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Inside Pro7ect’s Residential Songwriting Retreat with founder Lisa Fitz

Lisa Fitz, producer, songwriter and founder of Pro7ect provides notes from the organisaiton’s latest Residential Songwriting Retreat, providing a unique insight into what these sessions can offer music creators in her own words…

It’s day three of the Pro7ect Residential Songwriting Retreat and I’m feeling excited, exhausted, overwhelmed and totally up for it. Yesterday’s writing session has emotionally and creatively purged my musical battery, so my fear at the start of the day is that I’ve peaked too soon.

Teams are announced at breakfast, and I’m working with featured artist Elle Exxe, headline producer Ian Wallman and top-line writer Christine Kowalchuk. The hardest part of a session, for me, is the unfolding sacred moments before we focus on the job at hand… walking into the room… finding your space.

Pro7ect Headline Producer Ian Wallman takes control and makes us all feel at home. His laidback demeanour steers the morning’s session, and we smoothly settle into our respective roles.

TOP TIP: if you are struggling at the start of a writing session step back and allow someone else to shape the space.

We spend the first hour drinking coffee and talking about life. Elle Exxe is on a mission to write songs for her upcoming album Love Fuelled Hate, a concept immersed in the disparate emotions experienced in and out of love. She’s written the ‘Love’ part of the album, easy… but needs help with the ‘Hate’ side of the story. No worries… we can all channel this little monster!

Elle and Christina bond straight away over an experience that frames the story of the song about to become The Hammer. Elle recounts a gritty, humbling situation, where expectation & ambition collided with disappointment, provoking an abrasive realisation… all lived out by a young, aspiring musician, determined to make her mark.

TOP TIP: keep it real. Honesty is the best policy when you are songwriting, with a team or on your own. Even if you are writing conceptually, being honest about how you feel & what you think will help with the vocabulary and workflow.

Sitting at the computer, Ian and I start with a bass line and beats, then adding rhythmical loops. We then find a chord progression that reflects the pathos of the conversation. I love this part of the songwriting process… filtering a story or feeling through a mesh of musical possibilities is like translating what we feel into what we hear.

I expected to write a song a day, I expected to meet some cool people and I did… perfect! Elle Exxe, Pro7ect alumni (singer/songwriter/producer)

We discover a sound that makes our bones shake, transpose it an octave lower, to give it even more wedge, and this becomes the bass sound and the tonal impetus, for The Hammer.

Just when we thought we’d nailed it, Elle steps up to the midi keyboard and changes one note in the bass line. It sounds a little odd, so Ian tries steering her back towards our original idea, but she stands fast, insisting we keep it.

Adjusting our ears to this new melodic direction is a challenge at first, but as our ears adjust, and as we start tracking the top-line melody, this new bass line becomes a totally irreplaceable part of the song.

TOP TIP: give new ideas time to settle. Sometimes our ears make us think too much and we miss out on opportunities.

We tighten the top line, write a few extra verses kindred to the initial idea, and Elle smashes the vocals down, mostly in one take. I feel a real sense of satisfaction as we play The Hammer to the other teams at the evening’s listening session.

Elle Exxe is a total Pro and collaborating with her is a lesson in creative decision-making, musical courage and economical workflow.

Now in our seventh year, Pro7ect songwriting retreats at the world famous Rockfield Studios, is the only residential songwriting retreat in the UK offering music production in the room and an opportunity to collaborate with internationally acclaimed writers/producers.

Pro7ect headline producers include Stew Jackson (Massive Attack), Youth (Sir Paul McCartney, The Verve, The Orb), Roni Size (Reprazent), John Fortis (Razorlight, Ellie Goulding), Iain Archer (Snow Patrol, James Bay), Andrew Levy (Brand New Heavies) and Mercury Prize Winner Talvin Singh.

You can read Fitz's guide to musical collaboration and how to improve your songwriting skills here

Link to this blog: https://www.pro7ect.com/session-notes

‘The Hammer’ by Elle Exxe Video link: https://youtu.be/00nUyMbDtgI

For more information and to apply for Pro7ect songwriting retreats & Masterclasses: www.pro7ect.com

For exclusive Headliner Reader discounts on Pro7ect songwriting events put ‘Headliner’ in the “How did you hear about Pro7ect” question on your application: www.pro7ect.com/apply

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