Songwriting duo Hal and Cherrie, otherwise known as Ooberfuse, arrived back from UKTI’s Publishers & Songwriting Camp at the end of September and have provided us with a short breakdown of what they got up to. We’re happy to be able to offer Music Gateway members such amazing opportunities and we’re glad that they had such a great experience and were really inspired during the workshop!
The first day kicked off at 8.30 am. Around 20 songwriters from the UK and US all huddled in reception for morning briefing. The pressure to create songs was high but the vibe was so positive. We were put into writing groups, two UK songwriters and a US working partner. Ours was Steve O’ Brien, introduced as Nashville songwriting royalty. We spent the morning writing our song at Write Off The Row, a songwriting studio in Nashville. We later found out over lunch that he has sold over 10 million records having written for many of Nashville’s greats. Just as well we did not know that at the outset or we would have just been too starstruck! ?
This humble Nashville aristocrat started the session with a casual chat about what we had been up to recently. He was fascinated by our tales from Northern Iraq. This started a thought-thread along the theme of kidnap and hostage-taking. He introduced the idea of being a prisoner and together we searched for ways to give an essentially dark theme a positive slant. Lyrically the song, ‘Prison is my Palace’, explores the power of love to transform an otherwise oppressive dungeon into a luxurious palace. Love’s narcotic effects tranquilise the physical assaults and hardship of captivity. Musically, the soft rock chugging on Hal’s nylon acoustic was interlaced with country licks on Steve’s battered steel string.
After 3 hours in Write Off The Row we wolfed down some burritos before moving on to Creative Caffeine Studios to record our brand new song. There we were greeted by Pino Squillace, owner of the studio and one of Nashville’s top producers. Before going into the studio Pino showed us the tree houses leaning over a gentle creek at the edge of his back yard. Once inside the studio, jet lag truly took hold. Eventually, fighting against deep fatigue, we completed an outline of the track and hit the studio to lay down the guide demo. We were all really happy with the result, and delighted when Steve said that he would like to continue writing songs with us even after the workshop!
At the early morning gathering in the college reception area, we were assigned our working partner for the day, Liza Anne Odachowski an up and coming Nashville singer/songwriter recently signed to a UK label. En route to the music rooms Liza wanted to hear our sound so we plugged our laptop into her car system and played Greater Love. She then played us a tune from her EP, a guitar based melancholic soft rock track lightened by a stunning vocal that would have work equally well in a country music song. When we arrived at Stage Write Studio we were allocated a song-writing room with copious chairs. Above the sofa a plaque on the wall proclaimed ‘Music Never Sleeps’. Within 10 minutes we had agreed on a riff and chord sequence and within half an hour the track My Lover was written. Liza was as surprised as we were with the uplifting breezy happy pop tune reminiscent of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass.
On the third day, we were put into separate writing groups. Cherrie ended up with Stephen ‘Beanz’ Rudden, the man behind the chart topping “Love City Groove” and represented the UK in Eurovision, and Nashville singer-songwriter, Ben Sturgell.
Beanz led the session and suggested that the group come up with a song for a boy band as that was one of the briefs from Notting Hill Music. One of the great things about the workshop is that you never know what kind of song you’ll end up creating! We ended up with a song called “Head over Heels”, a tune that sounds like a cross between Mumford and Songs and One Direction. We recorded the demo in Creative Caffeine Studios. We had a great and interesting time building up the track and recording the vocals. Fingers crossed you’ll get to hear the song being sung by a boy band near you?!
Hal was teamed up with another local singer/songwriter Adam James and returned to Stage Right Studios. Hal and Adam were allocated a songwriting room with plenty of paper, pencils and chairs including a massive padded sofa. After formal introductions which included a guitar play-off to get a feel for each other’s style we started experimenting with a groove around a chord sequence.
Singing over this an experimental line ‘you take me in then spit me out’ started to bed in well with the groove. The lyrics then tumbled out describing the emotional impacts of male love spurned and the lies men tell to cover up their emotional anguish. Adam unleashed his massive and hugely impressive vocal power to blast out the anthemic refrain ‘These are the lies I tell’.
In the afternoon after a slice of pizza and a bowl of rice in the nearby Thai canteen we went back to the studio to lay down guitar and vocals. We then set off to go to an informal wine and cheese social at Allen Mckendree Palmer and Eric Scott Palmer’s beautiful Nashville home.
We had the opportunity to listen to Jewel Coburn of Ten Ten Music Group talk about songwriting, how she discovered Keith Urban and some tips on getting your songs published. It was also very inspiring to hear about Allen’s personal experiences of the joys of songwriting and his love for music.
At the morning huddle we were informed that today we would be paired with Daniel J Cartier, a Nashville singer/songwriter.
Tattooed from head to toe and with a mini mobile studio set up in a room in Write Off The Row we made our introductions. After a strong cup of coffee we started grooving to a guitar riff and trying out vocal lines. ‘Can you knock me down?
No-ooo!’ sent a wave of excitement through the room which led to the refrain that became the song-title ‘Find someone else to bruise’. It started to develop a dancey feel. We ended up recording claps and stomps and kept laughing our way through the song! It was definitely the most fun, crazy day of the week!
Later on that night we got to perform some of our own Ooberfuse tunes in Belcourt Taps, one of Nashville’s best live music venues! We were joined on stage by Pino Squillace. We also got to hear other British songwriters showcase their own songs. It was so nice to hear their songs and we were very impressed with the artists who performed.
One of the people in the audience who liked our set is none other than the original Artful Dodger, creator of Rewind, Movin’ Too Fast and Please Don’t Turn Me On.
The week went by so fast! We were put into different writing groups. Cherrie was in a group with Robyn G Shiels and Ben Sturgell again, whilst Hal was put in a group with UK-based topliner Hero Baldwin and Adam again. Hal’s group wrote a catchy song called ‘Liquour’.
Cherrie’s group ended up writing a melancholic track called ‘The Sky Is Ocean Blue’. We finished writing our song in the morning. We then explored downtown Nashville to try the best chicken wings in town!
Friday night was listening party – the night we all get to hear what everyone’s done for the week. It was incredible hearing all the amazing songs! After the listening party we then had the chance to experience Nashville nightlife!
We had such a great time! The whole experience is one of the best weeks of our lives, and we thank Music Gateway and UKTI (a BIG shout out to Phil Patterson!) for giving us this opportunity. It was an amazing and unforgettable week, spent with some of the UK and US’ top songwriters.
We have secured a production deal and are already working on our new set of songs with Pino Squillace, owner of Creative Caffeine Studios. The plan is to tour the songs in the UK and US as soon as they are ready. We are also looking to include a couple of the songs we wrote in the camp in our upcoming album!
We are now also continuing to co-write songs with the writers we have worked with. For the writers based in London, we have made plans to meet up and collaborate. Most importantly we have gained new friends that share our passion for music and songs.
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