My Experience at Tileyard Education - Barcelona Songwriting Camp 2019
Photo credits : @ellehalleyimagemaker
''It was 3am on Thursday 5th September, when I left my London flat without any sleep to go to Gatwick Airport. Despite the tiredness, the excitement about flying to Barcelona took over - not only because I was going to be able to spend a few days in the sun and escape the cold London weather, but because I was going to spend a whole weekend in a villa with musicians, songwriters and producers solely for the purpose of making music - a dream come true (for me, not the neighbours)!
The Tileyard Education (TYE) Songwriting Camp popped up online and I entered my songs in their competition for a chance to win 50% off the price. A day later a lovely Irish voice belonging to Jamie (who I would share a very special experience with during the camp), left me a voice message telling me I was one of the winners, yay! Now I just had to weigh up if I could afford to spend time and money on going away with people I didn’t know, instead of earning my rent from gigging that weekend - the usual worry of a self-employed musician in London! After a couple of days of contemplating and reading enough cheesy inspirational ‘do what you love’ quotes, I decided to take this opportunity and join the TYE Songwriting Camp - and deary me, I’m glad I did!
As soon as I met everyone at Barcelona airport on Thursday afternoon, I knew I was in the company of super interesting, creative and motivated people. We were fourteen songwriters and five incredible guest producers, including Jon Kelly (Paul McCartney, Freddy Mercury) Tom Fuller (David Guetta, Tom Walker) Jamie Duffin (Ashton Lane, Nikki Rodgers) Aron Levi (Billy Blonde, Jay Rock) and Hannes Andersson (Edora, Karl Boethius) We were joined by the wonderful TYE team: MD Harry Leckstein, his wife Elle Halley (photographer & most amazing chef for the weekend) along with Jamie and Chloe , who organised and managed the camp, made the magic happen!
After a 2 hour bus ride through the Spanish countryside we arrived in a wonderful villa in a tiny village called ‘Sant Agusti de Lluçanès’ that would be our home for the next few days. The peace & quiet was only interrupted by the cowbells from a nearby cow paddock. If the beautiful scenery wasn’t a good enough setting for writing great music, we were very excited to discover the swimming pool and hot tub (woop!) in the garden! For a moment ‘Casa Tileyard’ felt like the first episode of ‘Love Island’ (minus the drama and plus lots of musical equipment of course!).
No time was lost though! After about 30 minutes of excitement, the producers had already set up their equipment and turned some of the rooms into studios. After we were divided into five groups, my first session with the talent what was Tom Fuller had begun! Together with London-based artists Shannon and KG we kicked off the camp with a Missy Elliot-style R&B banger.
The schedule of each day was more or less the same: breakfast at 9am, writing groups were announced at 10am, the sessions ended around 8pm when we had dinner and listened back to the tracks we had made. One of the great things about TYE in comparison to other songwriting camps is the fact that everyone works to live briefs and songs are being pitched to the respective industry people after the camp. Labels and artists were looking for material of different genres, including Pop, Dance, R&B, Country and K-Pop, so we wrote songs for it! It’s nice to know that the music you make is actually in with a chance of getting heard, instead of joining the other hundreds of unreleased songs on that lonely hard drive that every songwriter owns and that causes an existential crisis every now and then.
On the second day I was put in a group with producer Jamie Duffin from Glasgow, songstress Madeleine from Australia, and the super-musical Spaniard Santiago. In the session we were writing to a brief for a male-vocalist, so we quickly decided that Santiago would record the vocals with his beautiful raspy voice. Although I have written for other artists before, this was my first time writing for a male singer and I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. We wrote melodies and lyrics about two people who, although they can’t get rid of the spark between them, can‘t seem to make it work. Hearing Santiago‘s interpretation gave me a completely new perspective on the song - a new feeling of excitement and pride that I definitely want to explore more in the future.
The last writing day of the camp was definitely the most emotional one. Well, what did I expect? A bunch of sensitive creatives together for a weekend - it was about to get deep and soppy! I was back in the room with Madeleine, joined by Hannes Andersson, our Swedish guest producer of course (because somehow all Swedes are lovely and smashing the formula to make hit songs), and TYE‘s own Jamie aka the Irish voice on my phone. After going through the briefs and listening to song references we decided to leave the briefs behind and just go with what we felt - yes we are rebels! Hannes showed us one of his instrumental productions, which he hadn’t been able to get the right topline for. We immediately felt that this instrumental was something special and decided to spend the next couple of hours on it to see where it took us. We didn’t actually write a single melody in that time, but while the track was playing in the background, we talked (and talked and talked) about our past, the people that hurt us, how we dealt with the pain and how we came out the other side. My favourite thing about writing sessions is that you can end up sharing your deepest thoughts with people you just met without a filter and without feeling judged - and that‘s exactly what happened. We laid it all on the table, all the anxiety, the confusion, the sadness, the anger and the insecurities and while we were sharing our experiences we realised we were not alone. It was a moment of unexpected therapy and our song ‚Named After You‘ was born, a response to the person that caused the pain. I recorded the vocals, and although my voice was breaking because I had a cold coming, it was definitely one of the most emotional vocal performances I‘ve done in a while. It is that moment when you realise you don‘t care if this song gets anywhere. The process of creating something beautiful and making music with talented people makes it all worth it - the reason why I started making music in the first place and the reason why I am still in this crazy industry.
I can confidently say that I wasn‘t the only person feeling like this during the TYE songwriting camp. On our last night together we listened back to all the songs from the weekend, and it was so exciting to hear how many great songs came out from the different groups, how many deep connections were made, and how grateful and motivated everyone felt leaving the camp. We ended the evening by dancing to our songs, singing along to a very special K-Pop tune, and finishing all the food that was still left in the villa. The bus driver picked us up at 7am Monday morning, and after saying our goodbyes (luckily not for too long as a lot of people are based in London), exploring Barcelona with some of my new pals and getting a last-minute sunburn (typical!), I boarded the plane back home thinking about the incredible experience I‘d had.
Since Barcelona I’ve already been back to Tileyard in London for more sessions with the talented people I was lucky to meet. I couldn’t recommend TYE‘s songwriting camp more to anyone who wants to take their music career to the next level - the quality of musicianship, the musical and personal connections and the opportunities I had through TYE (including spending hours dissolving in a hot tub) were invaluable! THANK YOU Harry Leckstein, the whole TYE team and all the talented songwriters for a truly great weekend - I can’t wait for the next one!''
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