How important are, in your opinion, the lyrics for a song?
Zian: For me, it’s quite clear: The lyrics are crucial in determining whether a song can last longer or not. All of the songs that people listen to over and over again for decades, are songs that also have a lyrical depth. That’s why lyrics are extremely important. In the short term, their importance may be equal to that of the music, which is in line with SUISA’s royalty split. In the longer term, however, lyrics are arguably more important because they create an additional level.
So, is the music or the sound more ephemeral than good lyrics?
Zian: I believe that the sound underlines the lyrics more than anything else. If you listen to a song, you must find yourself in a sound that supports the lyrics. You can see stand-alone lyrics as poetry, if they are good lyrics. But, after all, we’re aiming to tell a story in three minutes that might have happened over several years.
Henrik Amschler: I don’t think transience is a bad thing. Lyrics per se are not as ephemeral as music, which always follows trends. However, this is highly dependent on the artists and the nature of their music; in dance music, for example, there is no need for depth in the lyrics – it should rather encourage you to dance. With artists like Zian, on the other hand, it is very important what they say in the lyrics, and accordingly the songs are less ephemeral.
By writing English lyrics, you are expanding your potential audience. But wouldn’t dialect texts be a more obvious choice?
Henrik Amschler: You have to remember that both the Swiss music market and the people in Switzerland in general are strongly influenced internationally, especially by the English-speaking world. What this means is, with certain styles, you can start on a different level with English lyrics than you would with lyrics written in dialect. Many Swiss artists have also shown that you first have to be successful abroad in order to be noticed at all in Switzerland, to be taken seriously.
Do you have a typical approach when you write your song lyrics?
Henrik Amschler: In principle, it’s safe to say that we have a pattern. Quite often, Zian presents me with an idea and asks for my opinion. If I’m excited, I’ll say “let’s go”, otherwise we’ll continue to discuss it. In the process, however, I am then more responsible for the musical aspects. Zian is always in the centre, because the lyrics must come from him, from his personality.
Zian: Yes, because the lyrics have to be honest.
So the credibility of Zian’s songs depends on the fact that when you listen to them, you feel that Zian is singing about something personal?
Henrik Amschler: The lyrical intention must always be recognisable in terms of coming from him; as such, he is more involved in the text than I am; I have more of a supporting function. The song “Show You” was born out of a personal story of Zian, like all our songs.
What is usually the trigger point for the lyrics, for a song?
Both: It could be anything.
Zian: Quite often it is any old situation, and then suddenly you feel that there is something there and that you can continue to work on it.
Henrik Amschler: With Zian, even when writing the lyrics, you notice that he is very musical, he is a multi-instrumentalist after all.
Zian: Above all, it’s about having a strong emotion here for me, putting a lot of heart into it.
Henrik Amschler: Often it’s what we feel like doing, what’s in our head and needs to be put into a text, and then we make the music to go with it.
Zian: Quite often, a word is crystallising and then, we feel which world this song belongs to. That can be sad and still take the direction towards “happy”.
Do you then develop the music and lyrics in parallel?
Zian: Yes, up to a certain point, where it is then worth defining the lyrics, because we have defined the world of the song; until then, part of the lyrics still is an incomprehensible “mumbled English”.
Henrik Amschler: Yes, once we’ve established the framework of the song, we go deeper into the lyrics, and deeper into the production.
Do you sometimes still have to adapt lyrics to an advanced production?
Zian: This happens rarely, because at some point the lyrics are finished; striving for perfection is good, but you can’t really achieve it. First of all, it has to be right in terms of the feeling, and of course it has to fit the music, the world that we have created with this song.
Henrik Amschler: For me, it’s quite clear: I always prioritise Zian with his unique voice and profound lyrics.
Zian: But you also have to understand that we are moving in the pop sector, the lyrics should not be too complex and abstract – people should be able to understand them. The more words you need, the less room for interpretation people have when they listen to the song.
Composition and lyrics: Tizian Hugenschmidt, Henrik Amschler.
|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 “Show You”, “Tribute” and “Nightmare” are nominated in the category “Best Hit”. (Text: Giorgio Tebaldi)