After studying to be a teacher in 2001 and years of freelance musical work, Heike Harfmann took the bold step of starting her own private music school in Brackenheim, Zabergäu. As the global pandemic hit, Heike began to write her own songs, developing her style as a songwriter and starting a bold new chapter in her career.
As she explained, “During the pandemic I had quite a lot of free time and started writing my own songs again. Every line and every note is mine. I'm proud of that. Because I believe everyone should be okay, I donate a large portion of my streaming earnings to charities.”
A unique figure in the music scene, and a wonderfully talented performer, we thought it was about time we talked with Heike about her inspirations, journey, and what’s still to come.
Wonderful to meet you Heike, some of the things you’ve achieved in your career so far are nothing short of amazing. Where did it all begin for you?
“First of all, I would like to apologise for my bad English. I hope to express myself clearly enough. I started music when I was eleven years old. First, I learned the clarinet. I am still passionately connected to this instrument today. Then came piano and saxophone. I always wanted to study music, but I was a bit too naïve when it came to the entrance exams for music colleges in Germany. Of course, I failed. But that didn't deter me from studying music. In Heidelberg, I studied music, history and politics for four years to become a secondary school teacher. But I wasn't suitable as a school teacher, I noticed that already during the internship.”
“Already during my studies, I worked at music schools and found pleasure in it. After my studies, I worked for many years as a freelance musician until I founded my own private music school in 2006. I have always composed and arranged alongside my work. During the Corona pandemic, I focused more on writing songs again. And here I am now.”
How would you describe your music and style?
“My sound is unique, idiosyncratic, open, sometimes harsh, sometimes crazy and reflects me and my statements in my songs. I don't like mainstream music and I don't want to sound like it. I received singing lessons for many years and would like to show my voice in all its uniqueness and range. But I love swing. That's why my song ‘Automobil’ is a happy swing.”
Apart from swing, does your music take lead from any other styles or inspirations?
“Oh, that's hard to answer. As I said, I love swing. When I start a song, I just let it run. In the end, I'm surprised myself at how it sounds. Sometimes pop, sometimes rock, sometimes like ‘German Schlager’. But my music is unique. You have to want to get involved.”
Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process, and what matters the most when writing a new song?
“The best songs come to me when I'm angry about something or wondering about the stupidity of my fellow human beings. Then I chew it through in my head again and again until I come up with a melody and a text to go with it. Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes a couple of weeks. But then it goes pretty quickly. From the first note or first word to the finished song, it takes one to two days. The only thing that annoys me is the mixing. I still have to practice that.”
“The most important thing for me is the message of my songs. I'm not a fan of love songs or heartbreak songs. I think there are already enough of them, and I don't need to write any more. I keep seeing how naive many people are and no longer have any connection to reality or close their eyes. I hope to make my listeners thoughtful and more attentive with my songs.”
Can you tell us about your latest release?
“My most recent release is my song ‘Wiedersehn’. All income goes to a club in the Ahr Valley, which was shaken by severe flooding in 2021. Yes, there were many donations for the people, but our German state is very bureaucratic and the people in the Ahr Valley have to fill out pages of applications to get grants so that they can rebuild their houses. Who understands all these paragraphs and who has so much time? A year ago, what the flood and there is still so much to do.”
“As a German, it is quite embarrassing for me how indolent my government is. That's why I want to help people quickly and unbureaucratically. The association can pay out the money to the people without applications and forms because they know each other personally and can assess the urgency well. Help must come now. We can't wait another year.”
What’s next for you as an artist?
“Well, I'm still at the very beginning and I'm happy about the first successes. For me, however, it is not my own fame that is in the foreground, but what I want to achieve with my music. I have a strong social feeling and want to help people, animals and nature. That's why I donate a large part of my streaming earnings to charities. I donate the streaming revenue of my song ‘Wut’ to the UN refugee aid. I donate all income from my song ‘Wiedersehn’ to an association in the Ahr Valley. In 2021, a terrible flood shook the Ahr Valley and people there still need help today. I hope to be able to contribute with my song. I hope so with all my songs.”
What has been your greatest moment as an artist so far?
“That people hear my music. Again and again, I have moments when I doubt myself and my music. I didn't think I would have such success.”
Is there anything you would like to say to our audience?
“Thank you very much for listening to my music. I want to make this world a better place and I would be very happy if you would be part of it.”
Released worldwide via all major streaming services on May 31, 2021, ‘Wiedersehn’ opens with the Heike alone at her piano, before an ensemble of bass, drums and strings gradually enter the mix. Heike sings her song dedicated to the people of Germany’s Ahr Valley and is doing her part by donating all profits from the track to the relief effort.
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