Songwriting in the wilderness

I got back home 15 days ago, having been away for 8 days for the Knoydart Songwriting Retreat. It’s taken me this long to get around to forming some words in this way because I’m still processing what was a perception-changing, mind-blowing, life-enhancing experience.

I spotted this retreat back in late 2020, went through the application process and was very excited to be accepted. It was originally supposed to happen in June, but got postponed like a lot of things. This postponement turned out to be a good thing as it gave my best friend and closest music collaborator Kelly chance to apply too. She was also accepted and suddely we had a road trip, with a difference (the last bit is by boat for a starters!) in the diary for late September.

I would be writing for ever if I tried to convey just what an impact this trip has had on not just Kelly and I, but also the nine other songwriters attending the retreat. Suffice to say we have all come home feeling independently creatively fired up, but also determined to stay in touch and support each other.

Our mentors were Shelly Poole and Paul Statham (with the added bonus of Shelly’s husband, Texas guitarist Ally McErlaine, who has to be one of the nicest guys on planet Earth). You only have to do a quick search to discover just how many famous names Shelly & Paul have written hit songs with, so we knew they’d have gems of wisdom to offer. What we didn’t know was just how open they would be with sharing their insights, ideas, experiences. We couldn’t have wished for more generous guides.

I did this trip for a lot of reasons: To learn from the mentors, and from the other songwriters (I did); To see if I could get up, be given a songwriting task, get on with it in the manner of just getting on with doing any job, and have a decent song, or part of, by the end of the day (I did); To see if I could succesfully & enjoyably collaborate with a different ‘stranger’ (actually we all got to know each other pretty quick), with a different background and different approaches to music, every day (I did/could); Fairly low on the list was the hope that I might come home with some new songs to put on the album I’ve started making. Two new David Edward Booth songs (Following Tracks and As I Have Always Done) did indeed appear while I was there. Time will tell if they appear on the album.

I already knew I loved the Scottish Highlands & Islands. This trip just made that feeling stronger, and I hope to spend more time up there in the not-too-distant future. And if you’re a songwriter looking for some space, geographically and emotionally, I can’t recommend this part of the world and these retreats highly enough.

So, back to reality, and to making music in my new studio in rural Suffolk. But before I go, I must say a huge thank you, in true awards ceremony style, to the bunch of people who made Knoydart so special…

My little family, who support me endlessly.

The other songwriters (& new friends) – Lauren, Ian, Susie, Joe, Danielle, Emma, Anita, Emily, Nigel.

The mentors – Shelly (and Ally!) and Paul.

The Knoydart Songwriting Retreat founders – Janey de Nordwall and Duncan Lewis.

Belinda & Pete, who looked after us so well!

And finally, I will be eternally grateful to Kelly, who was brave/daft enough to join me on this 8-day adventure into the unknown, and to Mat Bayfield, who did so much to set Kelly and I off on this new musical journey. We will miss him always.


Posted in: new music