Song camps and writer retreats, which bring together top songwriters and artists for periods of intense writing and collaboration in relatively isolated yet inspirational locations, have proven to be extremely effective in generating songs for specific recording, TV and film projects.
ole, which is arguably the number-one operator of songwriting camps worldwide, has presented camps, with various partners and sponsors, in Berlin and London, England, and this fall will be heading back to Europe and running the fourth annual L.A. Pop + Urban song camp. “Song camps channel the spirit of the legendary Motown and Brill Building environments, focusing an elite group of songwriters to create hit songs for top pop and urban artists,” explains ole president Michael McCarty. “About 15 world-class songwriters from North America and Europe are brought together for a five-day, intensive writing retreat. These camps are fun, creative, competitive and productive. They are attended by key industry decision-makers such as music supervisors and major label A&R execs, who brief the writers on what kind of songs their stars or the latest movies and TV shows are looking for.”
Nettwerk One (NW1), the publishing arm of Nettwerk Music Group, and Island Records Australia recently got together for a 10-day Writer Retreat with a mix of international participants that included established and up-and-coming artists, writers and producers. Both Michael Taylor of Island Australia and Peter Coquillard of NW1 had purposefully sought out a creative and inspiring location to hold the retreat and came up with Ubud, the centre for fine arts, dance and music on the island of Bali. “Creating a unique and special environment for artists and writers to work together undoubtedly brings about special songs,” says Taylor.
Some of the earliest songwriter retreats took place in the early ’90s at the 14th-century Château Marouatte, which music executive/artist manager Miles Copeland (The Police) had bought in southwest France. Here, at his invitation, promising unknowns and established industry names regularly bonded in the spirit of creative collaboration. Reportedly, Canadian songwriter Greg Wells MEMBER(we can’t find him as a SOCAN member)? co-wrote the Céline Dion hit “The Reason” with Carole King while they stayed there and Keith Urban rose from obscurity after writing “But for the Grace of God” with Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos at the château. Copeland would later find that the location was perhaps part of the magic. As he told The Sunday Times, after doing some research on the area, he found that four of the top 10 songwriters of the Middle Ages came from near there. “This castle was almost central to the land of the troubadours,” he noted.