The Shavings – Interview at the 2021 Top Half Folk Festival – A WORK IN PROGRESS – LOOK OUT FOR SAFETY NOTICES – MIND THE GAPS 😖

The Shavings, kicking back at their campsite after their singing workshop. Mary River Wilderness Retreat.

[Intro blah blah]

Bill Quinn: Is there a spokesperson for the group?

Huss: No, we’re a collective. We all speak together. [Sing] We speak with one voice, we are, you are, we are The Shavings.

[The next bit where the interviewer makes a horrendous and mostly unsuccessful joke by asking if The Shavings has a Nick has been deleted on the grounds of good taste.]

BQ: So, who can tell me the history of The Shavings?

Chris O’Loughlin: I joined The Shavings in, I think it was, 2012. Rod Moss and Des O’Shannessy [check] were the founders. Rod and I sang in the East Side Christmas Carolers in the noughties. And we used to go around East Side (Alice Springs) in the back of a ute, and we used to lob into random houses – without an invitation – and we just carol-bombed them.

And we actually went into the Barra On Todd (restaurant and bar at The Chifley); we went in there once and just sang to the crowd. Didn’t ask the management, just sang.

Angus: Until security came.

Anyway, Rod remembered me liking to sing in public, so he said, “Chris, there’s a group getting together. We’re getting together every Thursday night and you should come along.”

He did that for about two months before I finally thought, oh I better go.

And I was at Monte’s [Lounge] and Kate Young and Des – they’re a married couple. Kate was our director – she’s a musical genius – and she was able to direct these blokes. Des and I were the bassies. We were at Monte’s one night and they had a performance coming up in a few months, and if I wanted to joing, I had to join now. So I came in about half-way through the preparation for the upcoming gig.

So that was in about 2012.

Angus: So she [Kate] took a bunch of rough stones and polished them until they were slightly less rough stones.

CO’L: She did.

BQ: I heard this afternoon that there’s also The Splinters. So, what came first? The Splinters or The Shavings?

CO’L: The Splinters came first. The Splinters are all female, and the guys (partners of The Splinters) thought if the are gonna sing, we should sing, so when the blokes came about, Kate called them The Shavings, and that’s how it happened. That was about 2012, so we’re nearly ten years.

BQ: From last night’s concert and the workshop this afternoon, I see you’ve got a fair old repertoire that crosses a lot of genres. What’s the process of working out what you’re going to sing?

Huss: Whoever’s got the strongest passion for a song that they think would be appropriate, and it’s incumbent on them if they want to nominate a song to back it up with some words and some direction. And then everyone comes in behind that.

Angus: So Kate used to do some arranging which she was very good at. But she had a full-time job, and she was doing [arrangements] for The Splinters as well, and she didn’t have a lot of time. So when we’d come up with a couple of ideas, she would always say, “Show me the dots”. Because at the stage, we always sang set parts – set harmony parts. If Kate had a passion for the song, she’d arrange it, but if she didn’t have time, so we’d have ideas and thye’d never go anywhere.

When Kate left, we had to fend for ourselves, so we’ve got a couple of people who’ve arranged songs or transcribed songs for us – within the group, and family and friends. Albert O’Loughlin.

CO’L: My son who’s studying music in Melbourne.We wanted to do ‘Full Force Gale’ but we didn’t have the dots and he transcribed it, and he wrote it all out.

Angus: It’s a shame because we can’t even read!

CO’L: We know if a dot goes up, our voice goes up. And if it goes down, it goes down.

BQ: That’s the way I do it too!

I heard you when you pulled up [to the campground] you said this is your first festival, so what other performing have you done before now?

Adam: Well, it’s not our first festival, but it’s our first time outside Alice Springs, I think. We did perform at the [Top Half Folk] Festival in Glen Helen which was two years ago, and there have been a few festivals in Alice we’ve been part of.

Angus: The Glen Helen one was a lot more homely. This one has got a lot more interstate people, and in some ways it’s upscaled and bigger and better. And we were pretty intimidated when we got here!

BQ: So Glen Helen is mostly Alice Springs people, is it?

Angus: No, there were people from Darwin and interstate, but not as big or as many as this. The standard here is way above what we thought we were at. When we heard the opening night, I thought, ‘Hmmm, okay. I don’t know how this is going to go”.

And then when we were singing on the deck after the concert, and it’s all these strong voices singing in harmony…

Shilts: But it went well. In terms of the performances and festivals, the very first performances were very community-based, and we used to have those Christmas shows, and we would combine with The Splinter Sisters. We’d get together and it was usually a gold coin donation which usually went to ALEC (Arid Lands Environment Centre) or some charity – and everyone would have to bring all the food.

Heaps of people would turn up. We had it in a house to start with, we had a few. Then we had one out at White Gums, one in the old court house. They were great, singing together with real community involvement; it wasn’t at all to make money. It was groups of friends and family coming and just sharing singing.

And it grew from that with people wanting to join or do bits and pieces. So we did the song festival (Desert Voices).

??: Started getting a few paid gigs, started getting really big heads. Then we listened to the recordings and the heads shrink back pretty quickly.

BQ: Going back to food, can somebody unpack the nexus between singing and cheese which I’ve just only learnt about [during the singing workshop].

Angus: When Kate left, we were in deep despair as a group because we really valued her, and she nurtured and sustained us with her ability. Then I think we basically took solace in cheese; we ate a lot of cheese.

And then gradually we emerged like a bloated, cheese-laden Phoenix from the ashes of our despair.

CO’L: I’ll have to write that one down.

When Kate and Des left for Tasmania, which was about 2017, I think, there was a real fear that we just wouldn’t survive without a musical director. But our love of getting together every week and singing survived and made us and find a way, and we didn’t want it to finish. So it survived.

??: So there’s kind of like friendship and fellowship and singing and music in kind of equal measure. So we’re all friends and get on well together, but we’re not all close friends outside of singing, but we help each other out if there’s something going on.

??: Like moving a bloody pool table?

??: There is another dimension that we’ve added at this trip, I think, and previously it’s been sharing cheese and an occasional glass of wine, but this is the first festival I think we’ve really had the chance to get pissed together.

??: And we’ve been on a road trip.

BQ: I can tell you firsthand, I saw this last night. It happened.

??: We do have two teetotallers in the group.

BQ: Otherwise known as designated drivers.

??: We embrace their choice.

??: Being part of the group for me has really helped with my journey to sobriety. Because when you watch these boys on a night like last night, it makes you glad you’re sober.

BQ: You said something this afternoon that I latched onto about harmony and confidence, and that confidence is a bit more important than getting the note right.

??: Yeah, I didn’t labour the point as much as I wanted to…

BQ: They [rest of the group] wouldn’t let you!

??: I really found my own ability improved just purely if I was confident. And singing together gives you that confidence, because you’re so supported in lyrics and supported in the notes and the music. I’m familiar with a lot of people who can sing and could sing so much better if they sang confidently and in a supportive environment.

My son is 12 years old and he won’t sing in front of me, but he’s pitch perfect.

BQ: You haven’t tried to drag him along to a singing session?

??: I’m really pleased that he’s joined the choir at his school, and that was a choice that he made himself. And he’s one of only two boys in a big group in a cross-gender school. So he has seen both his parents bloom through their choral experience, largely through singing with Asante Sana.

My ex-partner and I sang with trade union choirs when we first met in the noughties and then we would alternate our singing with Asante Sana, so one of us would sing and one of us would stay home and look after the children. And then that balance went a bit skew-whiff where I had a few years at home and my partner for the benefit of her mental health – which was in greater need – did more consecutive years.

So now that group is now 11 years in the making and are probably going to have their last sing together in September under the direction of an amazing man called Morris Stuart.

BQ: And after this festival, what’s next for The Shavings?

CO’L: I think the next big thing for us is the Desert Voices festival which is in September.

??: I’m part of a group that’s pushing to hire Witchetty’s [???] – an Alice Springs theatre venue – to do a cabaret show with The Splinters and maybe some other friends. We’ll probably have room for maybe 150 or so guests and have it as a fundraiser for a friend who’s in need of some funds through illness in the family. I think that’ll be quite a big show for us. That should be August, I reckon.

??: And we’re about to take on two new members as well. We’ve just taken on Tim and we’re about to take on Francois – I know that’s not his name, but he’s French!

??: The process of getting new members has been kind of interesting, hasn’t it?

BQ: That was my next question: are you open to – not putting my hand up here myself – open to new members?

??: No, we’ve got

Daniel Champagne – Live In The Time Of Corona – Interview

Daniel Champagne playing at the Darwin Railway Club, Saturday 23 January 2021. Pic: Bill Quinn.

While the world is in various stages, tiers, and iterations of lockdown thanks to corona virus, Australia is one nation that’s managed to escape relatively lightly with restrictions.

That’s doubly or even more so for Darwin.

After what I’ve termed ‘Lockdown Lite’, hospitality venues were starting to open here again in May 2020, gigs were on again from June 2020, festivals with some restrictions were on in July 2020, and open air music festivals were live and kicking by the end of the year that dare not speak its name. (Even though I have. Others still call 2020 ‘Voldemort’.)

It’ll be a while yet before we see international touring acts flooding back to our shores, but nationally, musicians are starting to shake the mothballs and cobwebs off their touring paraphernalia, and live music is limping back to life.

A welcome returnee to the north, Daniel Champagne is a hometown boy from Brogo, New South Wales. Brogo for me was always a bit blink-and-miss-it on the map, and be careful to slow down quick because the highway takes a mighty dogleg off the end of the bridge, though Daniel is a font of information about this fascinating part of the far NSW coast. (That all came over a dinner of Darwin music-related people on a monsoonally wet top end night, and before the recorder went on. Ask him about it sometime.)

The last time I interviewed Daniel was in a radio studio roughly 4000kms away, and ten or so years and a half dozen lifetimes ago, so as the wet season rains poured down in Nightcliff NT, we sat at an outside table under the awning and got a more up to date state of play.

Daniel Champagne playing at the Darwin Railway Club, Saturday 23 January 2021. Pic: Bill Quinn.

Bill Quinn: Daniel, as a temporary resident I can say: Welcome to Darwin!

Daniel Champagne: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

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Overheard In Darwin – Asher Gregory Productions

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Image courtesy of Overheard Productions

Watch this space. We are experiencing high volumes of lack of goods, services, and opportunities to get to a laptop.

For now, go to:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AsherGregoryProductions

Website:

http://www.ashergregoryproductions.com.au

 

Darwin Muso Series – Summit, October 2019

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Image courtesy of Summit

Darwin heavy metal band Summit have had a very busy 2019, and it’s about to get even busier as they prepare to head on the road to tour down the east coast of Australia in November.

With the release of a new single in the very near future, the time is ripe for the band to take their music to a wider audience, one that’s already been building off the back of a strong online streaming and Youtube presence.

Having met several band members at a MusicNT meet and greet in August, it was great to catch up with drummer Tom Heffernan and find out a bit more detail about the band’s activities.

Bill Quinn: You’re the new boy in the band, but you’re the spokesperson today. How much can you tell us about the background of Summit?

Tom Heffernan: The boys have been going since 2017. I worked for a couple of them on a major project up here and that’s how we met. I followed them around, watching their shows. They have a lot of talent, and it’s definitely up my alley.

They jumped on to the scene pretty quickly and left a pretty big footprint on the place. I just love their music.

Wes [Beck] is the leader of the band, and he organised it from the go. He was out of the scene for a long time before this band started. Greeny [Matt Greenaway] was over here working from Sydney way, New South Wales, and the two brothers [Jordan and James Atwill] are born and bred in Darwin.

I’m not sure how they got together, who spoke to who. I know Wes and Greeny worked together; that’s how they got together.

BQ: Coming from a number of backgrounds, it’s a Darwin band – but you’ve had a fair bit of interest from outside, even overseas. 

TH: Yeah, we’ve had a lot of success with online stuff so far. The EP was brilliant, the first EP [Echoes Of Aberration]. (Obviously, I had nothing to do with that one.) That’s one of the best EPs I’ve seen from a first-time effort.

And the interest has really escalated from that point on.

There was a bit of a hole with a change of line-up for the boys, but we’re full steam ahead now.

BQ: And you mentioned your online presence – that’s the way you get your music out when you’re isolated like in Darwin. What’s that like? I’ve got to say I’m not a fan of the online streaming services because you don’t get much out of it in dollars and cents. But I notice that you get a lot of plays on Spotify; is that helping?

TH: Oh, it definitely helps get the music out. That and Youtube. Without it, I’d say it would be a lot harder. There’s not a lot of revenue in it, as you said, but that’s the way of the world today.

But the exposure’s nothing like it used to be. To see a band back in the day, or to hear a band, you had to go and see them or buy a CD. [Online streaming] is handy, but there’s no money in it.

But it’s great for the exposure side of things being in an isolated area like Darwin.

We haven’t ventured too far out of the territory, maybe not at all. So big things coming for us soon.

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Darwin Muso Series: Ward Hancock Trio, October 2019

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Ward Hancock Music

Ward Hancock Trio

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* It’s big. Like really big. Huge. You might think it’s a long way from the Darwin Bus Interchange to Six Tanks – and it gets further on Friday and Saturday nights – but that’s just peanuts compared to how vast the scope of the Airlie Beach Festival of Music’s Passport To Airlie competition is. (With apologies to Douglas Adams, but I’m starting to scratch around for enough gags to see out this bracket of interviews.)

Ward Hancock is an emerging artist from the Northern Territory, though his young years belie the amount of musical runs on the board he’s already chalked up. His style and repertoire have a strong basis in reggae, but zip around to visit blues, dub, and rock.  A home-grown Darwinian, Ward along with his trio won first place in the Passport To Airlie competition, and they’ll be off east in November to represent the Top End on the Whitsunday Coast.

I thought I might miss my chance to speak with Ward after the event, but I managed to reef him away for a few minutes right at the end of the night, and he reflected on his musical background and the competition win.

Bill Quinn: In 80 000 words or less, what’s the Ward Hancock story?

Ward Hancock: I found guitar when I was about 12, because I wouldn’t stop playing an old ukulele that my parents had. No, at first it was drums – drums were the first thing, then I gravitated on to guitar because it was a bit cheaper and a bit quieter.

My thing was I always wrote songs, I always like writing songs more than learning songs. I started singing in about Grade Seven or Eight, because noone else would sing.

The first couple of years, people told me not to sing! Fair enough; it didn’t sound too great. I’ve heard recordings; it’s not pretty, but…

BQ: You’ve got to start somewhere.

WH: Exactly! I just evolved into a singer. I was always a guitarist, but evolved into a singer. Always a songwriter.

There’s a lot of great opportunities living up here. I think one of my first bigger gigs was at the Noonamah Tavern. My earliest memories were of big, tough guys drinking in the beer garden. Bikies, you know? I had no idea, but I had some great experiences with that; I kind of cut my teeth on that.

I had great mentors like [Darwin music legend] JK, and Michael Henshaw – who did sound tonight – he’s a great supporter of music as we were growing up. Mickey at the Happy Yess, and countless other Darwin locals.

WardHancockTrio

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Darwin Muso Series: Emma Rowe, September 2019

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Emma Rowe Music

Emma Rowe

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* Try saying, ‘Heats in Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Nimbin, Newcastle, Sydney, Illawarra, Melbourne and Adelaide’ ten times fast.

Emma Rowe grew up in tropical Darwin and went from being a “sad teenager” with a cheap guitar to developing a unique talent for crafting quirky contemporary rock songs that combine lust, hope, frustration and joy in a surprisingly complicated but completely relatable style. Emma is a regular on the Darwin music scene as a headliner and support for touring artists.

After her set in the Passport to Airlie competition, Emma joined me in the beer garden to have a chat.

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Emma Rowe performing in Passport To Airlie – Darwin at Darwin Railway Club

Bill Quinn: Tell us the Emma Rowe story!

Emma Rowe: Oh god, that’s a big question.

Basically, I guess it started when I was a sad teenager, and my mum noticed. And she brought home this cheap guitar from Cash Converters, and was like, ‘Here! Put your sadness into this!’

And it worked!

BQ: Was that here in Darwin?

ER: Yeah, I grew up here. Technically not born here, but I moved here when I was really young.

BQ: So many people I’ve spoken to have come here from other places. What was it like growing up with music in Darwin?

ER: I loved it. I really loved growing up here. It’s really communal and that’s really reflective in the music scene.

That’s what I love about the music scene here. We all know and love each other, we’re all really supportive, and I love that feeling: I love feeling supported by my scene.

BQ: I’m glad you said that because I’ve only been here for less than six months, and I actually wrote this down tonight. I’m picking up on a really big, supportive vibe amongst musicians, so it’s something that’s very important here.

ER: Oh yeah, for sure, it’s everywhere, and it’s wonderful. And I think that actually goes for the whole NT as well. We know all the musos in Alice Springs and in Katherine, and we’re all just really connected and really communal. It’s lovely.

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Image courtesy of Emma Rowe Music

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Darwin Muso Series: Alice Cotton, September 2019

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Alice Cotton

Alice Cotton

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* You’d be doing very well to beat 12-13 major locations across half the continent.

Alice Cotton is an emerging artist who has returned to Darwin to ply her musical trade(s). Alice has a unique twist on folk-country music with original songs steeped in warmth and humour. Her songs draw influence from old-time American music, with a nod to growing up in humid climes amongst a tight-knit community in the Northern Territory. Alice is recording her first EP in late 2019.

Bill Quinn: What’s the Alice Cotton story? With music!

Alice Cotton: I was actually studying classical music; I used to play classical flute, but I just found it a bit of an elitist culture.

And then I really got into music therapy. It was through that I started song-writing and doing my own stuff.

I found it gave me more space to be more creative and do what I wanted to do and do gigs more easily.

BQ: Is that your ‘rent gig’? Do you do music therapy during the day?

AC: Yeah.

BQ: That seems to be a bit of a theme!

AC: Yeah, Crystal [Robins] as well! We actually studied together through University of Melbourne [Alice in Melbourne, Crystal in Sydney].

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Image courtesy of Alice Cotton

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Darwin Muso Series: Ben Evolent, September 2019

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Ben Evolent Music

Ben Evolent

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* If you can find a bigger one, I want it stuffed and mounted on display at ARIA or APRA headquarters, please.

Opening the batting for muso chats on the night (and for this series of interviews) was Josh Tarca of Ben Evolent.

(Just a quick Overheard At Passport To Airlie from my notes here. My mate leaned over as the third act came on and said, “I think the announcer said this band is from the Netherlands”.

Me: “No, the band’s name is ‘Ben Evolent’!)

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Ben Evolent performing in Passport To Airlie – Darwin at Darwin Railway Club

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Passport To Airlie – 2019 Darwin Heat (Darwin Railway Club)

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Image courtesy of Airlie Beach Festival of Music

Passport To Airlie – Darwin Heat (Darwin Railway Club)
Friday 13 September 2019, Darwin Railway Club

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

And you’d have to argue very convincingly to beat this: regional finals in (take a deep breath): Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Nimbin, Newcastle, Sydney, Illawarra, Melbourne and Adelaide.

It’s huge.

And budding musos are all vying for the chance to participate in the final at Airlie Beach in November.

As well as the performance opportunity in 2019, the overall winner gets to return to play the main stage the following year, receiving four nights’ accommodation, VIP main tent passes, a $1000 performance fee, and a spot on Music View TV (Cairns).

If you’re a regional muso aiming to get your music to a wider audience, it’s well worth a shot.

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Mensch, Monique in Australia, 2019

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Image courtesy of Mensch, Monique!

Folk On The Road

Mensch Monique!: Interview at Cobargo Folk Festival

Mensch, Monique! were in Australia earlier in 2019, playing gigs, house concerts and festivals. I caught up with Jule and Georg at Cobargo Folk Festival to find out how musical and family life had been treating them since the days of The Beez.

We spoke under a blazing sun, with welcome shade from the café marquee, perched
precariously on milk crates, sipping on ginger and lemongrass over cubed
ice (just brilliant on a baking hot day).

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Cobargo Folk Festival 2019

Bill Quinn: How long has Mensch, Monique! been going? What are you doing? How is it going?

Jule Schroder: Well, actually, Georg and me, we have been playing since 2007.

BQ: And how about music?

JS: Exactly! Playing music! (And we’ve been playing together longer than that!) But I was in a band called ‘The Beez’; for such a long time.

BQ: The Beez? Can you spell that? I’m not familiar with this band.

[If you can’t pick up the irony in that sentence, go to https://overheardproductions.com/?s=The+beez where you can read just one or two articles about this band by the authour over the past decade.]

JS: Tee Hahr Eeh Bee Double Eeh Zsedh. We were one Australian, one American, and two Germans.

BQ: And one of the Deutshes is now Australierin!

JS: That’s right. Deta got married to Rob a long time ago and now she’s got her spouse visa.

So, anyway, I was playing with The Beez, being busy. And there was just no point [after the birth of first child]. We couldn’t play gigs. Or we could, but it was just too hard.

So when I left The Beez in 2014, we said, “Let’s write some songs together”. And why not in German? And that’s what we did!

And it just takes a long time. You know, we’ve got two kids now. But we do it in our own tempo. Our own speed, you know? And we love it!

BQ: That’s very interesting that you do your songs in German, with English being the lingua franca for the world, the language that the majority of the planet understands. Tell me about when you perform in Germany. Is it 100% in German? Or do you mix it up a bit?

JS: We mix it up, but it’s really interesting because I talk to a lot of musician friends from Germany, and we came to the… schluss? … conclusion that we just HAVE to write songs in German because it’s our language.

It just doesn’t make sense that we only write songs in English, because that’s not our language.

And it’s a bit hard to sing in German, I must say. And what is really interesting for me is, because I write most of the melodies, I don’t think in German when I write the melodies. I can’t do that. It’s really interesting.

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