Start composing your own music—here's how
Musician Teresa Bergman performed on the streets of New Zealand as a child gaining her initial experience as a musician. Later she took part in the music competition "New Zealand Idol" and reached fifth place there. After moving to Germany, Theresa took off here as well. Since then she lives and works in Berlin. Her music can be categorized somewhere among soul, chanson, folk, swing and jazz.
Read on to see how she looks back on her musical experiences today, what inspired her third album, and the most decisive moments for Teresa's artistic success.
My guitar, my microphone, a stage, my great band and chocolate!
I don't know if I really wanted to be a musician as a child—I just wanted to express myself and had an urge to perform. I wanted to become a diplomat or a UN Human Rights Officer for a long time - that's what I studied for. But my songs, my voice, and my guitar were always there. Kind of a home. After the master's degree, I had a feeling of apathy for the first time. I somehow couldn't motivate myself to write applications—that was probably post-study blues. At the same time, I performed a lot of street music in Berlin at that time and started playing gigs on my own. That's when I found my fire and my passion. I've always done what I'm burning for—up to now it's just music.
In some ways, yes. Three albums, performing in front of thousands of people and soon I'll even be playing my songs with an orchestra. Those are great accomplishments and I'm proud and also super grateful to have achieved that. At the same time, there is always room for improvement in music. On the one hand, this can be motivating - but on the other hand, it can also lead to us somehow always longing for the greater success instead of simply being satisfied for once. I struggle with this, as I think many ambitious people do. But I'm getting better at pausing for a moment and consciously noticing and appreciating the big and small instances of success.
Ha—of course! I am self-taught and am constantly surrounded by trained jazz musicians... you get the crisis almost every day. I always had 'dry' phases when composing. I have often worried that the muse will be gone forever. Doing nothing has helped a lot. On vacation or during a break, everything starts to flow again with me.
Intense. I was only 18 and suddenly seen on TV every week during prime time. I couldn't walk down the street without having to give autographs. It was super weird for me because we sang covers on the show—you can imitate, but my thing was always more to create my own version. But I learned a lot about the television industry and how hard and superficial it can be. As a participant, you are simply a product for them and that's how you are treated. It took a long time to understand and digest all this - but it motivated me to reflect exactly on what kind of artist I want to be.
Difficult question. In itself, it is an intense experience: you can make good contacts and learn to deal with pressure and adrenaline. These are good skills. What really bothers me is the whole "Hope-Building-and-then-Destroying" pattern—"You're going to be the next big star"—and so on. It's often so blatantly fake. You shouldn't take part in something like that in order to fulfill your big dreams. I think you only get emotionally drawn into their marketing strategy all the more.
But strategically going there to make contacts or learn something new—why not?! The problem is that many young people don't yet know who they are. Marketing narratives then like to pick up on that. So you may later feel that they have taken advantage of you or that you have pretended too far.
Oh, many things! I produced the new album myself—going in there with confidence and making it happen was a cool new step for me. I also find the album particularly intimate. It's super close, warm, organic and brutally honest. The recordings were almost all done in the same room with my band. When you record everything together, there's often a special magic.
The album was made during the lockdown - so the circumstances were also special. It felt like everything was amplified—both the stressful and the wonderful moments. I sang about loneliness, fear and insecurities surrounded by my best friends in our warm studio bubble. I also came up with an art character for the album and conceived and produced a series of five music videos to go with it. This created a meta-story or concept album level, which was a new, interesting and super creative experience for me.
Lockdown, gigs gone, normal life gone, a breakup right before that, and no way to get to my home country of New Zealand (the country was on lockdown)—there were a lot of triggers! Also, just life as a woman in my mid-30s. There are super many challenges that I don't think are addressed as much in our society.
We are somehow "emancipated," but nevertheless it is more "strange" for a woman in her mid-30s to be single and childless than it is for a man—and then even more so as a musician with an irregular income. It's often better not to talk about it—that's where feelings of shame arise for many. I wanted to make an honest contribution to initiate discourse on these topics and to create solidarity for women who are struggling with exactly these feelings.
It always starts with feelings for me. A mood, then melodies or guitar chords often come along. I sing until it's right for me. Sometimes it happens very quickly, sometimes it takes a long time. I often work on lyrics for a long time—writing lyrics is easy, but I like to let it mature. Like cheese 🙂
Play as many gigs as you can—get your experience. Talk to others who are already where you want to be; learn from them. Nobody needs a big ego. Be humble and hardworking. Make good daily routines to keep yourself productive and goal-oriented.
I did a lot of street music—people often asked me if I wanted to play with them. I went to every open stage and session in the city until I could arrange independent gigs with the bars. Having a good agent is also super important. But I think at the very beginning it's great to get your experience that way: Paying one's dues.
Every now and then there was a moment when I was suddenly standing in front of a much larger audience than usual. Suddenly there were a hundred people, then five hundred, then thousands. Those are great moments, and always a challenge. You want to do well. But that's pure "learning while doing."
To be able to play bigger festival stages was and still is a great feeling for me. That's where we belong in the meantime, and me and my team work super hard for it. Elbjazz, Reeperbahn, Stimmen Festival... And at the Herzberg Festival the other day, that was super nice! These steps are good. I definitely have a desire for more!
I think the moments on stage where I lose myself in the music and fully connect with the audience and my band. Something is created there. [It's] something bigger than the sum of its parts. We all grow together in those special moments.
First of all, our album release tour through Germany. After that I'm doing a collaboration with the German Film Orchestra—14 of my songs will be arranged for the 60-piece orchestra and played live in April 2023. I'm really looking forward to that!
Teresa's nationwide release tour will start in February 2023. The performances will take place in Leipzig, Freiburg, Augsburg, Hamburg, Berlin, Kiel and Potsdam, among others. All dates and tickets can be found here. We wish Teresa all the best for her future!
Are you interested in developing yourself musically and starting a new band project? Then take a look at mukken. Here you can easily connect with musicians from your area for free. In our blog you'll also find lots of other exciting articles on various music topics.
Originally published on January 23, 2023, updated on February 3, 2023