by GSC Reporter, Daniel Reifsnyder
Dan Reifsnyder: How did you get started in music?
Daniel Schafer: I’ve been basically doing music all my life. When I was a teenager, I went through the band phase…punk bands and heavy rock all the way up to metal. Then I started rapping just for fun, and eventually I wanted to do more with music. There’s been a few times I tried to run away from music but then I ended up doing music anyway. So I figured maybe I’m born to do that.
I made it through college, but was always pursuing music on the side. The music was always present.
DR: So you’re from Germany which is a totally different area than Nashville. What ways is the music scene different there?
DS: For one, the language. It’s really hard to find people who write in English here. The music scene in Germany is further really exclusive. I can’t go to a major band and present songs to them, whileI get the feeling that in Nashville it’s more of a community. The first time I was in Nashville was 2013, and now when I go there I feel like I’m already part of that scene. I don’t feel like I need to go there to make connections because I already have made connections. It’s always great to catch up and see what everyone else is working on. Germany is also really technical, which was difficult for me at first. All these audio engineers we have are among the best on the planet. So when you have a pitch here, they tear it apart for things like frequencies being off, or kick drums being out of tune.
DR: That’s crazy!
DS: Even the mastering guys I work with get thrown off by the tiniest bits that no person would ever hear.
DR: Are they that way with the music and the lyrics as well?
DS: Not specifically with English lyrics because there’s not a big English songwriting scene. But with the German lyrics, yeah. It’s a little bit tricky, because we have German Pop-Rock, this is more lyric driven and there’s a story behind it. And then there’s this Schlager which is like party music. It just has to rhyme because the target audience is drunk.
DR: And it’s called “Schlager”? What does that mean?
DS: It’s like EDM but with really basic sounds and stupid lyrics.
DR: *laughing* wow!
DS: There’s one song called “Johnny Depp” and it’s just “Depp Depp Depp” and they repeat it over and over again.
DR: Wow! So what drew you to Nashville?
DS: It was basically a road trip! I was studying in Wisconsin at the time and I convinced my buddies that instead of Florida we should go to Music City because I always wanted to see it. They didn’t enjoy the trip too much, but I had the time of my life. I just kept coming back. There was a time when I was considering a PHD, so Vanderbilt was on the list. I always extended the stays to check out more live music and get a feel. This is where I discovered that “trying it in Nashville” is actually a pursuable goal. The A&R people actually watch you develop over time and you build relationships. I just kept coming back and wanted to be present.
DR: It’s a different feel even than in any other place in America. The scene in NY and LA is different too. Nashville is more of a community, as you said. And once you’re in it you’re part of the mix. Have you played any rounds here?
DS: Yes! I played one in November 2019 at Belcourt Taps.
DR: Good place! So let’s get into what kind of music you write.
DS: I write Pop music for the most part, Country is maybe number two, and I also write EDM which is for other producers who need a topliner. They give it to me, I write lyrics, I do a few revisions, and if they like it they send it out to somebody else who’s actually doing the cut.
DR: Nice! So for people who don’t know what toplining is, you would make a track and they would build out on that?
DS: No, over here it’s the other way around. So the producer gives me the finished instrumental and I add lyrics. Then they send it out to the artist who’s actually recording the vocals.
DR: I see! Here it’s the other way around. The topliner creates the tracks and others add to it. So you flip it over there! So how did you get connected to GSC?
DS: It’s a long story. There’s this girl Ava Paige…I visited her in the hospital two years ago. Melissa Bollea Rowe was there and we were all talking and hanging out. I connected with Melissa after that and she referred me to Sheree. I reached out to Sheree and that’s how I wound up at GSC!
DR: Yes! I know them both. Great people! Who are your musical influences?
DS: Ray Charles, definitely. I’m a big Guns N’ Roses fan, even if I don’t do a lot of rock related stuff right now. I have this rock and roll in me, that’s just part of it. I always have to reference Pantera because they were one of the biggest influences I’ve had. I love some of the newer stuff too…Jason Derulo. There’s a guy named Jay Sean from the UK, who is not really popular anymore. But at his peak he was doing really amazing Pop music. I could listen to that over and over again. Right now, Ariana Grande. I love her!
DR: What are some songs you wish you’d written?
DS: Church Bells by Carrie Underwood. Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande. There was another one…are you familiar with the TV show Empire?
DR: I haven’t seen it, but I know about it.
DS: There was a song on the show that was called Conqueror which is a really cool song. And I totally love Red by Taylor Swift.
DR: Cool! Can you talk a little bit about your experience with GSC. How do you feel it’s helped connect you?
DS: It’s been really helpful. I started gradually, I signed up for the “View Only” option with the online pitches to get an idea of how that works. You talk to some of the other songwriters while that’s going on, and I ended up getting some work for hire gigs piecing demos together, and some other writers that wanted to write with me. It’s been beneficial from two sides: on one hand I’m getting gigs for production and on another I’m getting gigs for co-writing.
DR: Excellent! Do you have any projects you want to promote?
DS: There is one project I’m doing with a producer from San Francisco. He made a concept album that’s revolving around the country and culture of Colombia. He went down there and recorded the sounds and asked if I wanted to contribute to that record. I was head over heels for that, and he gave me access to all the sounds, drums, and brass that he recorded there and I’m building a track out of it right now. I took his samples and fitted them to the tempo I wanted to do the track in, and there’s a Colombian girl here in Germany I’m working with because I can’t write in Spanish. We will soon start to work on the actual songwriting of it. Right now I’m just doing the production and arrangement.
DR: Cool! Do you see yourself as more of a writer or more of a producer?
DS: I feel like I’m caught in the middle which I don’t think is a bad thing. When I write a song, I already have the production in mind. In my songwriting, I leave gaps because I already have in mind how I would fill them with delays and everything. Likewise, I can also do the production based on songwriting because I have both backgrounds. I can just bring these two pieces together.
DR: Is there one you prefer more than another?
DS: I love it all! Sometimes it’s writing time, sometimes it’s production time. I actually met a producer in Germany who’s basically working the same way I do, which nobody else does. We have a production phase where we have the sound design and just make it vibe. And then we export all the tracks and there’s a mixing phase and we clean it all up. When I get to the end of one phase I’m excited to do the other!
DR: Very cool Do you have any closing thoughts?
DS: This was just another sign for me that GSC works even for me out here, doing projects remotely. Before COVID, I was used to connecting through Zoom and sending files back and forth. I think GSC added a really valuable component where I can foster that and get better at both, songwriting and producing..
DR: Well, thanks for sitting down!
DS: Thanks for the interview!