It’s been quite a while since I was able to join a songwriting retreat. The last one I did was the Ukulele Songwriters Camp in Berlin in February 2020. You all know what happened afterwards, so here we are. I was really excited to join Brett Perkins at his retreat and venture into a week of co-writing.
So here’s how it works. Every day you get assigned a different writing partner and a new prompt/assignment to work on. I’ve done some co-writing before in groups of 3-4 people in Berlin. But I’m really excited to see what it’s like to write with one partner.
Day 1 Alan Roy Scott
My week started with Alan Roy Scott. Go check him out, he is a really experienced and successful songwriter. So it was an honor for me to spend the day with him, writing, chatting and just generally watch and learn. It was interesting to see how his songwriting process works. Our prompt for the day was to start out with the melody. I was impressed what he can do with just a little line of melody or some key words for lyrics. In about roughly six hours, we actually had a finished song. TBH Alan did most of the work and writing. I was observing a lot, trying to get it all down and take it in. But I’m still proud that I got to be part of it and I did contribute a little 😉 The song is called “Life happens”. And I really hope I get to share it with all of you sometime.
Day 2 Gudny Olafsdottir
On day two I got to work with Gudny Olafsdottir. Born in Iceland, she’s been living in Denmark for many years and after some time in the corporate world, she’s now back into making music full time. We hit it off well from the start, had some interesting conversations and just overall a good time together. I guess our writing process is kinda similar, that made it easy to connect and write together. The assignment was to start out with the lyrics today – by first observing (people, a scene,…) and then taking the story writing from there. There was this really awesome lady that captured both of our attention. She had purple hair and was strolling over a bridge at 11:30 in the morning while eating ice-cream. So we wrote a song about her. The song is called “Purple Lady” and I’m sure you will here it soon. So stay tuned.
Day 3 Hanse Rørbæk
The prompt for day 3 was a rhythm game challenge. I got paired up with Hanse, a local from Denmark who’s been making music and writing songs for many years. He is an extremely proficient guitar player and we started our songwriting session with finding rhythms, either in our surroundings, or making some up ourselves. As many of you know, I’m a bit rhythmically challenged, so I was really happy that I had Hanse by my side, who got a mean beat down that got us started with our song. It proofed to be a great inspiration for our song called “I can’t wait”. It was also nice to just spend the day together and get to know each other. The song is not completely finished I guess, but I like it a lot, so yes, you’ll get to hear it eventually.
Day 4 and 5 Martin Praetorius and Hanse Rørbæk
On Day 4 I was paired with Martin Praetorius, a singer-songwriter from Germany who is influenced a lot by Irish and Nordic culture and again with Hanse Rørbæk. Our starting point was “What a year” and all the associations each of us would find for that sentence. After exchanging all of our thoughts we had a discussion about how the world is on fire right now (in multiple ways) and how depressing it really is. I then tried to maybe capture but also lighten the mood at the same time with two of my favorite chords (Cadd9 and Gmaj7 – you’ve heard them in many of my songs). Martin kinda got into it and we created a very lovely tune out of it. It’s not quite finished as we got stuck a bit with the lyrics, but it has a lot of potential, so I’m sure you’ll hear it from me sometime in the future.
Day 6 Quinn Liu
On the last day I got to work with Quinn Liu. She is a Chinese-American singer-songwriter who just recently moved to Copenhagen. We met at her apartment and after we got to know each other a little bit we started exchanging some melody ideas. We settled on one from her and one from me that had a similar vibe and tried to create a tune out of it. We did get a short and very lovely tune, however we soon felt very stuck. It’s been a long week for everyone, so we called it a day and who knows, one of us might finish it one day or, something I would prefer, maybe we get to meet up again one day and just pick it up where we left.
Learning and growing
All in all I had a really great week here in Copenhagen. I feel like I learned so much, by watching how other, and mostly more experienced, people approach songwriting. That being said, I did sometimes feel a bit like a burden. I painfully realized during the week how far “behind” everyone else I still am. It takes me a long time to feel a chord progression and find the right sound for it. I can’t just hear what chord someone is playing, I still need people to tell me and that’s slowing the process down quite a bit. But then again, I have only been doing this for about five years without any prior musical experience (there will be a blog post on this coming up soon), so I am really proud that I did keep up with most writers and pushed my boundaries. It really was a learning and growing experience for me.