How my midlife crisis turned a strange tune into “The Europe Song”.
My midlife crisis started a year ago, when my two-year-old daughter found a cassette tape in an old cardboard box at our Brussels flat. On it was a forgotten tune I’d started writing 25 years earlier, recorded in my Melbourne bedroom and named, for no particular reason, “Catch of the Day”.
Back then I was an angsty young songwriter, musician and vocalist (“singer” is too kind a description). Obviously I had long hair, a band and a weekly gig in a dive bar. The crowds were small and unwashed. The pay was 50 bucks (split four ways) and a case of beer. Inevitably I stopped writing songs and moved to Europe. Now I run an EU communications agency in Brussels.
My daughter was intrigued by the tape discovery. I found a dusty Walkman at our local street market in Saint-Josse and played it for her. As she danced around to daddy’s strange little tune, it occurred to me that the music wasn’t half bad. Perhaps I could use it for an EU campaign I’d just started working on?
And so began my midlife crisis.
A new song for Europe: #TheEuropeSong
I finished writing the song in Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina), a town that’s been my creative retreat for the last few years. We recorded the song there with musicians from the Pavarotti Centre, Mostar Rock School and local bands Zoster and Mostar Sevdah Reunion. Apart from this little ditty for my daughter’s first birthday, it was my first time writing and recording music for over 20 years, this time without the angst.
At one point during the writing process I had to make a decision. What language to use? If I wrote the song in English, it would distance non-English speakers (especially, of course, the French). If I wrote the song in any other European language, the rest of the continent wouldn’t understand it. And Esperanto is just silly.
It was my daughter who offered a solution. At the time she’d started forming words that aspired to French, Polish and English, but that sounded more like Gibberish. So I started writing down her words. Mili. Mila. Shalama. Moo. Then I tweaked some words so the lyrics reflected the phonetics of north, south, east and west Europe. I wanted it to feel natural singing The Europe Song no matter where you’re from or which language/s you speak.
It was the perfect solution: A European language that makes no sense, but that everyone understands.
Robert Schuman, “Father of Europe”, said “the European spirit signifies being conscious of belonging to a cultural family”. I hope The Europe Song makes you feel like part of the family.
If you’d like to sing, play, spin, remix or sample The Europe Song, it’s free to use for non-commercial purposes with attribution “#TheEuropeSong” (CC BY-NC). And if you’d like to perform your version for our series of live streams from terraces around Europe, let’s talk.
The Europe Song: Q&A
How many stars are in the EU flag?
How many stars appear in the video?
How many new words are in the song?
How many kids are singing in the chorus?
How many bpm does the tempo speed up?
How many notes from Ode to Joy at the end?