ATTENDED : Shelly Poole & Paul Statham's retreat
DATE: Sept 2021
• WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO GET OUT OF THE RETREAT?
When I signed up for the retreat, I felt it was the first step out of my comfort zone with regards to songwriting, because up until that point I had always written songs on my own, in my home studio. I would collaborate with other artists remotely by sending ideas via email. This process had worked nicely, but could take a long time to finish a track, depending on how quickly people responded and also which part of the world they were based in, the difference in time zones would affect the productivity rate too. I wanted to push myself into a situation of having to write a brand new song with a person I hardly knew, within a short time frame. I can procrastinate with the best of them, so I needed to have the pressure to deliver 'something worthy' and fairly quickly as well. I also wanted to learn as much as I could about the basic structures of songwriting crossing multiple genres, having spent a good portion on my music career writing songs for trance music, I wanted to get back to basics and learn new ways of writing songs for pop, folk and all types of dance music, not just trance.
I was also really drawn to the setting of the retreat and the remoteness of Knoydart. I loved the idea of going somewhere completely different, without so many of the daily distractions that can affect my productivity rate. The beautiful scenery, surrounding nature and also not having to think about anything other than the task in hand.
• WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST TAKE AWAY?
I think my biggest take away was probably when we focused on the songwriting 'process', which Shelly and Paul explained in great detail. I found this really helpful as up until that point I had always just written songs as they entered my head and not followed a specific process. Obviously there is something to be said for writing songs the way I have done so many times, letting my emotions lead the way and the lyrics following shortly after, but when I would sometimes hit a brick wall and struggle to finish a song, Shelly reminded me of the using the 'process' and not to jump ahead too far. So after putting that into practice, I found it really helpful and I will use this process a lot more going forward.
• WHAT WAS YOUR HIGHLIGHT?
This is a tough one to answer, as there were so many highlights during that one week. If I had to pick one, I would say when we all performed our songs on the final night in the Community Hall to many of the locals as well as each other, the level of support we all received from every single person, was just mind blowing. We were all rooting for each other and you could really feel that positive energy all around, especially when we were on stage performing. We all connected so strongly and in a short space of time, because we all shared common ground. We had arrived at the retreat as a group of strangers and within a few days we felt like a family and that included the organisers, Janey and Duncan, as well as their friends and helpers Pete and Belinda. We had formed an unbreakable bond. Something I won't ever forget.
• HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT GETTING FUNDING FROM ARTS COUNCIL OF ENGLAND?
I had heard about the opportunity to apply for funding from the Arts Council England, via an email from Janey. I had never even thought of applying for a grant before as I just assumed I would not be eligible for some reason. When Janey said that the current run of funding was for developing songwriters, it seemed to hit the criteria so I thought I'd give it a go. I filled in the online forms via the Arts Council website and it took a couple of hours to do, which I guess may put some people off, however, it's not difficult and actually helps you to create a plan of how you want to see yourself progress over the next 6-12 months or so. I thought about where I wanted to get with regards to being a self sufficient songwriter and vocalist, which meant that I would be able to record my own vocals to a high standard and then produce them to a level of quality I was happy with before sending to the producer I was collaborating with at the time.
So often in the past I had recorded my vocals and then sent them 'dry' to the producer, so they could produce them along with the final master of the track, which meant that I had little control over how the vocals would sound in the final mix. If I could learn how to produce my vocals myself, first, then I would have more control on the final product. Learning these production skills along with the songwriting retreat, I would then be a more versatile and valuable songwriter to collaborate with. I called my grant application 'Songs for Everyone', meaning I could write songs for multiple genres.
I would recommend any artist apply for funding if the opportunity arises, because when I received my grant it covered the cost of attending the Knoydart Songwriting Retreat as well as all travel and a block of ten tutorials on vocal production, which I had found via various websites advertising online music tutors. I think that as long as you have a clear plan set out, with a breakdown of costs and that your main goal is 'achievable', then you should have a good chance of a successful application.
• WHAT THREE WORDS SUM UP YOUR TIME AT THE RETREAT?
Positive • Immersive • Creative
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