Interview: VERN – Walls

With a mixture of personal experience and part of fictional narrative, VERN tries to grab the listeners’ attention. Recognizing themselves in the songs, there is a possibility for the audience to connect emotionally. Therefore, VERN chooses to combine serious topics with lightly but not to heavy melancholic nor dramatic musical arrangements.

Hey VERN, super nice to have the chance to chat with you. What first got you into music?

Thanks a lot Sofia for the interview. 

I grew up with my parents listening to the Beatles, Bee Gees, Cat Stevens and Leonhard Cohen a lot. My family used to sing on every occasion and almost everybody played an instrument. What actually got me into music was my father playing his Spanish guitar. As a 4-year-old I always wanted to try and that’s when I got my first guitar. It was a small version of a real six-string. After some recorder lessons, I got the opportunity to take guitar lessons, too. This was the beginning and over the years more instruments like the fanfare and violin followed. I also joined choirs, orchestras and found a school band which eventually got me to songwriting.

What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great musician?

At first, I don’t think that I’m a great musician. In August, I turn 35 and in this short lifetime I faced quite a few experiences that made me struggle, like the loss of my brother and my best friend. That is (amongst others) what I write about.
I’ve always found a little peace in listening to music and also learned that writing music had an almost therapeutic effect on me. Both recognizing the pain and finding hope is my strength to express my feelings in my music. I think, that with this mixture of personal experience and part fictional narrative I try to grab the listeners’ attention. Recognizing themselves in the songs, there is a possibility for the audience to connect emotionally. If I could reach only one person realizing that there is someone else out there out there feeling or going through the same mess, would make me a happy person. So I consider myself an honest and authentic musician. It is important to me to make people start to think about themselves. Especially when it’s about issues hardly mentioned in today’s society like mental health.

What was the best phase in your life?

I think that me sitting here right now and answering your questions is part of the best phase of my life. Due to the experience and hard work of almost 6 years of psychotherapy I can say such a beautiful and positive thing for the first time in my life. 

Your latest track is ‘Walls’. Can you share with us the background of its creation and did any unusual things happen during its creation?

The song is about realizing that real change is only possible by actively changing oneself. Not by trying to change others all over again. Invisible walls such as to be found in relationships can only be broken by those who built them. In my case I see my parents as the builders. It took me very long to reach this point of awareness. So for me it is a healing song I used to play for myself for years. The most unusual thing that happened during its creation was that I completely overthrew the arrangement two weeks before the production. Normally I get stuck with different versions of one song I’m overthinking again and again to finally decide to go with the first version. By starting the production I put an immediate end to my process of creation. 

Where do you see your musical career in 10 years?

10 years from now I hope that I will have released my third studio album while playing a few intimate live shows with a string quartet and a band. 

Do you think that education is important?

As a teacher my answer can only be: Yes, of course. The term education still needs to be put in the right context. As for me growing up with very devout parents, where education was equated to guilt and punishment, the so-called old authority. By contrast developed the model of a new authority: patience over threats, non-violent resistance over physical force, and transparency over secrecy, which fully convinces me.In my opinion it’s our task as adults to help children to fully develop their unique human identity by giving them the freedom of finding their own sense of regulation.

What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?

After finishing school, I completed an apprenticeship in nursing which helped me to sort out my plan of becoming a doctor. So I became a full-time teacher for children with disabilities. I think this is a reasonable and meaningful job where I also benefit from being creative as a musician or an artist. I definitely could see myself in research projects or other studies to improve teaching methods and skills. 

How do you structure your week?

School gives me a very helpful structure: I get up at 6 am, drive to work by bike and finish at around 5 pm. I’m still learning to find my rhythm with the work life balance, but making music is included on a daily basis: With either writing songs, practicing old ones while recording myself (You can take a look at the videos on instagram @thisisvern) or teaching music in school for even a little amount of time. 

What do you think is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced?

In life: In 2010 I found a person who still gets and takes me as I am. She gives me the feeling of being truly loved. 

In music: In 2007 a friend of mine had introduced me to one of my most favorite bands: “Frightened Rabbit“ – I was able to experience Scott Hutchison with his band for three times before he decided to end his life. At the 02 Academy in London was one of the most impressive moments with the whole crowd singing to the beautiful song “the loneliness“. 

What do you think of your generation?

This is a hard question and the following includes myself: I think my generation should take a stepp back of self-expression and trying to optimize one-selves. With the current political situation and social inequalities, I think it is hard to find oneself free from feeling guilty and responsible while continuing with a privileged lifestyle.      I think our generation is still able to change course. With the corona crises and Russians’ war of aggression against Ukraine, global warming and climate change etc., I’m truly wondering what else has to happen that people realize the need of change and its rapid realization. 

What is the most surprising fact you’ve learned about yourself?

I hope that this is a matter of a livelong learning process I can take step by step and not by one big surprise. As an adult I don’t have any interesting experiences to share concerning the matter.

Thank you very much Sofia for the interview and the very thoughtful questions. 

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