Inspiring Artist of the Week: Glen Hartmann

Glen Hartmann

I met Glen Hartmann and his girlfriend/manager/bandmate Kelly at last year’s Barleycorn Songwriter’s Competition, where I was asked back to play a short set whilst the judges deliberated. We (myself and the band) had planned to play a cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” as part of the set. When it was Glen’s turn to play, he announced that for his warm-up song he would be playing a cover of a song by (you guessed it) Coldplay! And can you guess which Coldplay song he played? Yep, the very same one that graced our original set-list! The band and I had a little laugh at the unlikely coincidence, and promptly dropped the song form our set.

As Glen sang the song, it became clear to me that he loved it for the same reason I do. You see, whenever I hear or play “Yellow”, I can’t help but relate it back to Jesus. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t Chis Martin’s intention, but lines like, “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you,” and, “Your skin, oh yeah your skin and bones, turn into something beautiful,” seem to point straight to Christ, and the ironic beauty of His death on the cross. When Glen sang the song, he changed the line “You know I love you so,” to, “Lord, I love You so”. I was pretty excited to discover that I wasn’t the only one to have made that link!

After the warm-up song, he played an original song, which intriguingly comprised vocal harmonies, samples, a guitar and a kick-drum. It was a unique live performance, and it made me want to hear more (when I got back to Knysna I promptly visited his SoundCloud profile and did exactly that). I have a huge amount of respect for DIY musicians, and Glen certainly seems to be one of them.

Anyway, that’s enough from me – over to Glen, for a sneak peak into the creative mind of another great, independent songwriter!

Glen Hartmann 6

Name: Glen Hartmann
Albums titles to date: For the Hurricane Chaser (EP)
Release date of next record: TBA
Favourite songwriter: Brian and Jenn Johnson are a great songwriting couple
Instruments: In my live performance I play acoustic guitar, kick drum and flute.

Describe your music in five words or less:
Acoustic, synth, folk, atmospheric, harmonies.

How old were you when you first started writing songs?
I wrote my first song when I was 16.

How has your songwriting changed and developed over the years?
I have moved from writing about shallow things like girls and other typical “teenager” things to writing much more metaphorical songs with deeper meanings. I really love being descriptive.

Glen Hartmann 7

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
“Us” by Regina Spektor – she incorporates great lyrical talent with very intriguing and inspiring melodies that are not the standard ideas of what melodies might be.

Approximately how many songs have you written, in total?
With the project that I’m working on now, I’ve written 12 songs and I’m working on a few more. But I’ve got books full of songs, some unfinished, I can’t even count them.

What’s your favourite of all the songs you’ve written, and why?
I like each of my songs for different reasons because I like to emphasize a different element in each. Harmonies: In “Home, I saw” I used harmonies to create a full sound. Lyrically: While writing “Mysterious Deep” I experimented with a lot of metaphors and imagery. Instrumentally: One of my newest songs was written with a big focus on instrumentalism, with intricate acoustic guitar melodies and riffs and I even incorporated the flute into this song! I haven’t named it yet!


Which five artists/bands have had the biggest influence on your music?

Coldplay: Their songwriting as a whole, despite being mainstream, provides a full product. They bring together their melodies, lyrics and instruments really well.

Bon Iver: The way he approaches his vocals is very different. This inspires me to be different in the way I do things, especially vocally.

Circa Survive: The frontman has such a unique vocal character which brings a completely different element to the music. That reminds me of the importance of the unique character that all instruments bring to a song within the whole songwriting process. This inspired me to be very intentional with the way I write something, because I know that writing a song in a particular way, in any element, can affect the way it sounds and completely change the feel of the song.

Two Door Cinema Club: I was inspired by this band to incorporate synth sounds into normal folk songs and synth elements into an acoustic songwriting process.

Freelance Whales: The way they use harmonies to fill out a song and not just as an add on.

Complete this sentence: Music is… a conduit for communicating and connecting on a deeper level.

What’s been the most memorable or exciting moment of your music career to date?
The last few weeks have been very memorable in terms of radio and TV exposure as well as playing some really big shows and getting a lot of positive feedback from the crowd.

What challenges (if any) have you faced when it comes to reconciling your faith in Christ with a career in music? How have you dealt with these challenges?
It has been a challenge to learn how to reflect Him in a true and effective way to those who are hearing my music. I have allowed Him to permeate as inspiration for the songs that I write in a way that He shines through and is instantly recognizable and in a way that people can relate.

Finally, what advice would you give to any aspiring songwriters/musicians reading this?
Write what is true/meaningful to you and be genuine in your music. People can see when someone is being genuine and that is one of the most valuable things.

Click here to download “The Hurricane Chaser” EP for FREE from NoiseTrade!

EP cover

Keep in touch with Glen at the following places:
Official Website

For the chance to be featured as an inspiring artist, email me at with a link to somewhere I can stream your music! (Songwriters/original artists only.)

Inspiring Artist of the Week: Ben Bitter

I “met” Ben Bitter on Twitter, over a year ago. I love meeting people who are as passionate about songwriting as I am, and Ben is one of those people. We’ve had many conversations about songwriting, and I think that his approach (as well as his songs themselves) are great. As such, I thought that you all might appreciate a little insight into his methods and general thoughts on the art of songwriting. So without further ado, it is my pleasure to share his interview with you!

Cover Shot

Name: Benjamin Bitter
Albums titles to date: “It’s About Time”(OOP), “Grace In Your Face”, “Peace In The Storm”
Release date of next record: Roughly Spring 2014
Favourite songwriter: Dan Fogelberg/James Taylor (tie)
Instruments: Guitar, Piano, Bass, Drums, Harmonica, and a wee bit o’ woodwind

Describe your music in five words or less:
Insightful, mellow, Christian folk-rock (that’s a phrase).

How old were you when you first started writing songs?
As a pretender, 10. Seriously, 15. I’ve been able to write hooks since childhood. I remember that my mother had a word of the day calendar on her desk, and one of the words was “downtrodden”. I thought, “What a great word!” I incorporated it into a terrible song hook that went nowhere, obviously, but hey! I gave it a go! My first real song came after a breakup of a teenage romance (surprise, surprise, right?). I could always write poetry with relative ease, but I’d never really given songwriting a proper try. But when I tried, it came quite naturally! I have a tattoo on my left arm that features the opening measures of that first song to remind me that I am first a songwriter, and a musician second.


How has your songwriting changed and developed over the years?
My first songs were 3 chord ballads with very little lyrical intensity. I took so few chances in the early days of my song writing! But as you try one thing that works, you get bolder and more willing to experiment. I’ve managed over the years to learn the art of storytelling within a song. You don’t have to set Dickens to music necessarily, but one single idea in a song isn’t enough. I’ve also learned to care about the subject I’m writing about. If you’re indifferent to your subject matter, you write boring songs.

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
“Can’t Fight This Feeling” by Kevin Cronin (R.E.O. Speedwagon). I believe this is one of the most finely crafted pop songs ever written. Everyone can relate to it, the melody is beautiful, and Kevin Cronin’s vocal on the original record is to me, stunning.

Approximately how many songs have you written, in total?
Oh, easily over a hundred. 125 if I count the ones that I won’t admit to!

What’s your favourite of all the songs you’ve written, and why? 
Definitely “My Something Better” from “Peace In the Storm”. For one thing, it was written in about 5 minutes! It was the greatest bit of improv I’ll ever manage. Everything just jelled. As for the real reason why, it deals with a subject I’ve been wrestling with my whole adult life, the idea of wanting my childhood back. I lost my father at a very early age, and ever since then I’ve been trying to recapture the relative innocence of my youth, with no real results but idolatry. Nothing but God fits into a God shaped hole, and once you come to that conclusion, you can really rest in the life God has provided you with. It was so extremely cathartic to write, and it’s quite catchy too!


Which five artists/bands have had the biggest influence on your music?

  1. Dan Fogelberg: His music can be overdramatic and ethereal, or it can be simple and down to Earth. He has an incredible lyrical sense, and he uses chord progressions I didn’t think were possible in Western Music. There are no words to describe what an influence he has been on me. 
  1. James Taylor: His voice, his writing, the slickness of his personality, everything. I heard my first James Taylor record (“That’s Why I’m Here”) at the age of ten, and from there on I’ve been trying to do what he does. Failing miserably, but trying! And he DID give me some nice hammer-ons!
  1. R.E.O. Speedwagon: Nothing fancy here, just straight forward Midwestern rock and roll. This band should really be at the top of the list though, because lead singer Kevin Cronin was a huge influence on my singing voice even today. The thing is, he has some very unique vocal ticks that I have picked up from singing along with their records all these years, and so many people tell me that my songs sound REO-ish. I take it as a compliment.
  1. Harry Chapin: If any artist has taught me that great songs tell stories, it’s Harry Chapin. His voice wasn’t the greatest in history, but the songs he left us are amazing works of art.
  1. Audrey Assad: Ever since I first heard her song, “Restless”, I have been striving to write prayer songs that are even in the same ballpark as hers. She sings like an angel, is an amazing pianist, and seems to be a nerd, which I love.
  1. Honourable mention goes to you and Cuan. I have learned a great deal from you guys, and your music makes me want to up my game! (Note from Mali: Aw, how sweet! Thank you!)

Complete this sentence: Music is… necessary to life.

What’s been the most memorable or exciting moment of your music career to date?
I have toured extensively, opened for big name acts, and recorded quite a bit. I think the most memorable moment was when I opened the shipping crate, and saw the first ever copy of “Grace In Your Face”. Everything I’d ever released up to that point was underground inferior stuff. Holding this CD in my hands validated my career. I looked at it and thought “This is it. I am now a recording artist.” And when I first held “Peace In The Storm”, same thing. It’s just an unbelievable feeling. 


Finally, what advice would you give to any aspiring songwriters/musicians reading this? 

  1. Don’t settle for mediocrity! Anyone can rhyme “June” with “spoon”, but you don’t have to settle for it. In my book, rhythm is far more important than rhyme, and effectively communicating the point of your song is also more important than rhyme. I like to look at rhyme like a happy accident. If it happens, it happens!
  1. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. This is a total cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Even when you are all alone, you can still make music. With the exception of a violin solo on one song, my latest record “Peace In The Storm” was written, performed, and produced entirely by myself!
  1. DO NOT COMPROMISE! Your art is yours. It is your statement, your heart, your emotion. Don’t let the promise of a gig, a contract or even money cause you to sacrifice your artistic integrity. Have fun, kids!

Click here to download some of Ben’s songs for free!


Keep in touch with Ben at the following places:
Official Website



Inspiring Artist of the Week: Matt Roux

I met Matt Roux when I took part in the Barleycorn Songwriters’ Competition in 2011. He was the previous year’s winner, and as such he kept us all entertained while the judges deliberated. I was extremely grateful to have great music to focus on – I think I’d have been a nervous wreck if it hadn’t been for the welcome distraction!

Matt’s music combines groove-based guitar riffs with intriguing lyrics and powerful vocals. It’s a privilege to have been able to interview him, and to share that interview with you all today. Be sure to take a listen to Matt’s music and download his album, Square One, for free on Soundcloud!


Name: Matt Roux
Albums to date: Square One
Release date of next record: Unknown
Favourite songwriter: John Mayer
Instrument: Guitar

Describe your music in five words or less:
Lyrically strong and richly melodic.

How old were you when you first started writing songs?
I wrote my first song at 21.

How has your songwriting changed and developed over the years?
I’ve had three distinct periods of writing. In my early twenties I was writing but I had no rich pool of experiences or observations to write anything meaningful – what I mean is that I’d pretty much just been focused on my studies, I had seen little of the real world. Then the second period was in 2009 when I was 33. This was the period in which I wrote the 10 songs that eventually appeared on Square One. And they’re observational songs (i.e. most events happened to others not me) but they’re from a decade of really living and watching the world around me. I’ m now in the third distinct period in which the songs I’m writing have two differences to what I wrote before: (1) they’re not afraid to be about things other than relationships, e.g. work (2) I’ve performed so much in the past 4 years and I now really know how to write songs that will also have the rhythmic hooks to keep people interested in a live performance.


What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
“No Such Thing” by John Mayer.

Approximately how many songs have you written, in total?
25 (10 of which appear on Square One). So there are 15 waiting to appear on some kind of follow up album!

What’s your favourite of all the songs you’ve written, and why?
Square One (title track of the album). It combines a compelling lyric with a really rhythmic beat that is great for live performances.

Which five artists/bands have had the biggest influence on your music?
Love this question, and the answer is in this very specific order chronologically:

  1. The Beatles (early teens)
  2. Dave Matthews (early twenties)
  3. John Mayer (late twenties)
  4. Jason Mraz (thirties)
  5. Jack Johnson (thirties)

Complete this sentence: Music is… a two-way sport. 

What’s been the most memorable or exciting moment of your music career to date?
Everything has been brilliant but I have two that stand out:

  1. Winning the Barleycorn Songwriter’s Competition – I will never forget that evening
  2. Completely transcending performance-wise at The Stoep and Swing a few weeks back. My connection with the audience was magical.

Finally, what advice would you give to any aspiring songwriters/musicians reading this?
It’s all about the song. If you’re going to reach the goal you want to achieve (and that’s highly personal to you), then it will be achieved because you knuckled down and wrote the best song(s) you could.


Click here to download the entire “Square One” album for FREE on Soundcloud.
Click here for a free booklet of the lyrics and chords of all the songs on “Square One”

Keep in touch with Matt at the following places:
Official Website



Inspiring Artist of the Week: Matt Creer


I first came across Matt Creer on ReverbNation. I was super impressed with his songwriting, as well as his beautiful voice. When Cuan and I went to England in 2011, we were privileged to play a house concert with Matt. It was such a memorable evening, and I can’t wait to do another one with him on our next UK visit! If you live in England, make sure you catch Matt performing live sometime (better yet, consider hosting a house concert yourself!). His honest songs and pure, gentle voice will capture your heart!

Name: Matt Creer
Albums to date: Lanterns (2011); Wood and Strings (2012)
Release date of next record: Feels Like Home – Summer 2013
Favourite songwriter: Neil Finn
Instruments: Guitar, drums, trumpet, piano

Lanterns single

Describe your music in five words or less:
Heartfelt melodic folk.

How old were you when you first started writing songs?
I was 15 when I wrote my first proper song. It was called “I know” and it was a tale of unrequited love, written about a girl in my GCSE English class. It was a ballad in C major. It wasn’t too bad, as far as lovesick teenage angst goes. One of my teachers, Oliver Gray, who was also a part time DJ and music promoter (now a full time music promoter) sent it to the manager of “The Hollies” (“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother”, etc.) and they expressed an interest in recording it for an album. However, for whatever reason, that album was never made and they went on tour in the USA instead and released a live album, so my little song was forgotten.


(Note from Mali: Have you ever seen such an adorable music video in your life?)

How has your songwriting changed and developed over the years?
My writing has changed a lot! Partly because I went through a 10 year period of not writing anything. Having written as a teenager and into my 20s, I also studied trumpet at the Royal College of Music and having played around London for a while, I decided to get a “proper” job and forgot about music for a while and especially about songwriting. When I found my love for music again in 2010, it was almost like starting from scratch. In terms of my music I’m finding as my guitar technique has improved, so has my writing and in fact I’ve found more recently that my writing is really starting to challenge my guitar playing and is pulling it forwards, which is a nice feeling. When I was younger I wanted to write songs that sounded like the bands and songwriters I most admired. Musically and lyrically my stuff has matured, even since my first album. I always write on the guitar, but stylistically I’ve unintentionally developed a more folky sound. My new album really shows this change. I’ve also stopped writing songs that I think other people will like and stopped worrying about how good they are compared to other songwriters. I’m writing purely for me. I think all songwriters should write for themselves, for our own tastes, our own egos! It’s how you then go about making the public excited about your work in the way that you perform and promote your music that the focus then shifts from being about your own satisfaction to being about other peoples.

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
Yesterday. It’s perfect, especially the version McCartney does on his own with guitar. (search on YouTube* for the first ever performance of it…makes me tingle!) After finishing it, Paul McCartney was in fact convinced that he’d heard it somewhere before and that he hadn’t really written it himself. It drove him mad for ages as he tried to track the song down. In the end he realised that it really was his own work.

(Note from Mali: Click here to watch the video of Yesterday that Matt is talking about. It’s one of my favourites too!)

Approximately how many songs have you written, in total?
I’d say 60 + but I’ve forgotten a number of them from years back that I never recorded. I’ve written around 40 songs since I started writing again a few years ago, some of those will never see the light of day though. There’s probably another 20 from my previous writing. Writing songs for me is usually a fairly fast process. Once I sit down and start to write, a song will usually be finished in a couple of days.

What’s your favourite of all the songs you’ve written, and why?
My favourite is usually whichever song I’ve just finished writing and just started performing, so at the moment it’s “Islands”, I’m really proud of it both musically and lyrically, I think it’s the most mature song I’ve written to date. It’s also a really nice song to perform.

Which five artists/bands have had the biggest influence on your music?

1. Crowded House and the Finn Brothers. Both Neil and Tim Finn are exceptional songwriters and musicians, with decades of amazing music.

2. Paul McCartney. He was a massive influence on the Finn brothers. Need I say more?

3. Glen Phillips. If you haven’t heard of him, look up his band Toad the Wet Sprocket. He is an amazing songwriter.

4. Garrison Starr. She a friend and a force of nature on stage. I’ve learned more about performing by watching her than I could have ever learned through gig experience alone.

5. Chris T-T. My old school band mate and even older friend. Although we are musically and lyrically very different, Chris has been a massive inspiration to me as a songwriter and as a creative soul. He lives creatively, if that makes sense, everything he does is inventive and creative. It was Chris who unwittingly inspired me to become a full time musician again.

Complete this sentence: Music is… what saves me.

What’s been the most memorable or exciting moment of your music career to date?
I guess most exciting recently was being offered an exclusive publishing deal by a boutique Los Angeles Publisher, who licenses songs to all the top US TV shows, (such as CSI, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy etc.) That was pretty cool! Most memorable moment is singing Lanterns with my friend Katherine Crowe in the Gaiety Theatre Douglas in front of 400 people as part of a show with Beverley Craven. We sing together a lot, but that was a special night with a special lady and I’ll never forget it.

Finally, what advice would you give to any aspiring songwriters/musicians reading this?

I have a list of golden rules for all musicians:

1. The most important rule. DON’T BE A DICK! There are hundreds of musicians who are just as talented, (or more) as you. If they’re also nicer people than you, you’ll never get any work.

2. Surround yourself with musicians who scare you…..creatively and musically. If you work and gig with people who are better instrumentalists, more experienced players, more experienced writers, more accomplished singers and performers, you will “up your game” massively and learn an awful lot about your craft – and make no mistake, performing is a craft. 

3. Gig as much as you possibly can, but don’t sell your soul and don’t work for free, unless it’s for charity or it’s going to benefit YOU and your career. If you work for free, you devalue yourself and the rest of us.

4. Don’t expect to make any money touring. You might just break even. (But you’ll have a great time doing it!) 

5. Write songs for YOU, not songs that you think your mum will like. Chances are she’ll like them anyway. It’s you! Write songs that you love singing.

6. Read Martha Graham’s quote that starts “There is a vitality, a life force…” Print it off and stick it on your wall in your study/studio/bedroom. Seriously, you’ll thank me for it. 

7. Don’t do it for the money. There isn’t any! 

8. If music stops being fun, you’re doing it wrong.

9. Embrace social media and engage with your supporters. It’s your best tool for spreading the word. Be friendly and approachable!

10. Be the best DIY musician you can be. Do it all yourself. Think creatively about CDs and other Merch and gigs and tours and venues. Be different! Be fun, be creative! ◙

Wood & Strings Cropped Front Cover

Keep up to date with Matt at the following places:
Official Website