London Trip July 23

How it feels to be in the studio
Whenever I plan a trip to London, I find myself in two minds about it. 

Usually, I have some good things lined up, some artists I’m excited to work with, or friends I’ll get to see. Sometimes just having a change of scenery is what’s appealing about it; different places create different work. But it’s also not that long ago that I took my first “work-trip” to London, and my first session there was with an English guy who thought it was hilarious to make jokes about the Great Famine & potatoes, as a way to break the ice.

My sense of humour stretches pretty far, and I try always to be generous to people who make bad jokes, because it often comes from a place of anxiety or discomfort about something. But I will say that if you are an English person, meeting an Irish person for the first time — you can probably hang back on the famine jokes. Maybe something was in the air that trip, because that same week, I also got yelled at, on a bus, by an English guy who heard my accent and decided to launch into a full-volume tirade about Irish travellers.

Luckily, my managers and I seem to have developed a much better dickhead-detection system since that first trip, and on this trip especially, all of the artists I worked with were incredible: both as people and as artists.

Of my 7 days in London, I had 1 social media “content day”, saw 2 shows (Luna Morgenstern the night I arrived, and underscores the following night), had 5 sessions with 4 artists, and made starts on 6 new songs.

Sessions with artists — especially artists you’ve never met before — are always interesting. I used to beat myself up if we finished the day with anything less than a fully-finished song, I think partially because when I started doing sessions, my frame of reference was the pop / EDM world, where it’s pretty common to get the whole song written (if not fully produced) in the day, sometimes multiple songs in the same session.

I have worked like this, and I still do when the situation calls for it (especially as I live in Berlin and many of the artists I work with don’t — in-person time can be limited). One of the challenges with that mode of working is that, sometimes, you end up with a structurally “complete” song (i.e., words and melodies for 2 verses, a pre-chorus, a chorus, and a bridge) that, sonically feels quite skeletal, or in the worst case, soul-less.

This isn’t deliberate, of course. Everyone in the room is working their hardest, to make the best use of each others’ time, out of a sense of mutual respect (usually lol). Also, to be fair, although sessions are often fun, they are not exclusively social activities, it’s not just a hangout. We are there to make something.

The point, for me, is that this “something” doesn’t need to be a full song in a day. I would much prefer us to spend 8 hours making an 8-bar loop that is absolutely DRIPPING in feeling, in emotion, than to make a “full song” that neither of us is actually excited about (beyond the temporary feeling of achievement from having been “productive”). Sometimes the perfect lyric falls out of your mouth on first attempt, but often it is a process of many attempts, sometimes with days or weeks, or months, or years in between.

Fortunately, I’ve written enough songs so far in my life that the actual number of songs I write has stopped feeling like an important metric to me. I’ve written a lot. Loads. I don’t need to get the number any higher just for the sake of it. So the song will take as long as it takes.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not sitting around in a session, waiting for the lyric (or the chord, or the production element, whatever) to arrive. Usually, I’m zoned-in to the point of forgetting to eat or drink, trying everything that I — and whoever else is with me — can think of to enrich and deepen the feeling of whatever we’re working on.

I guess it’s the difference between going fast, and being in a rush. I work quickly, but I will also block out a whole day (or week) to get the drum sounds right, if that’s what it needs.

Anyway, huge shoutout to Luna Morgenstern, twst, MEYY, and OhEm for making this London trip my favourite yet. Nothing more fun than chasing art & emotion with people who are equally hyped to go down the rabbit hole.

The only problem with a week like that, is that now my hard-drive is BURSTING with these little seeds / saplings of songs, and I want nothing more than to absolutely bury myself in the dirt of them all for the next month(s) — but first, this week, I’m heading back home to Ireland.

I’ll see my family, see some nature, eat some good food, and then come back to Berlin, pull up the digital weeds, and see what those songs need next.