Songwriter Retreat 2015

Well, my intention was to blog at the end of each day, but it didnt quite work out like that. Its now nearly 11pm on Day 3 and all of the participants of the retreat are sitting in the Monnow Valley control room, listening back to our efforts over the last three days.

The location is wonderful, the hospitality of the engineers and studio owners is legendary and its a wonderful creative place to be. Only residential studio that I know that has its own outdoor pizza oven, the results of which were the perfect end to a pretty good day. Thanks Felix. You’re definitely missing a vocation.

The evolution over the last three days as people – who never knew each other before – come together and generate something out of nothing can be clearly seen. I’ve certainly learned that I cant write traditional country music, which was one of the potential targets on the first day’s tipsheet.

Today’s composition (Ed Sheerin meets Ray Davies) worked quite a bit better… until I realised that I’d left the damn click track on the mixed version of the track which was hideously embarrassing. There were a few technical issues as well (Kontakt not letting me use certain libraries that I’d spent hours copying and the Roland USB keyboard not talking to the Macbook and some of the acoustic work on the first day clipping quite badly), but otherwise, its been fairly snag free. Those are more production gremlins though, as opposed to writing ones.

Quite excited about a track that I’m working on today with two fine guitar players, one of which is heavily influenced by Lindsey Buckingham, which makes a refreshing change. First time I’ve ever had a part in writing a protest song, which is something I’ve never done before. This one is almost a sort of REM (End Of The World As We Know It/Green Day meets Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, which is half written at the moment and is showing great promise.

The underlying concept of the weekend is that writers are paired up in an afternoon and work together for 24 hours, sometime to a tip-sheet, but sometimes off-menu, with the goal being a finished product (well, a demo anyway!), then all change after lunch and then it starts all over again. So, there’s another changeover tomorrow afternoon so everyone should have worked with everyone else by the time it comes to go home at Monday lunchtime. The standard at the moment is very high and there are some superb melodies and some really beautiful arrangements. With my producer’s hat on I can hear so much in some of these embryonic tracks where I can think “I can do so much with that….

Its now coming up for 11pm in Monmouth and the gathered masses are being regaled by our mentor’s anecdotes, of which there are many (she’s been in the business a long time) and the vast majority of them are unprintable, to protect the guilty. Of which there are many. Lots of laughter in the room as a result. Until we’re asked for our own tour stories, when everyone goes quiet. Sometimes, a story of falling off a stage or dropping an amp or whatever which to most of us is an experience we’ll remember with cringes, but compared to arse-prints on suede sofa’s when a member of a well known named act is in flagrante next door, along with falling off speedboats and  having bits of gaffa tape hanging from embarrassing places… none of us can hold a candle to her. She really should write her memoirs. I’d definitely buy a copy.

Its the first time I’ve heard a well-known female singer/writer as being described as sounding like a mouse being stabbed with a toothpick. I’ll remember that one for a long time, thats for certain.

But I digress.

Some of the lyrics from the weekend that I’ve had a part in will probably be added to the blog. I know one definitely wont, but the other two probably will and I may well post MP3 links to them as well next week when I return to Wiltshire. If anything, its been as much a production retreat as a writing one this time.

But its all good. I wouldnt have swapped these four days for anything.


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