Meet Neo: homeless by choice, musician by chance, and social activist by conviction. He’s been a silver-service waiter to royalty, trained with the British karate team, travelled – homeless – around the world, and recorded a remarkable album just 10 months after he first picked up a guitar. He’s packed about a dozen ordinary lifetimes into his 45 years, but this, he tells us from behind his rockstar dark glasses, is just the beginning.
I met Neo on the streets of Oxford when his voice and the song he was playing stopped me dead. Rocking his self-described ‘gothic cowboy’ look, he’s been called a male Adele by some… and they may not be far from the mark. Music industry aficionados have begun to take note and he’s soon to appear on the TV show ‘The Voice’, but he’s not looking for fame. He wants to change how we understand homelessness and support people trying to get off the streets.
Neo’s vision is to create a Crisis Centre run by the homeless, for the homeless – a place sensitive to each person’s background and needs, unlike the often toxic, spreadsheet-driven environments government and council programmes create. Retired doctors and nurses are already pledging their support and Neo’s donating 100% of the profits from his music to raise the £3 million they need to make the Centre a reality. And even that is just the beginning.
This podcast will challenge everything you think you know about homelessness, inequality, and life on the margins of society. With a roll-up wedged between his lips, Neo opens up about a life few of us can imagine but all of us can identify with. We talk about love, loss, violence, family, music, mental health, and much more besides. It was, without exaggeration, a privilege to spend time with him, and to share this conversation with you here.
This is the second episode of ‘Talking the Walk’, the show that brings you conversations with interesting people doing cool and unusual things. We’ll talk about life, people, philosophy, music, politics… Quality pub conversations with a microphone, in short.SUBSCRIBE on iTunes
What we get into:
- Conspiracy theories and religions
- The blurry lines between living peacefully and being asleep at the wheel of your own life
- The way rich people act
- Living on the streets, travelling around Europe
- Violence on the streets; how to protect yourself and keep fit
- The wisdom of Bruce Lee
- Why Neo is homeless by choice
- How we become conditioned by our environment, whatever it may be
- Is technology killing our humanity?
- Befriending swans, geese and other animals
- On being evicted… from a field
- The difference between money and freedom
- How to live ethically on the margins of society, in often desperate conditions
- Neo’s vision to create a Crisis Centre to make up for how the government and council fails
- Don’t pretend to understand someone else’s suffering if you want to help them
- How he found music – and only a handful of months later he was making complete strangers cry with the truth and emotion of his songs
- How music can break down barriers and help people you’ve never even met… and help you rediscover memories you thought you’d buried
- Quantum physics and the power of imagination
- Neo’s plans to promote his album around England by boat
Mentioned in the Episode:
- The Matrix
- Blenheim Palace, where Churchill grew up and where Neo learnt to be a chef and a silver service waiter
- The music video Neo mentions, of his song ‘Love’
- Terence McKenna on why ‘culture is not your friend’
- Our friend Zofia and her social enterprise café and other mental health awareness projects: find out more on Facebook and on this website