West Sussex army veteran rebuilds his life through music
Horsham army veteran Liam Wakefield is fighting illness with music.
His latest project is as singer on the new single I Keep Walkin’ from the band Coolstar.
Liam’s vocals are backed up by the Coolstar rhythm section which includes Mike Hugg of The Manfreds (Manfred Mann) on keyboards and Ian Duck (Hookfoot and Elton John) on harmonica. The strings are by Graham Preskett, who part-arranged and plays on the classic Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty and has worked with Cher, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Jon Bon Jovi and Hans Zimmer among others.
During lockdown Liam has also been working on his own musical projects – all part of his new life as he prepares to officially leave the army this December.
Liam joined the British army at 19 and served on Op Herrick 15 with 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, but his army days are now numbered following a diagnosis of pseudoxanthoma elasticum – a debilitating condition which left him in constant pain, caused his eyesight to falter and led to him suffering depression.
“Being told I can’t be a soldier anymore was the most heart-breaking moment of my life, so to be able to pick a guitar up and turn to music with as much passion as I had for soldiering has been the thing that has saved me from a really dark place,” Liam says.
“I am losing my eyesight. I have lost most of my left eye, and the right could go at any time. I also have chronic pain and also chronic fatigue, and I am just trying to live life as I can alongside of that. I will be discharged because of it in December. We have been going through all the care plans. The army have been fantastic. They really have.
“It’s a genetic disease. It’s really rare. It’s just one of those things. I have just been unlucky, so that’s the end of the army for me. But it has been really, really hard. It was my career and wanting to provide for the family. It has taken its toll, but you have just got to adapt, and that’s when I turned to music again.
“I did music years and years ago before I was in the army. I did local bands in Horsham and we all went to The Forest School. We did local battle of the bands and went off to play in London. It was really good. But it got to the point where I needed a life change so I shaved my head and joined the army!”
Music is now key again. Liam describes the Coolstar single as having a Traveling Wilburys feel – “one man’s journey going on… it’s a nice song, and I am very happy to be part of it.”
Liam’s own music he describes as Americana: “It’s acoustic original song-writing, more poetry based really. It is something that has been building up since I got diagnosed. I headlined the O2 Academy in Islington last year. It has been stopped by the whole coronavirus stuff, and I have taken this time to write and record and to do some session work.
“I wrote and recorded an EP which we released and that did fantastic.
“It would be good to get an album put together but if you can’t back it up with touring then it is wasted. The idea is to get an album out there and support it with tour dates, but obviously I can’t at the moment.”
It’s also about managing his condition: “I had points where I was doing (gigs) three or four times a week and then I would struggle and have problems with fatigue. I would be bedridden for a day.
“I can still drive, but not as much now. I rely on others or will get the train. I have got rely on help whereas before I would drive for five or six hours. I just can’t really do that now.”