Martin Høybye

How do you write about 'the end of the world'?

Martin Høybye’s recording career spans a couple of decades during which he has released his own albums as well as contributed to many recordings by other artists internationally.

His songwriting tends to revolve around social and existential issues, and recurring themes are community, time, interhuman connection, and identity in a seemingly disjointed world.

Since 2007 Martin Hoybye has co-directed ‘Songcrafter Music,’ which releases new talent as well as seasoned songwriters.

Songcrafter is a company based on a philosophy of reinvesting profits to support emerging and established artists whose art is assessed purely on their craft.

Martin has a background in journalism, social work and heritage studies, and he currently works on a “never ending project” that creatively investigates responses in collaborative songwriting to living with repercussions of a changing climate.

June 14 2023 he successfully defended a PhD thesis in which he explored personal and collaborative songwriting to engage with questions of going through “Anthropocene moments:”

‘Starting in March of 2018 I witnessed effects of climate change in Cape Town, South Africa, after years of drought led to a severe water crisis. I believe it offered a glimpse into what the future may look like in other places. In fact we have seen similar issues unfold in 2021 and 2022 in the US, and in 2023 in Spain’ he says.

He sees the climate and bio-diversity crises as connected, and in 2019 started working also with people affected by Covid-19 in Denmark.

‘I feel compelled to go out there and listen and write these songs with people. These are major challenges of our time, and I will continue to write songs about it until there is nothing more to say.’

Along with collaborators in South Africa and the USA, Høybye is currently working on a manifesto which builds on his doctoral work. It is a call for songwriters to share their practice in order to change the world “one song at a time.”

“Songwriting is a deeply humanizing activity, it should not only be in the hands of experts. A great many songwriters, like me, have felt carried during dark times by having this craft, and they have been lifted by feeling that a song connected with others. The least we can do is try to share the practice.”

Time and (other) finite resources

One of the points Martin constantly works to make come across is that many of our perceived infinite resources are, in fact, finite.

‘We treat natural resources like water and air as carelessly as we tend to treat each other. In a sense, our lives are too short. We are not geared to understand the repercussions of our actions centuries or even just decades down the line.’

On his recent album release ‘The Hour Glass Sessions’ (2019) time was therefore a trope running through all of the songwriting.

In the seemingly daunting and scary circumstances that climate change and the advent of the Anthropocene brings, Martin wanted to try to write about what mattered most to him. But rather than turning out topical songs the project quickly took a more personal direction.

‘How do you write about the idea of the end of the world? What does that even mean? I realized that to me that meant something very personal yet universal. And in turn the bulk of those songs were about life and living, about family and what I would like to pass on,” he says.

Picking up the thread he then turned his personal songwriting practice into a collaborative practice – towards making it a form of social resource. Since 2019 he has collaborated with participants from South Africa, Zimbabwe, DRC, Denmark, Sweden, Malta, the UK, and the USA, primarily non-songwriters, and written songs that lifted each participants story into aong.

‘The songwriting process offers a unique way to analyze one’s current predicaments. People are perfectly capable of analyzing their own lives and for example put an experience of adversity into a broader context. Singing such realizations is immensely powerful for the writers. And songs written in this way also give listeners a true glimpe of what it feels like to be human – for another human. Songs may then open new reflective spaces in ourselves as listeners, and when they do, we inadvertently start to change a little. Because we have incorporated another perspective in this sung communication that reaches us. We have been touched by another soul,’ he explains.

So far, Høybye has co-written 35 songs in the project, and 10 will be released as a first album entitled “Songs in the Key of Collaboration,” in early 2024. Other albums with co-written material will follow.