every half hour and be around to natter and catch up with you all. It’d be great to see your beautiful faces!

Artist Emma Johnson’s collaboration with partner, musician Dan Licht and ceramic artist Anton Todd.

The Boat That We Built is a song Dan wrote and recorded as a kind of farewell and epilogue to a particularly turbulent time in his life. HERE IT IS! FEEL FREE TO SHARE……

As a celebration for the release of the animation for ‘The Boat That We Built’ we are giving away 2 signed copies of the Samsara Sun – ‘White Soul Black Hearts’ album with limited edition, original lino-print artwork by Jenny Mai Hall. To win yourself a copy, sign up to my mailing list by July 30th. Two names will be plucked out of the hat randomly (trust me, no favouritism!).

The Boat That We Built in both song and in its visual representation is essentially an elaborate metaphor for grief, loss of identity and ultimately the letting go required to move on.

The genesis of the song was born out of two overlapping ideas.

Following the tragic, random murder of my close friend and long time musical collaborator Darren Jones, I was often asked about plans for the future, my musical ambitions and the fate of the group I was in with Darren, The DFG. Too devastated to think much about music let alone contemplate the future, I often referred to the body of work Darren & I had created as like a ship we’d built together, sailing out over the horizon, out of sight and now seemingly out of my control. 

The emotional turmoil following Darren’s murder left me longing for the innocence of childhood. Memories of time spent with my mother’s family in Newcastle in the north of England where I could see the ship building cranes from the room I shared with my brother and the subsequent demise of this industry provided me with an ideal metaphor  for my own sense of loss.

My partner, Artist Emma Johnson & I storyboarded ideas for a music clip following the journey of a boat in a bottle. During this gestation period we met a ceramic artist, Anton Todd, whose work resonated and appeared perfectly suited to the sombre quirkiness that we had in mind. The final clip blends hand-drawn animation with stop-motion using Anton’s ceramic buildings and the little boat. 


Dan Licht – If I Only Could (D.Licht) / Always Find A Way (H.King) Medley – Live @ Old Hall, East Bergholt, UK

If I Only Could (Dan Licht). “If I Only Could” is the final song on “White Soul Black Hearts” and was added as something of an afterthought. I originally wrote and demo’d this song with a dirge like piano accompaniment before I picked up the tempo a little, adapted it to mandolin and recorded it with layered harmonies as a duet with my old singing partner from the DFG days, Neesy Smith. My brother Josh also added evocative low whistle and understated drums.
Always Find A Way (Heath King). Heath King was a dear friend and a remarkable musical talent with an exquisite and formidable vocal range. He contributed his dulcet tones and helped me arrange the backing harmonies for my album “White Soul Black Hearts” and was going to help me finish the mixing before his untimely passing. The original version of this beautiful R&B ballad can be found on his posthumously released album “Desert”.

This performance was recorded live in the Queen Anne Room at Old Hall in East Bergholt, Suffolk, UK in May 2015.

The Boat That We Built and On The Run Medley

The Boat That We Built / On The Run – Live @ The Chapel of St. Mary Tory, Bradford-on-Avon

With the demise of the ship building industry in the north of England in mind I wrote ‘The Boat That We Built’ as a kind of metaphor for the ending of a significant period in my life. I also thought it would serve as a fitting epilogue/final chapter for the Samsara Sun ‘White Soul Black Hearts‘ album. As it turned out it became the second last song on the album.
‘On The Run’ was written by my close friend and long time collaborator the late Darren Jones. This beautiful song, in my mind, perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being torn between those we love and the chasm that can exist between the reality of the present and the nostalgia of the past. It is indeed a privelidge to perform this song in Darren’s absence.

The Boat That We Built (D.Licht) / On The Run (D.Jones) performed at The Chapel of St. Mary Tory in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, UK.

These songs were recorded and filmed by Emma Johnson at the chapel of St Mary Tory, Bradford on Avon, March 2015.


In A Northern Town

My mother’s family live in Newcastle, in the north of England. My partner Emma & I travelled from there, down the east coast of England in 2012. We passed through a very beautiful fishing village called Staithes, which inspired this song.


In A Northern Town – Live @ 3MDR97.1fm on Now & Then, Wednesdays 3pm – 5pm with Neesy Smith & Victoria Bonte.

Dan Licht – vocal & mandolin, Emma Johnson – acoustic guitar.

This performance is featured on the amazing ‘Mountain of Sound 2014’ compilation album, released by Mountain District Radio –

Recorded & Mastered by David Miller @ 3MDR Mountain District Radio 97.1fm /


Live in Monmouth, Wales

In our travels through the mythical and magical border country of the idyllic Wye Valley we found ourselves in Monmouth, Wales. To take respite from the inclement weather, we ventured into the beautiful, old St. Mary’s Priory Church where upon I discovered a grand piano. My partner Emma suggested she record and film me performing a couple of songs. I agreed this was superb idea, particularly as there was no one else around and it was a perfect impromptu opportunity. Why I chose these particular songs I’m not quite sure other than perhaps they fitted the solemnity of the surroundings.

Follow Me Down (D.Licht) / People Get Ready (C.Mayfield) Medley – Live @ St. Mary’s Priory Church, Monmouth, Wales.

‘Follow Me Down’ was a song I wrote during a particularly sad and soul-searching time in my life. I later recorded it for the Samsara Sun album, ‘White Soul Black Hearts’.

Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’ is a song I have been performing for many years. It’s a song I rarely perform the same way twice. Although this is ostensibly a gospel song, and I am more of an Atheist persuasion, I feel this song, like the best gospel music, expresses as much about the human condition as anything overtly religious.

Listen & purchase ‘White Soul Black Hearts’ here

Bird On A Wire (L.Cohen) – Live @ Monmouth, Wales

Leonard Cohen is hands down one of my favourite songwriters, and this is one of the most achingly beautiful songs of redemption ever written. I was particularly inspired by Aaron Neville’s interpretation of this song.

Recorded & filmed at St. Mary’s Priory Church, in Monmouth, Wales.

Dan Licht in Peterborough

Hanging out in the UK

Emma & I stopped in Peterborough, England a while when in transit to Newcastle. We found this beautiful, artfully painted subway leading into the town, and tried a few video sequences for a possible film clip to one of the songs on White Soul Black Hearts. Emma took this photo while we were there.

Dan Licht in Peterborough