New Friends, New Songs, New Inspiration, May 2023
For the past 2 1/2 years I have been advancing my songwriting, singing and releasing of music with by working with musicians from around the globe who I met through The Songwriting Academy. Working in collaboration with other focused musicians released me from the isolation of the pandemic, opened up new possibilities and led to the creation and production of exciting new songs and lasting friendships. Thanks to zoom and the wonder of technology we have crossed time and space and made some great music!
The songwriting retreat took place in the mountains of southern Spain, a scenic and notoriously sunny and hot location, as testified by the participants in the retreat two weeks before ours. I had packed accordingly, which was easy since it is always pretty warm in Guatemala. But until the retreat I had never written a song in the same room with other live people. And certainly never had I ever written and performed a new song the same day it was created. I was excited and terrified.
There were 24 of us songwriters, hailing from Sweden, Denmark, Holland, the UK, Scotland, Switzerland, Ukraine, Croatia, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala (me) & the US . Our mentors, Paddy Byrne, Shelly Poole and Paul Statham are well-established songwriters, producers and artists in the world of music. It was truly an international gathering. And immediately we began to share about our journeys and our music and the magic began. And every day and into the nights we continued our sharing and became friends. (Though the sun did not shine till the end and it would rain for the first time in five years).
Daily life took on a new rhythm with an informative post-breakfast talk with Paddy, Shelly and Paul who generously shared their wisdom drawn from years of experience as musicians and working with top industry artists. Then we were each assigned a group with two other musicians to write a song with. The mentors would come along to assist us.
Our first task was to decide what we wanted to write a song about, an invariably rich time of sharing. And then what beat, what vibe, which singer, guitar or piano? And of course, what lyrics, what melody? Having a compressed period of time, about five hours total from the initial void to verses and a chorus and possibly a complete first draft of a song was a thrilling process of concentration and creation.
The next part of our day was a delicious dinner and then performing our brand new songs in front of the group and receiving feedback from the mentors. During this part, I listened to some amazing and inspiring songs and performances from the other groups while also feeling anxious and unable to remember the melody of our song, which had vanished in the wake of the preceding performances. This was definitely the hardest part for me. Even in the process of composing my own songs with my guitar I repeat the verse and chorus endlessly in order to remember and embody the melody and the song. Other people, I learned, are much better at this. I was more familiar with recording from my own studio, where there was plenty of time for practice! But I had a lot of fun, especially when the audience clapped along.
And then there was my unaccustomed attire of wool hat, wool scarf, two sweaters and the vest I had fortunately brought in order to keep me warm on the plane. Little did I know I would be spending days in the same outfit.
But even though the weather was less than ideal, the company was exceptional. There was always a warm reception and respect for everyone's work and a belief in everyone's talent. Each day we worked with new collaborators. And every day, five times, we wrote and presented our new songs, some of which blew my socks off, they were so great. At night we sang, talked and sampled Spanish wine until early morn. And yes, there were a couple days when the sun came out.
It was hard to say goodbye to new friends and to leave such a unique, creative experience. But I came home with renewed enthusiasm, inspired by what is possible, determined to continue and as a voice in the glowing global community of songwriters.