Mike Krabbers is a ukulele player who is deservedly highly acclaimed as a songwriter. If you've never heard his songs, listen to this one, and then you'll know why.
Mike, you’ve written a lot of really good songs… did you write songs before you played ukulele?
"Yes I did, I have been making up songs and poems for as long as I can remember.
My dad used to play a ukulele when I was very young and I used to muck about with that, I also had a Bontempi Reed organ which I used to play a lot."
When did you write your first song?
"I can't remember, thinking back I did make up a song whilst jamming with some friends in my dads garage called “White Mouse” but don't ask how it went!" I did write a few songs in the eighties for my various musical ventures, but then got into writing poems, some of which have become ukulele songs."
About how many songs have you written, would you say?
"Not sure, but I have started putting them on the Onsong app on my ipad and I have just over a hundred so far."
I described how I write a song - what is your usual creative process, if you have such a thing as a “usual” one? Do you start with finding a chord sequence? Your chord progressions are very interesting….
"It changes all the time, It could be a sound or a rhythm, it could be an accidental strum which sounds good, it's hard to say, most of my songs start as poems, then I muck around with chords after."
Do your words and melody come together, or does one of those come first then you find the other to fit?
"Phrases come first, then the rhyme, then a four line poem normally, or I get a good phrase and repeat it a lot, it saves on ink!"
Do you ever get song ideas in the middle of the night? If so, what do you do?
"No I don't, but I do have a dream book where I write down stuff that happens to me, I have very weird dreams!"
Has playing ukulele been an important factor in your songwriting? If so, how has it helped?
"Yes, due to it always being there, it's easy to have with you, to pick up and play."
How do you preserve your songs?
"I record them, write them down."
At what point do you decide that a song is finished? I find that once I have my lyrics, melody and chords and can play it in a way that “will suffice, the best I can currently do with it” then I’m done. But often I think I should probably craft the thing further in various ways.
I never know when a song is finished, they change a lot. One of my first MySpace songs in the days before YouTube was “I got u 2 thank” a happy country style song in C, which I used to play live in my band Six Miles Away, is now a better song in Em and spelt properly, so they change all the time.
I guess you could think them finished once you have uploaded them or pressed a CD, but for me they can keep changing. “Preowned” for instance on my CD “Secondhand Backpack” was still just an idea when we recorded it in the studio, the version on the CD was the first time I had played it, it changed almost immediately after. “Best Friend At My Side” has never changed, neither has “Leave A Light On For Me” but they are story songs, so that's probably why."
Is there one song that you think is possibly your best and favourite among the songs you’ve written?
"At the moment I think my best song so far is “Peace of Rock” but favourites are When You Come to Say Goodbye and “Candles”
One thing I would say is write or record every idea as they disappear very quickly if left hanging."
Mike, thanks so much for that!
Mike has performed at uke festivals GNUF and GSUF and will be performing, leading massed jams and hosting open mics at the Ukulele Festival of Scotland in early May... visit www.ukulelefestivalofscotland.co.uk to book your tickets! At GNUF in Huddersfield later in May he will be performing in the duo "The Hedge Inspectors" with his wife Caroline.
If you can't get to a uke festival in the UK, you can catch Mike and Caroline in their podcast, unplugthewood
He can also be found on itunes!
Thanks for dropping in! I really mean that... come back soon!