Skip to content

“If everything was easy to understand, the lyrics would be boring”

“If everything was easy to understand, the lyrics would be boring”
Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler.
Photos: Rouven Niedermaier; Emanuel Muhl
Interview by guest author Markus Ganz
On 25 May, 2022, the “Best Hit” for the best composition will be determined by public voting at the Swiss Music Awards. Nominated for the award presented by SUISA are Joya Marleen, Lo & Leduc and Zian. We wanted to know from Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler what role the lyrics play for the song “Nightmare”.

How important are lyrics are for a song in your opinion?

Joya Marleen: Mega important, lyrics are essential! Olivia Rodrigo, for example, has written very beautiful, but also rather crass lyrics that are right in your face, lyrics where everything fits together; Amy Winehouse also impressed me with the very personal honesty of her lyrics.
Thomas Fessler: Yes, lyrics are rather important, not least because their royalty share at SUISA amounts to 50 percent, that is the same share as that of the music.

Do you have a typical approach when you write your song lyrics?

Joya Marleen: I like to start with words that somehow sound good or convey an idea of where the song might be going or what a story looks like. Accordingly, I may have three words that must appear in the song and then the add the feelings that go hand in hand with them. This can be the way the song is then formed. But mostly, I write the melody to the three words first.
Thomas Fessler: These words already contain the mood of the song. The rest is, initially, “yogurt text”: incomprehensible or meaningless text for places where the text is not yet fixed.

The nominated song “Nightmare” shows how important a single word can be and how it can already trigger many emotions. Joya, did the word nightmare spark the lyrics to the song of the same name?

Joya Marleen: Yeah, along with “Hold on, hold on”, it almost lends itself to providing a sailor vibe, a nightmare on a ship, that atmosphere fits well.

Did the music arise from this, from the rocking of these three words, as it were?

Thomas Fessler: Joya had recorded this refrain, the combination of these words and the melody, with her smartphone in a preliminary version and sent it to me. And I thought, uh, this is something special, you can make a great song out of this.
Joya Marleen: At the beginning, the song had a strong reggae influence …

… which is still easy to hear in the rhythmic intonation, in the swaying of these three words …

Both: Yes!

Joya, did you know what this song was going to be about when you heard the word nightmare? Or did the meaning of the song develop bit by bit?

Joya Marleen: I wanted this word to create an eerie mood. That is why I described this person who is waiting for a nightmare because they were bored. The nightmare is essential for them in life, they are looking for a toxic challenge. The song sounds bizarre, but is actually very melancholy, despite the contrasting vocal part “Hold on!”, and this creates a certain tension.

Did the rest of the lyrics then develop in parallel with the music?

Thomas Fessler: Joya also worked on the lyrics during the music recording, here on the sofa in the control room – and then finished them on the train ride home, as she always does … The lyrics have no clear storyline, they rather create a mood, they are lively and fresh, a bit quirky and also a bit chaotic. And that’s also a good thing, because if everything was easy to understand, the lyrics would be boring. You still have to be able to imagine something when you are listening to the song.

Music: Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler.
Lyrics: Joya Marleen.

Swiss Music Awards: SUISA honours the songwriters of the “Best Hit”
In the “Best Hit” category at the Swiss Music Awards, the most successful national songs of the Swiss hit parade of the previous year are nominated. The winning song is determined by the audience voting during the TV show. For the first time this year, SUISA is the presenting partner of the “Best Hit” Award, highlighting the work of the songwriters and lyricists of the winning song. In 2022, the songs “Nightmare”, “Tribute” and “Show You” are nominated in the category “Best Hit”. (Text: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Leave a Reply

All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.