IN a little chapel in Berkhamsted, just a few steps away from the bustling high street, there’s a creative revolution taking place –but it’s happening very quietly.
For Andrew McCrorie-Shand – musician, songwriter, film composer, and, perhaps most famously, the creator of the iconic music for toddlers’ classic the Teletubbies – is creating a tiny piece of the US of A in Herts. We’re talking Nashville here, people.
Now I don’t mean that Dacorum is about to become the next capital of country with a Grand Ole Opry on the tourist trail and stars clad in rhinestones tucking in to biscuits and gravy at the Way Inn.
I’m talking about a different way of making music – something a little more collaborative, a method of working that involves writing every day with other artists and introducing some deadlines and a sharing of ideas that is, frankly, a bit alien to most of us Brits.
It’s been supremely successful across the Atlantic in the tin pan alleys of Tennessee, so well that the place is known as Music City.
Andrew, who goes often, is an advocate, enthusiastic about the music community of writers and their understanding of what it takes to be a professional songwriter.
He compares the work required to the Herculean efforts necessary to become an Olympian.
Of those athletes he remarks: “The idea that they could just get up in the morning and go into the Olympics and do their thing is ludicrous. They train every day.
“Similarly you don’t suddenly wake up and write a hit, or it’s very rare.
“The idea in Nashville is that you just keep writing and with lots of other people – it’s the collaboration thing.
“It’s wonderful to go there, and every time I come back I try to get our artists together collaborating and writing every day, using the chapel.”
Artists signed to Andrew’s record label Which Wolf Wins are frequently young and up-and-coming locals.
“I get a great deal of satisfaction out of working with young people, or people who are in the business for the first time, and recording them for the first time,” he says.
“The joy and enthusiasm that these people have for the process takes me back to when I started and it reminds me just what it is that keeps me in the business.”
As a film and television music specialist those signed get the additional benefit of his experience in putting forward their commercially available songs for synchronisation into movies or TV – particularly in the States where they are especially keen on British music.
It’s very handy as an extra source of income, but taking this route has also successfully launched a good few music careers.
Local talent currently benefiting include Tring-based Tom Billington who has already recorded two albums with Andrew, Ashlyns School band The Man’s Machine who will record an EP this holiday, and 16-year-old Hemel Hempstead School student Charlie Goodall, who wowed people at a recent BerkoFest preview, and who also records an EP this summer.
Andrew says of Charlie: “I saw him first at the Greene Note in Berkhamsted and the lyrical content of his songs belies his age.”
Alongside the music recording Andrew makes a point of filming a top quality video to go with the tracks and frequently uses young animators or filmmakers who are just starting out.
“Most people find their music from YouTube so it’s very important that our tracks have videos accompanying them.
“It’s also good to encourage people in other parts of the film and music industry, screenwriters, cinematographers, animators – all facets of the industry.
“Everyone sees the guy or girl playing but behind him or her there is a mass of people that work, all using their creative abilities to earn money.”
Alongside his work with Which Wolf Wins Andrew has a host of other projects on the go with his separate company 55 Songs, including writing for children’s TV which he describes as not really work because basically he’s just a kid!
Of future plans he says: “We’ll carry on with what we’re doing and although it would be lovely to be able to say we’ve launched the careers of various artists, lovely to say we’ve had tracks in major movies, that sort of thing, really I just want to keep on nurturing talent – particularly the younger talent.
“It’s a very difficult world out there but at the very basic level of communicating you want to be able to sit in front of somebody else, play them a song, and for them to get it. That’s the bottom line.”
Which Wolf Wins sponsors the main stage at BerkoFest on September 15. Go to www.youtube.com/user/pvmusicpublishing to listen to some of the artists signed to Which Wolf Wins, and www.55songs.com for more about Andrew McCrorie-Shand.