Thoughts On Art

The role of art (to me)

Amidst all the wounds this world is suffering from these days…including the Australian Bushfires,  Covid 19, and now racist terror calling for action…,and yes, we need to act, yes, Black Lives Matter (!), I have reflected on my own art-making a lot more. I used to be so careless….Or was I?

Stuck in between

There is a constant struggle (for me) as an artist with regard to how much of the ego to allow in. On the one hand, the job of an artist is to express human emotions and experiences by means of music and poetry…To do so I try using a language of the heart, rather than the brain. To deliver beautiful art though, I do need to feel what I am creating…which means writing from a place of ego (in a way), allowing myself to go through the drama, the joy, the love, the hurt myself….When sharing my music though, I wish for the artwork to speak for itself! I want my songs to „work“ without me being involved! I want the songs to be strong enough, to convey a message regardless of the artist behind.

And yet, somehow I must admit, that a lot of songs I love listening to myself, are closely linked to the artists that sang them! Some of my favorite artists brought their messages across because they as a person delivered the context for them! In a way pieces of the artists make the art!

Not sure if that makes sense to everyone.

Anyhow, I struggle to balance out the amounts of ego and narcisissm I am required to put in!

So far, most of my songs stem from my own experiences or experiences of close friends that I am close enough to, to really relate! Bit self-centered, right? Being an empath I can luckily also relate to people´s joy and pain even if I do not know them! Unequality and violence always hurt me! Love always touches me!

However, I wonder…

How much does art „need“ to contain a relevant message? How altruistic do we need to be? Some say it is the duty of an artist to reflect the times we live in and then process the observations by means of art. In a way I like this idea, because art can touch peoples´ hearts more than mere rhyme and reason. So it is a great means to bring about change, if needed! And yet: Who am I to preach?

To be honest, this point of view mixed with my fear of being too self-absorbed by writing about my emotions, has caused a block in me recently! I was unsure whether I am an artist at all! Whether I should stop sharing music altogether and just keep to myself? Whether I had to find a way to become more political, more cultural! More „relevant“!

But I found an answer (within and) for myself. In my opinion, art does not have to have a purpose per se! Art is the only „discipline“ that is rooted in complete freedom! And that also means freedom of purpose. Art does not need to make sense necessarily. If it resonates with you somehow, that is already enough! And even if it does not, that is fine! Art is expression, communication, magic….Art may cover all aspects of human experience…BUT! It does not have to focus on the „relevant, most prominent issues“ all the time! Art is not a political weapon in my opinion. It can be, but it need not be!

And: Self-expression and being vulnerable does not equal feeding the ego! Sometimes the opposite is true!

So maybe if you know an artist that is struggling with finding meaning themselves, share this post. Allow for them to just release whatever their soul demands. Because:

Art is free!

 

Cheers and happy weekend!

Katie

Another year has gone by…

…and while I´m still standing tall, my Christmas tree is already letting itself go. But that´s ok I guess! Acceptance is the new black!

With the year coming to an end soon, I can´t help but look back at the ups and downs of the past 365 days. I had started the year off under a new motto, which was: “Follow your heart”!

Little did I know my heart was gonna be heavy a lot! But I did follow it as best as I could! I did make choices that seemed “stupid” to some people…but they felt and still feel right to me!

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I have started a new (part-time) job, which I like a lot and which does not exhaust me as much as prior jobs have done. Working from 9 till noon in an office environment each day, leaves me energized and pumped enough to work on creative projects in the afternoon, (which contrary to popular belief can be quite exhausting at times)!

I am happy to be evolving as an artist! To be brave enough to be an artist! Because that´s who I am!

I have challenged myself by going on stage and overcoming the fear of rejection and I have decided that this will be my motto for 2019! “Overcoming fear and daring to explore new territories”. I have lived in fear most of my life…on a personal note, I have faced stress from an early age and on a daily basis, but I have also cultivated that fearful habit in my job life, and it even had an impact on my artist life! I am letting go of it in 2019! And like a pioneer I will not shy away from things unknown that will help me grow, evolve and rejoice!

So these are the accomplishments I´m proud of in 2018:

  • Follwing a sugar free diet (with only one cheat day a week) the entire year
  • Cutting down on coffee (which had caused plenty of anxiety)
  • My two stage performances in Mai and November
  • The 30 something new songs that I wrote and finished this year
  • Finishing my audio engineering formation
  • Finally taking on drum lessons (which has been a childhood dream of mine)
  • Spending more time with loved ones
  • and of course my „lyric only“ nomination at the German Songwriting Awards

And now here are some of the things to do in 2019:

  • Go on stage more often
  • Travel to foreign places to participate in songwriting workshops
  • Teach myself to REALLY play the piano
  • Not spending any money on fashion or other unnecessary consumer goods for two months during lent this year
  • Launch a teaching career in music
  • Write more songs in Spanish
  • Pitch my songs to international publishers
  • Improve my singing
  • Take on a positive attitude
  • Embrace change
  • Fall in love with each and every day – no matter what!

 

With that being said, I am ready for 2019! Bring it on already and let´s celebrate!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Cheers and Love as always,

Katie

 

How long does it take you to finish a song?

Songwriting is a form of art, but it is also a craft. It is a hobby, or can be a job, but for most fellow songwriters, songwriting is what we call our life!

Needless to say, there´s not such a thing as a manual for how to live a life. And neither is there a bullet-proof step-by step instruction on how to write a (good) song.

The way we songwriters approach this, differs from person to person. Mainly because songwriting is a very personal process.

work

 

Nevertheless, it´s always interesting and in intriguing to find out how fellow songwriters get down to it! Some say they start with chord progressions, while others build up a songidea around a line of lyric or even a poem.

What´s interesting to me though is to hear people say, they´ve started a song and finished it 2 or three weeks later. What´s so interesting about that, you might wonder…

Work till you drop

Well, to me writing a song is usually a one day project. Sometimes of course I´ll go back to it the next day and the next and thus the song evolves a bit. However, I just couldnt go to sleep without having found the actual shape of a song (once I´m writing one). I couldn´t sleep unless 90 % were finished. I forget to eat, I forget to drink, I totally forget myself during the songwriting process. I get soaked up in it and it´s not me who´s the one deciding I am done…it´s always the song that tells me „go sleep now…you´ve done a good job“ or sometimes it will say: „let it be! You and I are not working!“. Fair enough I´d say!

So, I´m curious! How do you handle time management and how long do you work on your songs on avarage? How do you deal with passion versus reasoning? And how much do you tweak on your songs, once the basics have been built?

Leave me a comment!

 

Love,

Katie

 

List of favorites

So I thought, being a Germany based songwriter, that´s focused on country music, Americana and blues music mainly (well yeah…mixed with a little indie folk sometimes), I thought I´d share with you some of my favorite artists and tracks, that I listen to for inspiration.

songwriting favorites

 

This list refers to my songwriting go to playlist….aside from it, I love listening to rock, soul and folk music as well, which might be the reason these styles sometimes find a way to sneak into my songs.

So here we go! I hope you´ll get to explore some of the artists below and fall in love with them just as much as I did!

Favorite Songwriters (the great ones I look up to):

Chris Stapelton (listen to his own stuff..not the songs he wrote for other artist..he´s a grand master of his art!))

Charlie Worsham (you gotta go see him play live! He´s a legendary guitar player and great on stage!)

Ashley Monroe (old school country with a modern twist! This lady is golden)

Miranda Lambert (A real dixie songwriter…you gotta love her lyrics and her twang)

Brandy Clark (best storyteller out there! Hands down!)

Lori Mc Kenna (beautiful lyrics mixed with good feel rhythms and rhymes)

Kacey Musgraves (a great lyricist…combines irony, scandal, drama and lightness)

Runaway June (a trio of songwriters that will sweep you off your feet!)

Favorite country acts:

Kip Moore (rock meets country)

Chris Stapelton (Yup. He´s popping up on this list too…his music is very blues-y and real)

Ashley Mc Bryde (Singer/Songwriter Country…very real)

Kelsea Ballerini (Pop country singer/ American sweetheart -also a fab songwriter by the way)

Leeann Womack (Just think „I hope you dance“- love her voice)

Brett Young (pop country artist with a beautiful voice)

 

Favorite songs:

Brandy Clark: What´ll keep me out of heaven + Pray to Jesus

Miranda Lambert: Getaway Driver + Vice

Charlie Worsham: Young to see + Love don´t die easy

Chris Stapelton: Tennessee Whiskey + Whiskey and you + A simple song

Tim Mc Graw: Humble and Kind (which was written bei Lori Mc Kenna by the way)

Love and Theft: Whiskey on my breath

Alyssa Bonagura: Rebel

 

Artists that influenced my songwriting in the beginning:

One name: Alanis Morrisette! Her album Jagged little pill instilled in me the desire to write songs by the means of honest lyrics, without inhibitions and restrictions of any kind! She´s the one who got me started y´all!

Now it´s your turn! Share your favorite music!

Love,

Katie

How spirituality changed the way I write songs

Songwriting is a craft. It is a job that´s built on constant trial and error. The more you write the better you get – at least that´s what they say!

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And yet, what does „getting better“ actually mean? What is good songwriting precisely? Is it defined by landing a hit on the radio? Is it defined by creating innovative tunes? Does the artist that cuts the record make it or break it?

There´s many ways to look at this!

Personally I´d say, good songwriting means writing honest songs, that go to the heart! And that´s why I disagree a bit with common recommendations, which urge you to write every day, even when inspiration doesn’t strike you! It´s good to play around a bit every day…see if anything comes up! But there´s a fine line between fooling around and adding too much pressure to it! Here´s my advice: Don´t try to write that next big hit every time you sit down to write!

Write songs from the heart

I have gone on a spiritual journey lately, reading the Bible and various religious scriptures…and what I found is, that being humble and small is the secret to being closer to God and closer to humans too. It means being closer to love! Self-confinement and egoism keep you from truly experiencing satisfaction! I´m pretty convinced of that! If you do it for the money, the status, the praise, you won´t profit for long! You will always chase that next big thing, always trying to maintain the money, the status, the praise! This will get tiring!

If you consent to being small, you allow for your higher self to do the work! You will write for the sake of giving love to others! You will write for the sake of connecting with people, rather than being admired and praised as one that stands taller!

Our world is very ego-centric! Everybody compares themselves to others, everyone trying to become better than the rest of us and to get the praise! This seperates us from each other and one thing´s for sure: Being above others will get you admiration, but even more so, jealousy and contempt.

I have found that I no longer want to write for the sake of success (as defined by current standards), but am rather trying to create honest works, that come from a place inside of me, which may not be perfect or outstanding, but real! I will invite listeners to take part in my emotions and likewise share their emotions!

This is more than a songwriting mantra, it´s a life mantra! Trying to connect and cooperate and create good things for everyone, rather than separating from the rest, by being better, faster, higher!

What are your motivations? Why are you doing what you do? And how is it going for you?

Please share your stories! I´m excited to hear about your journeys, too! Be respectful, though!

What makes songwriting so hard and how to make it easier!

Writing a song should come naturally! It should come from a place that´s vulnerable, personal and truely yours! So far so good! But writing something honest, authentic and interesting is not as easy to do as we think sometimes!

If you are a songwriter yourself, I am sure you have come up with great lyrics, catchy word plays and poetic rhymes. But once you started writing music to your words, you went nowhere good!

Likewise, we sometimes come up with great chord progressions or catchy melodies, but once we put words to it, it all sounds boring and dull!

So how do great songs happen?

I´m sure every writer has their trick…for me it is a combination of the following steps, that may or may not lead to a good song! (Every good song I write is a successor of plenty of bad songs…It´s not like you find a secret weapon that makes each song a stunner!) But the following tips have helped me a lot of times. Ok, here we go:

songwriting hacks

1) No pressure

This is a general rule, that almost all writers recommend: Don´t panic! Don´t force things and don´t expect every song you write to be good. Try writing out of fun or because you want to get something off your chest! Try to consider songwriting more like journaling or writing a diary. Don´t think of anyone reading it! Be honest, true and playful! If the song doesnt satisfy you, that´s fine! Not every step we take is meant to takes us somewhere specific! It´s good to have goals, but art is not meant to bring you down or enslave you! Art is a way to express things, not to make things look or sound pretty! If pretty is the result, our work has commercial potencial. But don´t let that be your primary goal! Let love and curiosity be your fuel and allow yourself to just play for a while! The hard work comes afterwards. Once you´ve got your song skeleton, you can spend hours and hours trying to colour it with arrangements, sounds etc. That´s where the picky you may truely shine!

 

2) Relax

I´ve noticed something interesting in myself. Whenever I´m on vacation or enjoying the Christmas holidays (which usually consist of me being in my PJ´s all day and staying up super late), I come up with plenty of song ideas….they just come out! Just like that! I´m not saying every idea is brilliant, but I do have to say that the more relaxed and playful I am, the better the material gets! Whereas, when I´m caught up by everyday chores, stress at work or in my private life and to many tasks on my to do list, my writing is usually very poor! Some people say that making writing a daily habit (no matter what) is super important, but I personally think my writing sucks when I force it too much! I don´t like technical writing! But that´s my artistic choice.

I´m pretty convinced though, that being calm and relaxed allows for your inner voice to increase its output gain 😉 ! And that´s what we´re ultimately after, right?

I don´t write well when I´m discontented or stressed out! I do write well, when I feel depressed though! Strangely, that´s a whole other story!

Anyhow- bottom line is: Relax! Don´t stress over your life, your songs or your work ethic! This won´t make you productive at all!

 

3) Write for a reason

Writing for a reason is very crucial to the authenticity of songwriting. A motivation could be „expressing yourself“, „sharing a memory“ or just „writing someone elses story“. It can be all about expressing YOUR emotions, or likewise it could be about trying to understand and capture OTHER people´s (the audiences) emotions….

It makes a big difference whether a song is born out of autobiographic experiences, or whether it is born from other people´s experiences. Both processes work, but they change the way you write. You either allow people into your life, or you ask them permission to enter into theirs. In both cases, we ultimately always try to connect with people!

 

One last rule:

There are no rules! You might work 10 minutes on a song and come up with something brilliant, or you may work 10 years on it and it might eventually become brilliant too! Likewise you gotta allow yourself to let go of songs as well! Once you loose the feel for it, you better let go! And move on! But then again- there are no rules! Anything is possible in songwriting!

 

So, go ahead and start writing your own today!