Songwriters on Songwriting podcast

Tile about the Songwriters on Songwriting podcast on Glad Radio. Photos of Maaike Siegerist and Becci Wallace. And the SongSeeds logo.

Becci Wallace invited me as a guest on her Songwriters on Songwriting podcast!

It’s a series where she digs deep into the songwriting process of her guests, who are drawn from Scotland’s vibrant music scene.

We talk about Ghost Stories, Alter Egos and the Forgotten Women of Scottish Culture.

Have a listen below, or on Spotify.

Hear more episodes via the Glad Radio website. Other guests include Mima Merrow, who writes beautiful poetic folk songs, and John McMustard who writes sunny songs with a lot of heart.

New charity single: Call of the Last Wildcat

My new single is a portrait of the UK’s most endangered mammal, the Scottish Wildcat.

Wildcats have been in Britain since the Iron Age, but now only few are left in Scotland. So few, that they’ll disappear without help.

I wrote this song when I visited the Cairngorms two years ago. A drawing of a wildcat in the snow sparked the song.

Saving Wildcats

To help the wildcats, I’m donating all money from sales and streams to Saving Wildcats, a wildcat conservation charity. I think the work they’re doing is fantastic: breeding wildcats for release into the wild! It’s the help they need to survive. I’ve raised and donated £125 plus gift aid so far. Get the track on Bandcamp if you’d like to help!

Guest musicians

The sound I was going for is inspired by Mike Oldfield – a melodic folk vibe with spotlights on the voice and electric guitar – combined with the fairy tale atmosphere of early Nightwish and Within Temptation (who, in turn, were inspired by Kate Bush).

For the arrangement, I had particular musicians in mind, and luckily, they all said yes when I asked them! On drums, you hear Ivar de Graaf, known for his work with Kingfisher Sky and Within Temptation. On lead guitar is my friend and former bandmate Bas Willemsen of Alarion. Susanna Downes performs her magic on the piano, and Jonni Slater mixed the track and played the synth. The track was mastered by Nick Cooke (who also works with Kate Rusby).

A true lockdown production, a lot of this came together remotely, working over the internet!


“Call Of The Last Wildcat is the latest genre-defying beauty from Bristol-based Maaike Siegerist. (…) Emotive, evocative, and skilful storytelling from a master of the craft.”
–  Fenris Music

“Very much in the modern folk idiom, it paints a musical picture of the wildcat – all you have to do is let your imagination run free. (…) an exceptional song”
Jelli Records

“The soothing guitar and piano melodies intertwine along with the artist’s spine-tingling vocal. This is like a poem set to music and it is sure to hit your soul hard. The track erupts into a glorious distorted guitar solo before the tranquil folk sounds return full circle.”
Curious for Music

Call of the Last Wildcat got played by Amazing Radio’s Jim Gellatly and BBC Radio Bristol, where Adam Crowther called it “a beautiful tribute to the Scottish Wildcat.” Dozens of other DJs and radio stations also played the song – thanks all!

Download on Bandcamp and support Saving Wildcats

Listen to ‘Call of the Last Wildcat’

13 Songwriters in a cottage in Scotland

The cottage is empty when its owner greets Jonni Slater and me. ‘Becci’s just gone to get some groceries,’ he says. The air is crisp and the leaves are red and yellow.

We had visited glistening lochs and rugged mountains on the way up, in a rental car just big enough to fit a keyboard and a guitar in the trunk. Scotland’s natural beauty is stunning, and yes – it’s very wet at times.

Loch Goil
Early morning at Loch Goil

We greet the other songwriters as they arrive. Some are old friends – we met at a (now almost legendary) songwriting camp six years ago, and play gigs together under the banner of ‘Fresh Tracks: Unknown Animal.’ Others are new friends.

After a home-cooked vegan meal, we play each other our songs, and we know we’re in good company.

We don’t make it a late one – there’s work to do in the morning, and the retreat’s driving force, the Glaswegian artist Becci Wallace, has caught laryngitis. (Although she resolutely refuses to be defeated by it.)

Catherine Rudie plays a song for the other songwriters in the living room of the cottage.
Catherine Rudie shares one of her brilliant songs.

Day one, task one: individual songwriting

The next day, there’s music coming out of every room, even the BBQ hut in the garden. Somehow, we all manage to find a space to write.

Becci had brought historic letters, illustrations and photos to inspire us, but I already know what I want to write about: billionaires in space. Elon Musk in particular wants to colonise Mars. I like a bit of science fiction.

When I play my new creation ‘Moon and Mars’ for the other songwriters that evening, my hands are shaking. I’m so full of adrenaline. Flashbacks to my first gigs years ago. But they like it! (You can hear a bit below.)

Day two, cowriting

Every song you write together is a negotiation. Sometimes you create something that’s more than what either of you could have made individually. At other times, it’s too much of a compromise.

I work on one song with Becci, whose powerful voice has been reduced to a husky whisper, and blues rocker David Sinclair. We encourage Becci to whisper a rap over the bluesy chords, and I smuggle in some jazz tones. It’s a fun exercise.

There are guitars in the cot, in the room where Becci and I write a cheeky second song. It’s a response to all the beauty adverts we see on Facebook, and friends endlessly taking and filtering selfies.

I propose to use the word ‘armpit’ in the lyrics but Becci vetoes it. We have a good laugh and the song’s a keeper – ‘So You Think’!

Day three: gig time!

Birnam Arts Centre is packed as we’re on stage on the evening of the third day. We sit in a half circle as we play our new songs; I play both ‘Moon and Mars’ and ‘So You Think’. It’s less scary now than in the cottage!

Maaike Siegerist, Geoff Peel and Rosie Bans on stage at Birnham Arts Centre.
On stage with Rosie Bans, with guitarist Geoff Peel in the background.

We had started the day with a two-hour songwriting task. Jonni and I ran out of time but started something good. A romantic song in an apocalyptic setting. Thereafter, we had spent the afternoon rehearsing for the gig.

I’m really impressed by everyone’s songs and performances. The audience in Birnam agrees. We are invited back.

Space rage

But enough talking about music – here’s a fragment of my new song ‘Moon and Mars’ – the one about the billionaires’ space race:

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Working with a top producer in France

Three photos: Maaike behind a microphone, exterior view of the studio, James and Jonni making spacey sounds
Working with James Sanger at Vibey Studios

Out of the blue, I received an email from a British top producer. He had heard my songs on the Fresh on the Net website and asked if I wanted to come to his studio in France, to work on new music.

I didn’t have to think long! In no time, Jonni Slater and I were on a ferry from Poole to Cherbourg.

The producer is James Sanger, and he’s worked with the likes of Dido, U2, Mel C and Annie Lennox! His Vibey Studios are located in an old farmhouse in Normandy.

Under James’ guiding hand, we worked on a new duo project, with unusual instruments and a new sound! To be continued…