The idea for the masterclass had formed in the summer of 2021 in conversations between myself and Bobby - who I had struck up a conversation with on Twitter, and then a breakfast meeting in Glasgow's West End. I then shameslessly approached James with the idea that we could do each masterclasses with a different songwriter. When James and Bobby suggested that they do the first one together I knew we had a great idea and had to run with it.
Fast forward to a beautiful bright early Spring weekend on the Secret Coast in March 2022 and 9 songwriters (and one non-songwriting husband) turned up not quite knowing what they had signed up to - but with a love of music and a willingness to learn.
The group was very diverse in age and songwriting experience. Jamie S, Jamie C, Lunan and Peter are professional/semi-professional musicians, Stevie, Graeme and Sandrine are songwriting hobbyists and Blythe had never written a song before but has a love of music and performance. And then there was Rab who is a songwriting legend and played his first gig in 1967!
After a welcoming lunch on the Friday, the first session was led by James with reflections on his songwriting approach with some played examples. This was followed by an opportunity for each attendee to play or discuss any ideas they had brought with them. Bobby and James spent a little bit of time with each songwriter to provide suggestions on what they could do to improve or develop their track. This was done in the group environment so that the other attendees could learn from the feedback. Before dinner everyone was then free to go off and work on their song.
Dinner was a great chance for everyone to get to know each other - and the food was fantastic - especially the fresh local langoustines and mussels. After dinner the pool table was a big draw whilst some of the songwriters took the chance to grab James or Bobby for some late night input.
Saturday started with a leisurely breakfast of granola, bacon rolls and fruit. After breakfast the work on songs continued with James and Bobby making sure they got around everyone to help with their songs. At the same time, the 'demo studio' in the attic was open for attendees to start to record their demos. Steve our amazing audio engineer student from Perth College was our engineer in residence and did a great job of capturing each song in very tight timescales.
Saturday night was the Showcase. We relocated to Five West cafe, a short stroll from the house. We had early evening dinner followed by each songwriter performing their song accompanied by James or Bobby and the other songwriters. This felt like a celebration and whilst some songs weren't 100% complete the quality of what had been produced was clear. After dinner we returned to the house for more games of pool in the games room and some fantastic storytelling from James, Bobby, Rab and all the songwriters.
Sunday started with a leisurely brunch followed by a short reflection session when everyone talked about how they were feeling about the weekend and what they got out of it. The remainder of the day was spent recording the remainder of the demos with lots of offers to do backing vocals, play some keyboards on each other songs.
The weekend wrapped up with everyone heading home in the afternoon having made a lot of new friends and with a crazy number of new earworms!
As a postscript, in the week following the weekend the WhatsApp group has been buzzing as Steve our audio engineer has been releasing his mixed and mastered versions of the demos. The quality of the songs created and completed really has been amazing.
"This was pretty special. Great people, great tunes and such a wonderful place. Totally buzzing with how it all went." - James
"It was one of the best things i’ve ever been involved in. The group were a magic bunch of people" - Bobby
"The help we got from James and Bobby was fantastic. Bobby spent ages with me structuring my song, editing lines, working on harmonies. It was great. Firstly it made my song better, secondly, it made me think about how I work and changing my approach to it - definitely something long term to take with me." - Peter
"It's been amazing and you made my wishes come true! The catering was amazing, high quality food and cooked like at home by lovely local folks." - Sandrine