Only winning songs on album Album of winners

2016-02-09 06:00
Simon van Gend and his band members Ross Campbell and Eric Michot are launching new album Suffer Well on Saturday.  PHOTO: Jonx Pillemer

Simon van Gend and his band members Ross Campbell and Eric Michot are launching new album Suffer Well on Saturday. PHOTO: Jonx Pillemer

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Local singer-songwriter Simon van Gend had 52 songs to choose from for his latest album, Suffer Well, which will be launched this weekend.

To set yourself the goal of writing a song a week for 52 consecutive weeks seems like a fair enough goal if you’re a full-time musician.

But Simon, from Observatory, isn’t a full-time musician, even though he has – over the past 15 years – made a name for himself as one of Cape Town’s best singer-songwriters.

Back in February 2014 Simon started a blog called “A Song a Week” and set out to pen a new song every week for a year.

“I wanted to work on my songwriting,” he says. “And the only way I could do that was to make some sort of a public commitment I couldn’t back out of.”

This commitment led to a creative routine kicking in, and it soon yielded results.

“Once you get into the writing process one great idea inspires the next one. And if you hadn’t sat down to start with, the ball wouldn’t have gotten rolling at all. Every time I write a song I try to write a good song, but sometimes they end up good and other times they don’t. Often the ones people think are fantastic are ones I just thought were okay. During this process of writing a song a week I realised that I’m the worst person to judge whether a song is worth it or not.

“I discovered that my internal critic was mostly wrong, because that has to do with my own issues and insecurities. Perhaps a song that reveals too much personal stuff is a song that ends up being the most effective one. But in the past that defence mechanism would kick in, as if I wanted to resist revealing the personal stuff. But with my weekly deadline I couldn’t hold anything back, I had to complete and see all songs through.”

At the end of each month, Simon went in to Chris Tuck’s studio in Cape Town and laid down four tracks. These would then be released on his blog – one a week – during the month that followed while he worked on the next batch of four songs.

“Chris did such a great job of recording those blog songs that we were able to use of lot of those recordings on the album,” Simon says. “I usually just went in and recorded guitar and vocals in one take. The cool thing is that as a result I didn’t have ‘red light syndrome’, which you usually get when you’re recording for an album. So I didn’t have that pressure, that anxiety that can interfere with your performance. I was much more relaxed and I think you can hear that on the album. It just feels less contrived.”

With Chris as producer Simon ended up putting 14 of the 52 tracks on the album which was to be called Suffer Well. The album, Simon’s fifth, was released in September last year at a collaborative event with artist Sanet Stegmann at Youngblood Gallery in the city centre. Sanet also created the cover and sleeve artwork for Suffer Well.

Picking the album tracks was made easier for Simon by outsourcing the decision to fans and friends.

“I took into account what people liked on the blog, and then friends, and my band members, Ross Campbell (from Mowbray) and Eric Michot (from Observatory), also weighed in.

“In the past I’d go into the studio with 15 to 20 songs to choose from, but now I had 52. This meant that I didn’t have to compromise on quality. Every song was a winner.

“I’m very bad at judging whether a song of mine is good or not. Sometimes I think that the songs that are the easiest to write – the ones that just happen – can’t be right, that they didn’t cost me enough. But those often end up the songs that people like the most, maybe because there is that spontaneity there.

“This spontaneity is clear to hear on Suffer Well, which eases through what could often be heavy – thoughtful, contemplative – lyrical content with a light tread.”V Simon will be launching Suffer Well with his band at the Deer Park Café in Vredehoek on Saturday at 14:00, where the band will be joined by Gene and Francis Kierman. Call 021 462 6311 to book or visit www.simonvangend.com for more.

Local singer-songwriter Simon van Gend had 52 songs to choose from for his latest album, Suffer Well, which will be launched this weekend.

To set yourself the goal of writing a song a week for 52 consecutive weeks seems like a fair enough goal if you’re a full-time musician. But Simon, from Observatory, isn’t a full-time musician, even though he has – over the past 15 years – made a name for himself as one of Cape Town’s best singer-songwriters.

In 2014 Simon started a blog called “A Song a Week” and set out to pen a new song every week for a year. This commitment led to a creative routine and it soon yielded results.

“Once you get into the writing process one great idea inspires the next one. Every time I write a song I try to write a good song, but sometimes they end up good and other times they don’t. Often the ones people think are fantastic are ones I just thought were okay. During this process of writing a song a week I realised that I’m the worst person to judge whether a song is worth it or not.

“Perhaps a song that reveals too much personal stuff is a song that ends up being the most effective one. But in the past that defence mechanism would kick in, as if I wanted to resist revealing the personal stuff. But with my weekly deadline I couldn’t hold anything back.”

At the end of each month, Simon went in to Chris Tuck’s studio in Cape Town and laid down four tracks. These would then be released on his blog – one a week – during the month that followed while he worked on the next batch of four songs.

With Chris as producer Simon ended up putting 14 of the 52 tracks on the album which was to be called Suffer Well. The album, Simon’s fifth, was released in September last year at a collaborative event with artist Sanet Stegmann at Youngblood Gallery in the city centre. Sanet also created the cover and sleeve artwork for Suffer Well.

Picking the album tracks was made easier for Simon with outside help.

“I took into account what people liked on the blog, and then friends, and my band members, Ross Campbell (from Mowbray) and Eric Michot (from Observatory), also weighed in.

“In the past I’d go into the studio with 15 to 20 songs to choose from, but now I had 52. This meant that I didn’t have to compromise on quality. Every song was a winner.”

V Simon will be launching Suffer Well with his band at the Deer Park Café in Vredehoek on Saturday at 14:00, where the band will be joined by Gene and Francis Kierman. Call 021 462 6311 to book or visit www.simonvangend.com for more.

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