New year, new blog post! Back toward the end of 2018, I was invited to attend AMPLIFY - a new QMusic initiative established just this year. Basically, AMPLIFY is a song-writing retreat, aiming to team up emerging Queensland artists with established songwriters and producers, creating a collaborative space for co-writing, learning and networking. 8 emerging artists participated in AMPLIFY this year: Greta Stanley, Benny Nelson, Dylan (aka. Clawmachine), Dee (aka. Wild Eyed Wonder), Jeremy Beamish, Lachy (aka. J-Box), May Lyn and myself! Accompanying us were four mentors: Sahara Beck, Alex Henriksson, Holiday Party and Luke (aka. L.K. McKay.
The retreat was held at Heliport Studios in Buderim, named Heliport after the literal helipad in the back yard. Featuring multiple unique recording areas and workspaces across the 56-acre property, Heliport was a complete musicians’ playground. Nevertheless, I arrived feeling quite apprehensive about the weekend. Participating in a song-writing retreat was something I'd never done before, and I was very concerned that I would have positively no good ideas. The idea of co-writing with people I’d never met was also quite frightening. After a while though, it became quite clear that everyone was feeling the exact same way, which helped calm me down!
Day 1: Write!
After settling in, the next two days at Heliport were filled to the brim with song-writing. We were broken up into four different groups on both Saturday and Sunday, each group with two participants and one mentor. So, on Saturday I worked with Benny Nelson and Sahara Beck.
As I’ve never really worked collaboratively on a song before, I did feel out of my comfort zone in this session, but still learnt so much. One of the big take-aways for me was that, writing in a genre which is foreign to you can be extremely freeing. I began realising this as Benny, Sahara and I slowly manifested this crazy electro-dance song, based around a gypsy chord progression and sassy lyrics. Now, this may come as a surprise to some readers, but past me felt that she perhaps didn't have much to offer an electro dance number! However, the more the song took shape, the more I found myself throwing in ideas.
I think taking away the intention of performing the song myself was what made me able to participate. By dis-associating the song from my own identity, I become open to so many different ideas that I would normally dismiss. I can definitely see this as a great technique in the future, for improving my song-writing as a skill in itself.
Day 2: Keep Writing!
The next day the groups were switched, and I was paired with Dylan, with Alex as our mentor. This session was really different from the first; I guess every time you put a different group of musicians together, the result will be cumulative of each person’s influences. Hence, always unique.
In this session we worked at a much faster pace, with the approach being to create open drafts, rather than perfecting one song. That way, you can always go back later and work on it again if you feel like it - but it gets the songs out and on paper. This method posed another challenge for me, as my writing process is usually pretty meticulous and slow. As such, I found this decisive approach interesting, imposing that each song doesn’t need to be a work of art, it can just be what it is. Following this approach, I liked that I wasn’t always second-guessing my writing decisions; but it made me wonder whether taking a bit more time could ensure that it wouldn’t need nearly as much editing later. Either way, I really loved the sounds that we came up with in this session, experimenting with an amazing producer in an amazing studio was so valuable.
I am so glad I had this experience at Amplify. I loved that I was able to connect with my fellow Queensland musicians, of all different genres. It was very inspiring to know we were all on the same journey, working towards the same things. It was also amazing to work on song-writing while at a professional studio, where you can record the idea straight away. Being able to write in the studio, with no idea coming in, was a complete luxury, and another great take-away experience for me. I am sure that I’ve expanded my methods for song-writing, through this challenge to adapt and co-write. Given that 2018 is Amplify's first year, I can’t wait to see how the program grows and develops in the future. Thank-you so much to Trina and Eliza for having me x