You composed the song for SUISA’s Centenary. How did you go about it?
Greis: I usually have to do extensive research before writing songs like this. But in this case, everything is different because I know SUISA. Because I know many people who work here. Because I’ve been doing copyright workshops with them for over 20 years. Taking the pulse of schools across Switzerland together for decades, that’s something that connects you.
You wrote the first version of the song back in 2015 for a SUISA employee event. How difficult was it to further develop the existing sketch under the new premise of “anniversary song”?
On the one hand, it made the work easier. Because I had already found the tone. Without the burden of an anniversary, the glossing over of a commissioned composition. The song would probably never have the same lightness or honesty if I had just started from scratch. On the other hand, it was not easy to give the new inputs and content the appropriate form and at the same time maintain this lightness.
Not a conventional corporate job, that’s for sure
What was important to you in the song creation?
Seal once said: “You need years of effort in music to make it seem effortless”. I tried to make a song that didn’t sound like an anniversary song or a traditional corporate job.
You also created a sound logo for SUISA from the song. Was there a particular challenge in the process?
Especially in French-speaking Switzerland and France, jingles and sound logos are a very important part of the audiovisual landscape. Even on my first album, I created my own sound logo. And when I worked in a communications agency, I was always trying to sell everyone a jingle. I also regularly lend my voice to store announcements and radio commercials. So, you see, I have been waiting for this order all my life. But it’s extremely challenging to pack into a few seconds where I usually have a whole song to do so.
As a composer, you write primarily for yourself and other musicians. What was it like to write a commissioned composition for a company?
SUISA is not just any old embarrassing private company but the cooperative that collects the dough for us musicians. SUISA works for me, much more than I work for them. It’s very different to do something for an entity that also does something for you. But it’s also much more difficult. Bread jobs for petty booths are easy, you take the money and feel a little dirty. The more of a connection you have, the more you want to do really good work, and the more pressure you put on yourself.
How much Greis is in the SUISA song? Can you even maintain your artistic identity when writing for a company?
Actually, that’s exactly what should be the challenge: That you can shed your fragile artistic identity to slip into a constructed, highly polished corporate identity. You need to find a different tone to address an equally foreign audience in a foreign voice. As an artist who is dealing with himself a lot, I often get on my own nerves. I then find my thoughts boring, suffer from the impostor syndrome. If I can then write for some company that is visibly less genuine and honest than I am, it’s downright therapeutic. Unfortunately, this is not the case here because I identify with SUISA and see them as an ally. In this case, I can’t strip away my artistic identity. That’s why it was harder for me to accept constructive feedback because there’s more of me in the song than there would be in any other order.
The song: a matter of the heart for SUISA
Many musicians struggle with writing songs for businesses. There is often an air of being accused of selling out. What was it like for you in this project?
Here, as I said, it was the opposite. If anything, I put too much effort into it because I care about it. When you do that, you run the risk of losing the lightness and not hitting the tone. Fortunately, I was aware of this and had a lot of support. But the case is definitely the following: Music creators should always think carefully about which devil they want to dance with. Out of a need for money, I have taken on jobs in the past that were very unpleasant. In a precarious financial situation, many music creators cannot afford the luxury of turning down commissions that would secure their livelihood. But one must always be aware of the consequences a partnership can have for one’s credibility.
SUISA celebrates its centenary in 2023. What do you think has distinguished it in its 100 years of existence?
The constant change in listening behaviour is definitely an enormous challenge. No sooner do you adapt the system to the new sound carriers or music platforms than listening habits change again. The field of music is so incredibly dynamic that SUISA is in a constant state of evolution. Staying on top of this eternal change is what distinguishes SUISA.
Lyrics and music by Greis, Kackmusikk, C. Perkins, Ben Mühlethaler
You can listen to the anniversary song on www.suisa100.ch. The microsite for the centenary year is continuously updated and provides information on anniversary activities, extraordinary events and historical facts about the 100th anniversary. In addition, there are also contests and the possibility to leave greeting messages. A lyric video for the song has been published on the SUISA Music Stories Youtube channel.