Ode to the FAHns: Music
Gimme That (Please) Brings Beautiful and Creative Songs to the FAHndom
I was having a conversation with a fellow fahn back in October 2020, who asked me, "hey, did you hear about the cool singer in the fahndom who created their own lyrics about FAH?" Well, no, I hadn't in fact, and so I was directed to J.'s (also known as Gimme That (Please)) Youtube channel and that was when I first listened to their brilliant music. I've included Gimme's (as they are called by fahn friends) first song here, which is the one that I heard too; this is John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" with all new lyrics about the glories of FAH and being a fahn. First of all, I grew up listening to Denver's song and it is a piece of music that I absolutely love to sing myself so I was really thrilled to hear Gimme's version and even more excited to listen to their fabulous lyrics about FAH. What struck me when I listened to their musical artistry was just how incredibly well-written the lyrics were and how everything worked together: the music, the guitar playing, the lyrics, the effortless beats and rhythm, and hey, what about that brilliant key change mid-way through? Having sung songs myself with different FAH lyrics set to music that has been written by someone else, I know just how difficult it can be to merge new lyrics with an already well-established and well-known song. Gimme does just that with a lovely, natural dexterity that makes listening to their music sheer joy.
Moreover, Gimme has a lovely and inviting mezzo soprano voice, which perfectly compliments their skilled guitar playing. I don't know how many times they practiced before they shot each song on their channel, but they make it all look and sound spectacularly easy. They bring a light, fun, joyous tone to all of their pieces and their lyrics are just superbly well put together. I think it is a testament to their skilled artistry that as listeners we feel we're taken on a musical journey with someone who really knows what they’re doing. Gimme is someone who could (and does) keep it altogether with such cohesive brilliance. I'm really thrilled that they agreed to be part of the Ode to the FAHns series. Here is Gimme's interview, the fourth installment. Read on to learn all about how they have trained as a musician, how they came to write their wonderful FAH lyrics, and how they see their own musical and vocal talents.
Did you grow up surrounded by music or playing the guitar?
Yes, my father played different styles of music and several instruments, and making music at home was part of family life in my extended family. I've always loved to sing and got into playing instruments from the age of six.
Did you take guitar lessons or pursue any other instruments as a young person?
I learned to play the piano first, then recorder and flute. I taught myself to play the guitar when I was twelve and discovered the Beatles with just about the same enthusiam as I got into FAH last year… I also played percussion and timpani as well as some French horn in the local youth orchestra. But my most important instrument is my voice. I had singing lessons as a teenager and sang in various choirs and band projects during school and university.
How long have you been playing the guitar?
It's been 23 years now… It's pretty useful to accompany myself singing.
What kind of instruments do you play?
I mostly play my acoustic Western guitar I got for my 14th birthday. I also have a 12-string guitar (that I played in my version of "Torn") - some kind of heirloom. I've also been re-discovering the piano and learning to play the accordion for a few months now!
When did you begin singing and why?
One might say that this one line by ABBA applies to me: "[Mother] says I began to sing long before I could talk…" I really got into singing as a teenager. It was just my thing. I wanted to sing all of the music I loved, which was a lot, and I started taking singing lessons which allowed me to widen my scope; I really enjoyed it.
What kind of singing background do you have?
I've always liked many different kinds of music, from German folk songs that I learned as a child and lots of pop music to classical and modern oratorios that I got to know in my university's choir. My father played in a country band that I enjoyed hearing and he also introduced me to different styles of music like international folk songs and tunes from his own youth. But I also like chansons from the 1920s and 30s, some soul, musicals . . . and much more! And I've always sung everything I liked, as I said, and still do. I also sing and play professionally - wherever this mix of my personal favourites fits.
Do you write your own music?
I've written a few songs over the years, but not many. The idea of writing new lyrics for the FAHnARTchallenge in October 2020 really was a boost for my creativity!
When were you first introduced to FAH and what did you see?
Their sketches were recommended by the YouTube algorithm after I'd been watching different sketch comedy channels for a while in 2020. I can't exactly remember nor reconstruct how it went, but my first FAH sketch may have been "If Coffees Were Countries". "The Rooms of Your House Throw a Party" was also among the first sketches that got me interested in this trio with the intriguing name and the funny jingle… That was in late June 2020, and during the three months after that I got more and more into watching everything I could find by and about FAH online! I discovered the FAHn Twitter bubble and eventually created a FAHn account to be able to discuss FAHn stuff and participate in the upcoming FAHnARTchallenge.
What attracted you to create/write new lyrics about FAH?
It all began with me wanting to take part in the FAHnARTchallenge, because I enjoyed just about every activity related to FAH (and still do). I decided to use the challenge's daily cues as ideas, not put any pressure on myself, interpret them freely… and when I read "country" I knew I wanted to sing a song to express all the joy that FAH and the FAHndom were creating. When I got all the positive feedback about this first song, the "Country Roads" cover, I thought it would be great to simply try and write more - I knew that as long as I listened to my instincts in choosing the songs and pursued the ideas for new lyrics that I liked, it would at the very least be a fun project, or if it went well, it would even bring joy to others. The role that FAH themselves and their work play in this is: They offer an almost endless collection of ideas and characters, topics, quotes, feelings, and many other things that I and other FAHns collectively enjoy - and thus are perfect inspirations for little pieces of art.
How do the particular songs that you've chosen represent you as an artist and a musician?
I've chosen some songs that came into being in slightly different ways and also send somewhat different messages. They are also the ones I'm most happy about (while there are not very many yet as a whole).
My very first FAH-related song was a cover of "Country Roads" by John Denver that I recorded for day 2 of the October FAHnARTchallenge. I decided to interpret the cue "country" in the way that's closest to my heart - by singing a well known country song about FAH! This is usually what works best - singing what I really feel like in a given situation, preferable a song that I know very well when there's not much time to practice anything new, which was the case here. After I had published the song on my brand new YouTube channel, fellow FAHn Danish Turtle [see also her YouTube channel] asked if I would like to do a collab in the form of a music video with the song and FAH clips - and just one week later, it was there. I was already pleased, nay: thrilled! with how the song had turned out and how it was received by both FAHns and FAH, but I think it is such a great idea to pair it with this FAHn video. We published it for day 10 of the FAHnARTchallenge with the cue "music".
Towards the end of October with lots of different impressions and inspirations from FAHnARTchallenge, interactions with fellow FAHns and of course more FAH binging, I had more ideas for FAH-themed songs.
One of them was the one I wrote for day 27 with the motto "wordplay": It's a cover of Natalie Imbruglia's song "Torn" which came out when I was a teenager. I've liked it ever since, and had just found out that I also enjoy playing it. The lyrics are a little ironic, the deal with my feeling of being torn between "liking their play with words and their handsomeness"… not a serious struggle, it just came up in a conversation about the sketch "Word Play Hardware Shop": So hard to tell what I love the sketch most for!
The last song I wrote for the FAHnARTchallenge was for day 29 and the cue "Patreon". Some FAHns (they are linked in the video's descripton) had discussed which member of FAH resembles which type of plant (on the corresponding day of FAHnARTchallenge, obviously ;)) - and it turned out, several of us thought that Foil was like a sunflower. The song "Sunflower" by Glenn Campbell is one that I had already gotten to know as a kid (just like "Country Roads"), and I think it's a pretty song to express how someone can brighten up your days, just like Foil does when dealing with FAHns' messages on Patreon in his very lovely way.
Luckily, inspiration from FAH and their FAHns didn't cease after October and the FAHnARTchallenge ended! When Foil did some Covid-themed karaoke bits for Patreon [December 1, 2020], I immediately wanted to do a full version of one of them: a cover of Dolly Parton's hit "Jolene" - or "Vaccine" [see FAH's Patreon page] as it went in Foil's version. This is really one of my favourite songs, and apart from that I also felt it would be beneficial to sing a song about the widespread feeling of longing for a vaccine, for an end to the pandemic while the second wave was happening in many countries. I was pretty busy with gainful work then, so I asked on Twitter who wanted to collaborate in writing "Vaccine" lyrics - and five FAHns offered to give it a go (they're all linked in the description and mentioned in the video). I'm really grateful and happy they gave me the opportunity to sing our own version of "Jolene"!
Why did you decide to pair your lyrics with well-known songs?
For "Country Roads" I can say I decided to use a song that I knew I could play and sing well as I've known it for so long and it's close to my heart - I only had a few days to prepare the song, and this way I could concentrate on writing the lyrics and be sure that it would sound alright. As the song is extremely well known it also seemed fitting because the FAHnARTchallenge cue "country" would become clear to listeners. Choosing "Torn" was pretty self-evident when I had that ironic idea in mind about not knowing which attributes of FAH were the most attractive and thus feeling torn. As I said, I simply enjoy playing and singing that song, so I just rewrote the lyrics for fun. The fact that I had known and liked the song "Sunflower" for a long time and that fellow FAHns compared Foil to a sunflower led to this cover song idea in a very natural way. And for "Jolene" I felt so lucky that Foil had recorded that great and fun karaoke clip that everyone seemed to love - I loved the song anyway and was extremely grateful for the occasion - including the lyric-writing FAHn collab of course - to record a new version!
Do you find particular songs work better than others?
I believe that FAHn music - or any occasion where the lyrics written for a cover version of a song will most likely appeal to the audience very easily because they can relate to the topic dealt with or the feelings expressed in it - and these kinds of lyrics really can work with any song that I like to play and sing. Songs that are well known might be listened to and liked by more people, but less known songs may just as well find their way into some people's hearts. I could also try to choose songs that are originally related to the topic of the lyrics that I'm planning - I might do that in future projects, but it seems it's not necessary. What has already worked quite well in most of my FAHn songs it to use a song that expresses the mood that corresponds with the lyrics I want to write - although it can go in both directions: maybe some lyrics were written in a certain way because I stuck with the emotions that the song I had chosen conveyed.
What is your creative process in putting together lyrics with the music?
I was thinking about writing my first FAHn song while I was riding my bike through the city of Berlin where I live. At first I wasn't sure I would actually be able to do it, so I figured I could just try right away and see how far I'd get. So what was going to work with the beginning of "Country Roads"? I decided to make it easier for myself and also have the listeners quickly recognize the song by leaving in a few words from the original version, so I thought, what is this "almost heaven" for the three members of FAH? Maybe the place where they grew up? So I went on "from south of Dublin"… I collected some more ideas like this and also simply about: "What is it that I [and] we all like about FAH?" on that bike ride. Later when I had all those ideas in front of me on paper I changed them around and added more so that they would fit with the rhythm of the song. I also used a website that offers collections of rhyming words.
It worked more or less similarly with the other songs: First some ideas that seem to work right away, leaving in some of the original lyrics - one could even say as some kind of tribute to the original version of the songs! - collecting more ideas that then need to be tailored to the song. Whenever I get to a version that seems to work alright I usually start practicing the whole song, and I usually find out where what I've written needs changing when I get into actually singing the song. It may happen that I'm not 100% happy with some lines, but usually I decide at a certain point that I want to leave it as it is and make up for little flaws by trying extra hard to put all the love that I have for the project and for FAH into the recording of the song! ;)
I generally do all this to have an activity that I enjoy and that I can share with others who enjoy it, too. I don't try to create something that's perfect in every way - if it feels good to write, play and sing, that's good enough, even if there's always room for technical improvement. It depends on the given situation, how much time and energy I have, whether I'll work on something more thoroughly or simply publish what's there at a certain point. That's what's great about writing music for this FAHndom, most people are just happy that FAHn art and music exist - it doesn't need to be flawless. If something needed to be perfect for some reason, I would be able to achieve that. But I really like to focus on the joy this brings me right now.
How do these creative pieces represent your artistry in music?
I believe that it's most important for my music that it comes from the heart, even if that sounds a little corny. But it's really my experience from performances and recordings in very different situations with various kinds of audiences: Whenever I mean what I sing, truly enjoy what I play, love what I'm doing, it just works. And because FAH truly cause deep feelings of joy and happiness and lots more in me, making FAHn music works in this way. Another aspect is that I love to create things that involve language. While I haven't gotten around to writing many tunes of my own lately (I hope that'll change), telling little stories about my thoughts and feelings surrounding FAH, or creating something based on quotes and ideas from their work is really a way of making art that fits me well.
Why do you like these pieces?
The music I make most of the time and that I have been for the last few years isn't available online, so the pieces linked here are FAHn music only - representing one particular type of songs that are important to me. As I've only started making FAHn music little more than three and a half months ago, I haven't got a large "portfolio" to choose from either. I do think that every one of these songs represents what I explained above: That I do all this to experience true and deep joy in the process and from the feedback I get from the FAHndom, which is my biggest motivation for making music in general, [and] also in other types of music. And inspiration from FAH really contributes a lot to this joy.
What do you focus on when you write your lyrics for these songs?
I try to focus on expressing thoughts and feelings that are both truly important to me and relatable to many FAHns (or even non-FAHns), and doing it in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and works well with the music. I like to remain somewhat close to the original versions of the songs so that they are recognizable, which simply contributes to the fun of listening, I believe.
Has FAH ever seen your work? If so, what has been their reaction?
I've been blessed with a reply from Foil to my tweet with my very first song, the "Country Roads" cover! He said he loved it and that it was beautifully done - I was SO happy! I also let Foil know about the "Sunflower" cover that's about how lovely he's dealing with FAHns via Patreon, and he even commented on the video on YouTube and subscribed to my channel. I feel incredibly honoured!
What kind of responses have you gotten from FAHns about your melding of well-known songs and your own lyrics?
There's been lots and lots of lovely responses - I wouldn't have thought that so many people would share personal feelings and nice thoughts about my music, it's an absolute blessing! There were several very kind comments on the sound of my guitar and my voice, about specific bits in my arrangements, and also reactions about a song playing a special role in someone's life and my version being really meaningful, too! Several people said that they could relate a lot to the different topics I dealt with in my lyrics. I love it so much how appreciative the FAHndom is!
In terms of the way you choose to film your music videos, you focus a lot of attention on your voice and the instrument. What is your purpose for doing this? Is it an artistic choice?
I admit that it's mostly a choice to keep the recording as simple as possible. I really don't know much about filming or video editing, not even about recording music - and I'm not too keen on getting into these things either… also I didn't want to show my face to the world, so when I started, I made the easiest recording I could think of, and as nobody seemed to be bothered by it, I just decided that's my style now!
What kind of advice would you give anyone who is thinking about starting to write their own lyrics and/or work with an instrument, such as a guitar?
That's an interesting question, because I'm only just finding out myself how this works for me. The most important thing is probably to make time and space for ideas that you are truly excited and enthusiastic about. Don't be afraid of choosing a song that not everyone might love. If you love it and can manage to play and/or sing it well, it will be the right choice - plus it doesn't have to be the most brilliant version, as it will be unique! Don't hesitate to write lyrics about very unique or funny thoughts and feelings - everyone has individual views, but there's so much that FAHns agree on, and it's usually appreciated what we share.
Please include anything else you would like people to know about your creative process, playing the guitar, writing lyrics, putting songs together and then filming them.
I hope I'll be able to continue to put out FAHn music like I've been doing during the last few months! It's hard to predict how creative processes work in different times, but I already have some new ideas, some of which I hope to realize in collaboration with other FAHns… I'm always encouraged by positive reactions from the FAHndom, and I'm generally so grateful for all the inspiration from FAH and the FAHns. One of the strongest motivating ideas is one that Pauline (@GrafikPk on Twitter) envisioned in October during the FAHnARTchallenge: Pre-show FAHn parties with live music before FAH gigs as soon as those are happening again. I love that idea so much. I hope the creative work all the FAHns are enjoying - actively or as an audience, cheering on creators - gives others similarly positive outlooks.
And so we come to the end of this really lovely interview with J. It's been such a pleasure working with them and getting to learn all about how they create such interesting lyrics about FAH and arrange everything so beautifully with songs that we know and love. Many thanks to J. for working so hard on the questions that I asked and for providing such thorough and fabulous answers! Their musical artistry is really inspiring and I hope there is more from them to come in the very near future. Be sure to subscribe to their YouTube channel and check out their Twitter page for all things FAH and music.
Stay tuned for further Ode the FAHns installments coming up in the months to come. There are many more fahns out there who we still have to learn about and enjoy!