I had a great start into the new year and spent the first weekend of 2019 at a songwriting retreat in the beautiful Waldviertel in Lower Austria. As you all know, I started to write my own songs a couple of months ago and I soon felt the need to get more insight, find out if I’m doing it right (hello fraud police…) and how other people tackle that task. Not many songwriting workshops are offered here in Austria though so I was really happy when I found this special weekend long offer at GEA Akademie.
The workshops started on Friday with a group of 13 people attending and our coach for the weekend Jimmy Schlager. He’s a super laid back guy who writes and sings poetic, funny songs with a twist in Austrian dialect. It was really nice to get to know him and get some insights on how he approaches songwriting and storytelling.
So, we started off Friday night with a little introduction round and some first thoughts from our coach. I mentioned that I usually write in English which wasn’t received all too well. I came totally prepared to write in German, but the thought still made me a little uneasy. I did get the chance to play some of my original songs (in English) for the group though and their sweet and appreciating feedback did feed my self esteem nicely and kept the fraud police at bay for once.
The next 1,5 days everyone was mostly writing on their own while our coach Jimmy made the rounds to support us and give us feedback on what we’re working on. And on Saturday morning I found this nice and cosy spot for working on my first German song.
The night before it seemed like a daunting task, but I woke up with some first lyrics and a melody which was a good start and the first song came along quite quickly. It’s called “Intervall” and is about our busy lives and how certain preset time frames affect us. It’s alright but kinda cliché and I wasn’t too happy with it (and I’m still not). Will probably share it with you in the next weeks.
Since there was time and still some inspiration coming, I started a second song Saturday afternoon. I’ve been wanting to write a song about walking oder public space for quite a while (those are topics very close to my heart) and this second song came out pretty easy as well. There’s a first version of it at the end of this blog entry and I’ll post a bit of an improved version in the next couple of weeks. I wasn’t really in love with it at first, but now that I worked on it a little bit and enjoy it a lot.
As you can imagine sitting all by ourselves and writing wasn’t everything we did. The workshop group was pretty diverse with ages ranging from late 20s up to mid 70s and all of them very interesting people. There was even someone I had met at the ukulele retreat I attended last year. I had a great time chatting with everyone, exchanging experiences in songwriting and how we approach things. There was also lots of time to get people a bit more privately to find out what inspires their songs and fuels their thoughts.
What I particularly enjoyed was the time we all had after dinner. We would sit together, play songs, sing and just have fun. There was this certain chemistry that made being together so smooth and seamless, as if we’ve all been friends for years. So thanks to all who were there and sparked this feeling in me.
Some of you constant readers probably remember, that I’m usually not too comfortable playing with other people. But this was totally different. There was no expectation of it sounding a certain way or doing it perfectly. It was just a fun thing to play together and I even got accompanied on one of my songs with a bass tuba (I believe there’s video evidence of it, but probably nothing to share in public). These evenings were probably my favorite part of the weekend. I’m having a hard time to get out of my head and just let go and I feel I was able to do that a little bit.
Which brings me to my conclusions of my first songwriting retreat. I was so scared to write in my native language and both German song lyrics I wrote stayed on a very superficial level. I’ve been contemplating where that fear is coming from ever since, and why I’m having such a hard time expressing feelings in German.
I like having control over myself – I’m not one who lets go easily and I’ve built up this huge wall that not a lot of people get through. Getting my feelings down in German would mean to completely expose myself in front of everyone I personally know. With English it’s easier cause it’s probably not as personal. I do get my personal feelings down on paper and sing it, but the audience is usually not as close to me.
I really thought that I’m already there and I’m able to tear down that wall with my songs, but I guess there’s still a long way to go…
Sunday noon all of us had the opportunity to play and sing the songs we wrote this weekend in front of our group and participants from other courses. I am totally fine to play in front of a little group while sitting amongst them. But as soon as I hit a stage my hands start shaking, I stop breathing regularly and it’s just a huge mess.
But here’s the video of my perfomance anyway. Thanks for taping it Alex 🙂