JB Meijers: “You simply can’t generally say if a piece of music sucks or not.” [Interview]

In the run-up to Eurovision, decided it was time to put a spotlight on the people behind the songs: the composers and lyricists. A while ago, we spoke to the co-composer of the Dutch entry: JB Meijers! Read what he had to say below! Hey JB! First of all, welcome to the Eurovision Song Contest!
JB Meijers: Thank you. Glad to be here.
X: Could you tell us something about your vision on songwriting? What makes a perfect song?
JB: I have absolutely no idea at all. If I knew I would apply that knowledge and be on #1 all the time. Having said that, I try to find out how stuff works, and I am handy at making music and songs for sure, but that one special song is always a mystery. But generally it is a combination of pure inspiration, envision the snippet you caught in your imagination, then try to shape it with the craft you have. It’s pretty much hit or miss…
X: You’ve worked with and been in quite a few Dutch music groups. Which one of them should definitely do Eurovision someday?
JB: Tough one… I’m a Eurovision novice, I have no history of watching it closely. All I can say is that I’d like to see it as a Song contest, not a dress up contest. So, I would say… Douwe Bob is a good songwriter. Daniel Lohues is a great one. The Bløf guys… De Dijk… There’s so many good writers in Holland.
X: We have to ask the obvious. How do you feel about entering a song to a competition? After all, music is art and Eurovision is a competition…
JB: I think I pretty much answered that in the previous question. I’m a little startled by the whole thing I must admit. The competition thing never was a big deal with me. I don’t like it at all, therefore, it leaves me unmoved to be honest. You simply can’t generally say if a piece of music sucks or not. If you are a fan of classical music, chances are large to huge you have a problem with listening to The Sex Pistols. This goes vice versa… Me personally; I like Schubert AND the Sex Pistols, so there you go. Also, I like musique concrete a lot. I listen to that for my pleasure. People around me often get redfaced and ask me to turn it off, haha!
X: On your site you wrote that you, as a songwriter, were perfectly happy with your place in the shadow. That all changes with Eurovision, where songwriters always get explicitly mentioned by commentators and the organisation. How do you feel about the spotlight also turning to you as a songwriter now?
JB: I couldn’t be bothered. My ambition (a large one!) lies in music, not showbiz. However, I am extremely thankful to Ilse and all the hardworking people around us that put so much effort in making this work. And I am extremely thankful in general that I am able to continue this wonderful life in music. Don’t worry, I will dress up properly for the event, haha!
X: In the documentary Dutch TV made about The Common Linnets, we saw the story behind Calm After The Storm: you had a tough day and came up with a start to this song. The song must be quite close to you for that reason? Could you tell us a little more about how you came up with the idea for the song?
JB: Although the idea comes from a very real place and situation, I took it a little further and started wondering that if you would be at what could be the end of a relationship, and you would both decide that the circumstances you are in have killed that very relationship; that in a moment of self-contemplation, one could find oneself at a point where one could or would have to choose between following the path you’ve taken as a person instead of the path you’re in TOGETHER. That’s what it’s about to me. They haven’t broken up, but things don’t look too shiny. You could see the storm as a relational fight and the calm as being tired of fighting. It’s literally that uneasy peace where you just haven’t decided, but… Things will improve, whether you stay together or split. Above all: They still love each other very very much. The song that comes to mind now is something like With Or Without You by U2. It’s that kind of thing. I love you, I hate you. The ever omnipresent juxtaposition.
X: Ilse and Waylon chose their song themselves. Were you surprised they chose Calm After The Storm for Eurovision?
JB: Yes and no. Yes because everybody shouts for modulations and flutes and whatnot. No because it is a special song. I feel very very honoured, and I am extremely thankful they did. And I couldn’t have had better writing partners than Ilse, Rob, Matt and Jake.
X: Now, the reaction to the song has been quite odd. It seems to be love or hate: so-called music experts seem to criticise the effort you made, in charts it shot to #1… How is that entire rollercoaster for you?
JB: Again, it didn’t bother me at all. I know how we wrote it and that was 100% real and heartfelt. Music experts? Gimme a break, I play circles around all so-called music experts that I have seen discussing the song on tv and social media. If somebody like Murray Perahia or Bob Dylan had something sensible to say I would definitely listen to them. There’s 16 million music and football experts in Holland. That’s all cool, but again, I know what we did and that is a special thing to us. We are very proud of the song and that stands. We wouldn’t be so strong in our stance if we would have submitted to the general opinion of how a Eurovision song would have to sound. Just go and have a listen to some of it… Is there such a thing? Also, I’m doing music because I like it, not because YOU like it. Haters gonna hate, you know… Then the #1 position… Well, you could see that as the perfect answer to the critics, ain’t it?  But to wrap it up: Having a #1 hit record, I have to admit, is a very very joyuous experience! I’m incredibly grateful to the people that went out and listened to the song and liked it. That resonates in a very pure and proper way. The Twitter stuff is just a little coloured to me.
X: Eurovision is just a few weeks away. What do you expect from the entire experience?
JB: Tremendous amounts of fun and extreme focus on the moments that demand for it. Oh, and a dinner at Noma! That’s the best restaurant in the world, right?
X: Finally, thank you so much for this interview! Do you have a message for the readers of
JB: Hi! Pleased to virtually meet you! Thanks for reading my strictly personal musings.
We would like to thank JB Meijers for taking the time to speak to us. You can listen to the Dutch entry for the Eurovision Song Contest 2014, Calm After The Storm, below!

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