What Have I Done?

I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!

I’m an Australian musician living in Berlin. I’m here because I wanted to live somewhere else (having always lived in Australia) and to have an adventure.

When I arrived, I stayed in temporary accommodation before finding an apartment, navigated the bureaucracy, found work, set out making new friends, and settled in for winter. I soaked up the city and its music. I also spent a lot of time isolated, homesick, and scared of speaking the language (or more the point, the fear of rejection).

So, I played a few open stages to get out a bit and discovered this is one of the best ways to get into the music scene and to meet people.

But I was still a beginner in a new town.

Was this the source of inspiration I had hoped for? I don’t know. I had no idea what I was doing. And I had even less of an idea each time someone asked how my travels were faring.

Lost Connections

I found myself asking: “why am I here again?” Moving to a new city is exciting and daunting, and you can’t have one without the other. It becomes difficult to distinguish between “good” and “bad” experiences, but ultimately, I’m a firm believer that hard experiences (good or bad) are what one needs in one’s life.

With technology such as Messenger, email, and Skype, it’s easy to stay in contact with people back home.

It’s also not the same. You can’t just drop by for a coffee. The connections are there, but they are different and strange. You learn quickly what times are best to contact people — usually the start or the end of the day (the time difference is roughly 10 hours).

I slowly got to know people in Berlin and made connections through meetup groups, friends of friends, and musicians. Our little community in a big city.

These things take time.

I Heart Songwriting Club

I don’t exactly remember how I came about joining I Heart Songwriting Club, but it was probably chatting to founder, Francesca, at a gig party house concert back in Hobart, Tasmania. When I met her, I was happy with how my rock band was going – we were getting’ gigs, rocking songs, and dreaming about throwing TVs out of hotel rooms. OK, maybe not the last one.

When I joined the club, I was pretty much out of ideas, jaded, flat, exhausted after throwing all those imaginary TVs, and generally not really interested in writing or music. I’m not sure why I joined the club, to be honest, but I did and it’s kept me connected to songwriting whilst I’ve been in Berlin. The atmosphere and space that the club creates really helped me break the logjam in my songwriting. I think, for me it made it easier not thinking up topics (as these were determined each week), and it was a little like writing someone else’s song. That was interesting to me.


I am a “guerrilla” recorder, that is I like to record quickly, and in unusual spaces as far as recording studios are concerned. Studio engineers would be horrified. It doesn’t bother me. I would set up my mic in whatever room I’m in, get sufficiently close to it and sing a few quick lines. The first take is often the best unless I decide to do 20 more to “get it right”.

I favoured this technique for a number of reasons: a) it’s cheap, b) it’s quick — I can jot down an idea right now, and c) I can do this with my knowledge of the recording process and software.

A lot of my album’s initial vocals made it through to the final product. I would love to say I had intended this all along – I didn’t. It just happened! Maybe I didn’t feel like doing those 20 takes to improve it. Maybe it just suited the way it was. It is possible to over-analyse – a listener might like or dislike something, no one’s going to say that the 7th take isn’t the right one.

The recording started mainly with I Heart Songwriting Club songs.

I’d go through every week, submitting my songs and listening to other peoples’ songs (we’re all in this together!!!). As time went on my demos were rougher and rougher. I figured I’d polish up some of them later on.

The demo songs, or songs recorded for the club, were often done quickly and therefore a lot of creative “madness” made its way into the song. As is with the first vocal take, it’s often the best and captures that moment which is 100 times harder to re-create artificially later on. It’s hard to describe, but I did find that I lost a lot of that madness when I tried to do “proper” re-takes. I think this is somewhat of a black art.

Sometimes I’d start off with a drumbeat loop, sometimes I’d tinkle on the piano. Occasionally, with the topic in mind, I’d come up with a chorus melody and work around that. Or perhaps a lyric idea. It was a curious experience. Often I’d record the lyrics while making up the tune as I went – something that worked probably 50% of the time!

Some songs I did for the club were barely half-formed.

They didn’t make it to the album. With time though, they may go somewhere. Some songs I didn’t like, but that’s all part of the process – I had the chance to go in different directions anyway.

Technology provided to be incredibly helpful here – not only could I record and share my IHSC songs, but I also had friends record for me (David McEldowney on guitar, Jacqui Smialek on backing vocals). I would send them mp3s and they would send back studio recordings via your favourite cloud storage solution. This made it easy to collaborate with others, and we also used these methods to get feedback on the songs (“perhaps record that line again”, and so on).

The recording was done in Berlin, Prague, Switzerland, and Hobart, and completed in December 2017.

What Have I Done?

That’s the name of the new album that I have coming out on 3rd January 2018.

It’ll be supported by a big album launch at the Peacock Theatre in Hobart (a beautiful theatre!). The show consists of 12 musicians, and all our Hobart friends and family coming together to hear songs about lost connectivity, isolation, love, adventures, and my experiences over the last 12 months. It’s the result of me grappling with isolation, anxiety, and solitude, and finding the joy in the little things. It’s introspective and contemplative on what artistic work I have completed but also looking at my life as a whole.

I have no regrets for making the move, as it has changed me. A cliché, perhaps, but clichés are often true anyway. It has made me appreciate my hometown and even made me appreciate Berlin a lot more.

It is a pretty cool place.

What Have I Done? Album Launch January 3, 2018

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