My husband and I like to play our guitars together, when we have the time. Occasionally, on vacation, we dabble with writing our own songs. But the best we’ve ever come up with is a childrens’ tune that HE composed called “The Land of the Coconuts”. This endeavor went horribly wrong when I told him, in a moment of brutal honesty, that the song sounded a lot like Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy“. And can you believe he actually tried to convince me that “Sir Mix-a-lot” rhymes with “Coconut”? Well we all know that’s just not true! But what we also know with certainty is that, in the song writing department, Bill and I clearly need help.
That’s why we’re so excited that one of the featured artists for next weekend’s Barrington Art Festival is a singer, songwriter and pianist named John Hegner from Harvard, IL. He will be leading two songwriting workshops during the festival and performing his own pieces on the “Acoustic Café Stage”. Hegner owns Starbell Hatchery, a recording studio in Harvard. He has written dozens of beautiful songs and says creating music can be a solo act, but is often a collaborative process.
One of my favorite John Hegner pieces is a song he wrote for his father called “When it’s Raining”. When I first listened to the lyrics, I made guesses about what inspired them. Then John told me the song expresses that “Love is there for the taking, when we let it happen. In broader terms, it’s about surrender, acceptance, and letting go.” The words are meaningful and listening through the refrain is an absolute must! It is really beautiful. For a little background music before you read on, click the “Play” arrow on the audio clip below…
Now where were we? Oh yeah. The collaborative process. Hegner says some of the most beautiful songs have been created by teams. People who are masters with words and lyrics often need to partner with beautiful melody makers and vice versa.
And Hegner says your surroundings can help or hinder the songwriting process. His studio sits on the edge of a 500 Acre tree farm and land preserve in Harvard. He says the setting is so pristine, beautiful and relaxing, it helps inspire reflection and creativity.
When it comes to writing lyrics and composing melodies, Hegner says, “When there is something that simply NEEDS to be expressed, it will find its way up from the subconscious one way or another. That’s why break up songs are so prevalent in the culture, I think. The emotions are high and the writer may have something stirring inside regarding what was left unsaid.”
On Saturday, May 29th, Hegner will lead a session called “Make Your Best Demo: Techniques for songwriters interested in making professional-quality recordings at home or in the studio”. This will take place from 1-3PM at Francesca’s Famiglia restaurant at 100 East Station Street. On Sunday, May 30th, he’ll lead a session called “Spoken Song” to help teach people to put their creative writing to music. That session will take place from Noon-2PM at TT Patton Fine Stationery at 123 E. Station Street. Seating is limited and you can register in advance for this workshop by clicking HERE. Tickets for both workshops are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.
You’ll also have a chance to hear John perform his own original music when he takes the “Acoustic Café Stage” on Sunday at 10AM. There’s something spiritual about his sound and his lyrics so it’s a great way to reflect on a Sunday morning. And who knows, you might feel inspired to collaborate on a new song with your spouse. Even if it ends up sounding a little familiar ;).