I have never met Daniel Freitag in person, but after a few emails between us and talking over the phone, I have a good feeling Freitag is “one of the good guys” (: and I am looking forward to listen to his concert coming up soon on Framed #23.
I ran into Daniel’s music almost a year ago, while doing my weekly research for good musicians I don’t know yet. It was such a refreshing breeze listening to Daniel’s songs for the first time. A tastefully balanced combination between electronics, acoustic instruments, beautiful melodies and intelligent lyrics.
Here is a short interview with Daniel with some questions I was curios about…
Was there a special moment in life when you have decided to be a musician?
I can’t remember a specific moment, but I was obsessed with music and being a performer/musician since I can remember. I had my first band when I was 12 and that was already like a dream come true. But coming from a small village, I was quite intimidated by the idea of trying to be a professional musician in a big city like Berlin, where I moved when I was 19. Also, my band dissolved at that point and I didn’t feel ready or confident enough to start out as a solo artist. I was always recording and writing songs, but was never completely convinced. So I was quite glad to discover theatre as a place where I could experiment and grow.
How do you begin writing a song? the words first? the lyrics? an idea? could you reveal a bit about your process?
I almost always write the music first, harmony and melody. Usually some words and sentences just come to me and stay. But writing the lyrics becomes quite a puzzle for me, because at some point I make a first demo with improvised vocals and that one is usually perfect from the flow of vowels and consonants, except the lyrics don’t make sense. It gets to a point where the whole song is recorded and ready, and then comes the tricky task of writing lyrics that keep the songs energy and depths. And often while trying to keep certain vowels and consonants in the place of the demo, because the flow was right. It takes a long time to figure it out. The only exception is a new song called „My Heart is an Avenue“ that will be on my next record. I find it much easier to write music to lyrics, but you get different results and I feel I come up with better musical ideas when I start with the music. I find that when I start with the music first the theme and mood of the song just come naturally and intuitively and not intellectually. And that emotional core is what connects me with music in the first place.
How is writing music for Theatre is different from writing songs?
In theatre and film there is always something that exists before the music. Something concrete to relate to. Like the text, the scenery or other aesthetic aspects. These things basically dictate to a certain degree how music can sound and work. It is not about me, it is about trying to help the director and the actors tell a story. For me it is very liberating and inspiring, because with my music everything has to come out of my head and I’m the only reference point. In theatre you also work with space, you create a room with sound which I love. I also improvise a lot during rehearsals, so it is kind of a jam with the actors in which the music becomes another actor.
Could you tell us about your new album?
Sure. I tried to be much more open and direct with the new songs. With the lyrics, but the production as well. I almost went crazy recording the last album, but I also learned so much. So this time it went much faster, also because a lot of demos became the actual album versions. I tried to limit myself in regards to sounds, instruments and tracks to keep as focussed and simple as possible. That also came out of necessity, because I recorded most of it in a small room in Paris. It was a quite turbulent phase and the album just happened, it wasn’t really planned. But that makes it sound sort of free, while being intimate at the same time. It’s not finished yet, but definitely will be this year and come out in 2020.
I’ve read that you acquired your skills in writing and producing on your own. Could you tell a little bit about how you taught yourself?
I think it is about curiosity and a vision. There was always something I wanted to do and since I can be quite obsessive I just went for trial and error until it works. Where I grew up there wasn’t a lot going on culturally and all the people I looked up to where unreachable to me. I had a lot of time to kill and didn’t know any other way, so it was what I did all day. Today teaching yourself is so much easier with all these tutorials on the internet, which is great for learning practical stuff. But I think to get good at songwriting you just have to write an awful lot of songs and you slowly get better and learn.
What inspires you?
On one hand art, films, books. I also find artist biographies very inspiring to stay on track and be uncompromising in the whole process. On the other hand it is life, stuff that happens to me, to others and that touches me. That usually get’s me to a point where I just have to get to pick up the guitar or whatever and something happens.
What music do you listen to lately?
Cass McCombs was on heavy rotation for a while, Shikara Sakamoto, Sun Kil Moon and a french composer called Charles Koechlin. But most of the time I listen to a handful of old albums over and over again. Joni Mitchell – Hejira, Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate, Mark Hollis, Coltrane and some brazilian stuff from the 60ies.
What are we to expect from your concert at FRAMED?
I will play a few new songs for the first time, which is very exciting. Then most of my first album and maybe a cover version. My good friend Nils Ostendorf will join me on trumpet and an old italian synthesizer. It will be quite intimate, but adventurous as well.