Roland partners with top producers at Santorini songwriting camp
Santorini is an unlikely rock ‘n’ roll epicentre. Rugged and remote, the island sits some 200km off the Greek mainland, its economy based on agriculture and tourism. Yet to those that know, Santorini is also home to Black Rock Studios: a best-kept-secret facility whose isolated vibe and cutting-edge equipment has drawn artists including OneRepublic, Joe Bonamassa, Justin Bieber and Sido to record there.
Twice yearly, Black Rock Studios also hosts a professional songwriting camp, where the industry’s most dynamic talents converge to pen the tunes that will be pitched to labels and turned into planet-straddling hits. At the most recent camp, Roland was at the heart of the action, sparking inspiration with an arsenal of award-winning instruments and production tools.
With Roland Germany’s artist relations manager Dominique ‘Doom’ Christ on hand to introduce the equipment, the songwriters were soon creating, using gear that included the Roland A-500 Pro MIDI keyboard controller, Blues Cube amps, Studio Capture, Duo Capture and Octa Capture audio interfaces, and the Boss GT-001 Guitar Effects Processor. Roland also provided creative instruments like the V-Guitar G-5 Stratocaster, the Boss BR-80 Digital Recorder, the JD-Xi compact synthesiser (whose onboard vocoder function came in particularly useful) and the creative playground that is the AIRA TR-8 Rhythm Performer.
Autumn’s camp on Santorini was perhaps the most successful yet, with 25 songwriters and producers from 12 countries – whose shared credits include Céline Dion, Notorious B.I.G, Gloria Estefan, P.Diddy, Westlife and Kollegah – uniting in the studio. Many participants of the camp were already acquainted, but new connections were made as collaborations formed. Working in groups of three to four members, a day was spent in Black Rock’s eight writing rooms, creating and producing song concepts. Experimentation and diversity were the keywords, with producers and songwriters looking beyond their natural style and breaking out of their comfort zones.
Starting with a basic pattern composed on guitar or piano, the songwriters then built the base-frame of the song (or used a pre-production from their portfolio), before the top-line specialists wrote the lyrics and elaborated the melody to establish the song’s story and atmosphere. At that point, the song was arranged, polished and recorded to meet the high standard expected by the modern A&R professional.
All songs created during the camp are pitched to labels around the world. As such, on the first day of the camp, songwriters were given their briefings from major labels including Sony and BMG, who detailed the artists who needed new material (including the winner of German TV show The Voice Of Germany) and the boxes that those songs had to tick. Also in attendance were global A&R specialist Chloe Lee – of Korea’s YG Entertainment corporation – and newly signed artist and producer Yumin Kim, who outlined the label’s requirements. Already, there are early signs that many of the tunes written on Santorini will be soon be firing up the charts.
For many, songwriting is a mysterious process. To see what really goes into bringing a hit single to market, check out this exclusive video documentary by Martijn Ravesloot, who filmed the writers on Santorini, caught the camp’s atmosphere – and even used the new material created for the soundtrack.