Patrick and Sarah are the founders of 'Life of a Busker'.
Their duo was born on the street (never better said) at the same time as their story: two friends who ended up falling in love thanks to music. Between guitars, pianos, planes and vans on the road, these two Danish young musicians have created their life project aiming to fill the world with music.
Patrick (Patrick Folmer Thomsen) was born in 1995. He lived and studied in the countryside, on the outskirts of a small town called Brenderup in Denmark.
Patrick admits that "school was never a great inspiration when it came to music. It wasn't until I was 14 that I started playing the guitar. As soon as I was able to play, I knew it was something I wanted to do for a living. The years went by and I had tried to develop my musical skills by singing, playing the guitar, writing songs and producing a little bit. I considered studying something else in college, but studying had never been my thing".
Thanks to his passion for music, he met Sarah, his travel music partner, and thanks to her, Life of a Busker was born. Patrick admits that he doesn't want things to go back to the way they were before: "now it's all about music, travel, busking and just us."
Sarah (Sarah Welitzka Johansen) was born in 1997. She grew up and studied in the small town of Almind in Denmark.
For Sarah, "music has always been a big part of my life, and whenever I felt depressed, I sought refuge in it. I started singing in a church choir when I was ten and then I started playing the piano when I was 14. Since I started singing I have been clear: I want to be an artist who makes a living from my own music." After finishing her studies, she worked in a kindergarten for a year and a half to save some money and thought about her next step: going to Copenhagen to try her luck in the Danish music industry. It was there that she met Patrick, her current travel music partner.
Sarah admits that Patrick "quickly became a big part of my life. We went to the US together to make our way in the country, and that was the beginning of a new life for both of us”.
I was lucky enough to meet them in Seville. Walking near the cathedral, Patrick's voice singing "Lego House" by Ed Sheeran made me stay to listen. He was not the only singer in the group, which ended up surprising me even more. Sarah and Patrick sang together the famous song "Shallow" from the movie "A Star Is Born", and everybody there fell in love with them. On these days, they are preparing their next 'busking': Asia
We did this interview by phone, while they were already in Madrid, to introduce 'Life of a Busker' to the world:
Question: Tell us the story of Life of a Busker and where is the name of the group coming from
Patrick: Well, Life of a Busker… ‘Busker’ means ‘street performer’ and around about a year and a half ago, April last year. Yes. We were in America. We just wanted a name for Instagram so people could like follow along with the journey and everything. So, we decided to call us ‘Life of a Busker’ because we were living the life of a busker (giggles) It just made sense and the name was available on Instagram and, ever since then, we’ve just been Life of a Busker.
Q: How did you guys meet? How did this project start?
Sarah: We met at a music course in Aarhus, the second biggest city in Denmark. Just before we met, I went back off, like one month around Europe. I had been to Spain and Italy to play the piano and sing, just because I wanted to try to travel and play music and I didn’t think more about it. But then I thought “I could actually live from this”. I ended up the whole travel and then I came home. I met Patrick like one month later and then we started to play music and all of this (giggles) and then we just thought we should try to go to America and play music and see how it would go. We were there for three months to cross from Los Angeles, we rented a camper van and went all the way to New York City and then we played in like a lot of cities we came to there.
Q: So, Life of a Busker is formed by Sarah Johansen, the piano girl of the band and Patrick Thomsen, the guitarist. The two of you are not only partners in this project but also a couple. How is it like to share this creative project full of music with someone you love?
Patrick: Well, first of all, me and Sarah, we are very passionate about music. We love music and playing music so, when we started up we were actually friends. When we went to America we were also friends, but then, in America, we starting becoming more like a couple. Also. It’d kind of be hard not to because we spend so much time together and we know each other so well but… it is like… I don’t know… I feel like, when we are doing this together, it’s also easy to keep on doing it, because, it’s like we have someone to talk to or to be there for you. And because we are a couple… I don’t know. It just works out, I guess.
Sarah: I agree with what Patrick said. I don’t think that I could do this with anyone who was not my boyfriend. I don’t know. We spend like so much time together, it is like we are spending nearly 24/7 together and I think that would be hard if we weren’t a couple. But then, on the other hand, it can also be hard sometimes to spend so much time together and don’t take so much time for you to do like ‘couple things’ and just spend time together all the time (laughs)
Patrick: For example, every time we are together we are talking about “Life of a Busker”, or how to get more Instagram followers, or how to play the right way and be perfect… There’s a point where we started to feel it like a job, which is cool because our job is also what we love but at the same time, we also have to work in our relationship. We had these days when we do not talk about “Life of a Busker” and we feel fine to do that from time to time, love better and talking about it and also, some time to time we take day dates when we like to have all day. In a few countries, we were like “okay, we are going to stop playing for now” and then we invite each other out on dates to do different things. So, that’s not all about work and also just enjoy that we are out traveling.
Q: How do you feel when you sing at the street and see all the feedback you get from the people that give you some minutes from their time to listen to your music?
Sarah: It is really really good. 95% of the time, people are really nice. I really appreciate it when people stand and listen and spend time with our songs. I think people are really good at stopping and listening. It is also really nice when… For example in Denmark, it is a different response that we get. Danish people are a little bit more like... introvert, like they are shier. It is not a common thing to play in the street in Denmark. The culture about doing this it’s not very big, so it’s a bit hard to have a big crowd with many people who stop and watch. But still, people enjoy. It’s just in a different way where, for example, here, in Spain. People really take their time to stop, to listen for a long time so… People are really nice. They really appreciate that we are playing. That makes this a lot easier.
Patrick: And also, the people who don’t like the music, they just walk off. They don’t stay, cause’ why they should stay? We don’t get negative feedback at all.
Sarah: No. Maybe if we are playing in front of a shop, or because of the police, these are our types of ‘problems’. Of course, sometimes it’s cold. We are now in Madrid. It’s colder than in Seville (laughs). People don’t stand for a long time.
Q: Can you tell us any funny stories you want to share about this experience?
Patrick: Oh! Funny stories? Um… We never had that question before. (laughs) Um… Maybe, sometimes, I don’t know if it is funny or awkward but, quite a lot of times, people, they come up to us and they ask us if they can sing a song. Ninety percent of the time, they can’t sing (laughs) So, that means, me or Sarah have to play the piano or play the guitar the whole song when someone is trying to sing but cannot sing. That’s awkward (laughs). But it happened so often. So we started to say “no” to people when they want to sing (giggles), or, at least, the one who wants to sing, just to play themselves, you know, like play the guitar or play the piano themselves, so, we don’t have to be a part of it (laughs).
Q: What is the short-term dream of Life of a Busker? What is the first goal you want to reach?
Patrick: To answer that question we have to go back because I think me and Sarah, we have a lot of family and friends around us who always ask us what we want to do with life. Me and Sarah always wanted to play music and life of playing music. So, being a ‘busker’ already helped us achieve our dream which is actually just living of playing music. And, another thing we always wanted to do was travel so, we are living of playing music and we can also live anywhere in the world. So, that’s always a dream. But, of course, we also have bigger plans. Do you wanna talk about them? (To Sarah)
Sarah: Yeah! I don’t know if it is a short-term thing but now, we try to build this platform and to have Instagram… And we also have started Youtube now. We try to build that up to have people, their eyes on us. And we want to release our own music and maybe get signed by a label, someone who can help us. We try to build something up that can also help us in the future but also help us now. We want to ‘busker’ bigger.
Q: Talking about your own music… By the end of October, you started “The Original Corner”. It is planned as a side project where you post on Youtube your original songs, which are still on the making or being finished. As Gabriella and Troy used to sing in HSM, is this the start of something new?
Patrick: Very good question. I liked that one. The more we play music in the street, the less we actually write music, our songs. We just kind of fail songs and we spend so much time working on that. And we try to work on our Instagram. We kind of like writing songs, so I’m having this ‘original corner’, and we tried to upload once a week, once every other week. It reminds us that we have to play our songs as well. Because… We can’t be Ed Sheeran, Adele or Rihanna or Shawn Mendes or anything. We have to be Sarah and Patrick, and we have to play our songs because otherwise, we don’t have the same personality as other great singers.
Sarah: Yeah. We also want to have music on our own. Not only covers. To see the artists behind the covers.
Patrick: It is so much more satisfying.
Q: Now, I’m going to ask you about your own songs. So, first, Sarah, what can you tell us about “Stand In Stand Out”?
Sarah: I wrote that because… I thought about travelling together, with my boyfriend… I feel like… A lot of times I compare myself a lot to other people and, of course, I compare myself to Patrick, because he is with me all the time. And that feeling is really bad. You can’t compare yourself to others because you are not them. And it is about this… That I can’t compare myself to, for example, Patrick and expect that what he does, what he gets out of it, that I would get the same out of it if it makes sense. And also like… Not only me. But a lot of people are like me… We always do a lot to stand in and be a part of everything. For example, on Instagram, I feel like people, sometimes, show their perfect bodies; just to be recognized… So, like this. It is about how toxic it can be to compare yourself so much to others.
Q: And Patrick, can you explain to us “The Hardest word”?
Patrick: Oh… I feel a bit awkward because Sarah’s song is so deep when mine is more like… From time to time I like writing some love songs and, I kind of noticed that you can obviously see that you love someone and how important that person actually is. It is actually just a love song about Sarah pretty much. And I always thought that when you write a love song it could be quite cliché and I tried not to be so much cliché. I just wanted to try a love song that wouldn’t be the same as others' love songs. The message of the song is how important it is to me to have Sarah in my life, for example. It’s not really a big story.
Q: Which artists and groups have made you decide to dedicate your life to music?
Patrick: I come from quite a musical family. My dad plays guitar and sings, so, I always had music around the house, but, I think, when I first really got interested in playing guitar was because of Jason Mraz’s song “I’m Yours”. I realized I could sing as well. I just wanted an instrument to accompany my singing so I tried guitar and all started. I started to get interested in guitarist singers: John Mayer, Ed Sheeran and also started to like Shawn Mendes quite a lot… I started to listen to a lot of music in those years when I started to play guitar. I always tried to play all of them, but I always wanted to make a song and turn on one day the radio and say “Oh, shit! That’s my song”. So, yeah. I think that’s pretty much my inspiration.
Sarah: I don’t come from a musical family like Patrick. For some reason I always loved music and I always loved to sing. I was singing in the church choir for nearly ten years. I also wanted to play an instrument. I started with the recorder flute -- the easiest flute (laughs). And then I learned myself to play and how to read the notes, and later, I bought a guitar and started to teach myself to play guitar… But my dream was always to play piano. When I became a bit older I started to have piano lessons. I always loved Adele, Celine Dion or Whitney Houston…
Q: Have you considered promoting yourself in any other way, like presenting your songs to a record label or yourselves to a contest?
Sarah: Yeah! We haven’t done it yet but we would definitely love to do it at one point. We want to show labels.
Patrick: We want to stand on big stages and get people to sing along. That would be great.
Q: As Eurofan and being the one who writes about Eurovision in VAVEL Spain, do you see yourselves competing in the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix to represent your country?
Sarah: (laughs). That’s a good question! But I think no. I think that the artists that the Eurovision fans support, that people remember… The music they made is not our kind of music. I think the music has to be more like partying and dancing kind of
Patrick: I just feel like Eurovision is like ultra-pop. It’s not pop is ultra-pop. It’s a bit too much for our style.
Sarah: It’s a bit too far from where we see ourselves as artists.
Q: I believe there are songs and singers for specific times of the day: some are for the mornings, others for reading or sunset songs, etc. The day you two start releasing your own albums, what part of the day would you like to be listened?
Sarah: Wow! That’s a good question! I think mine would be in the afternoon.
Patrick: Yeah. I think the same.
Q: So, you are an afternoon group.
Patrick: Yeah. I don’t know. I never thought about it… I still don’t understand it.
Sarah: (To Patrick) When do you want your music to be heard? In the night, in the day…
Patrick: Oh! On a raining day!
Q: That’s the best answer I have ever had!
Patrick: I saw a James Blunt concert and it started raining. It was outside and it was just perfect for his concert!
Q: What does have Life Of a Busker that any duo has? What is the special thing?
Sarah: One of the things that we talk a lot about is maybe also what my song is about like ‘be yourself’ and ‘everything is possible’. We live by playing music on the street. It’s a bit weird, but it is also a part of our dream, an important step for us. It is something that, maybe, a lot of people don’t know it is possible. That we can enjoy believing in ourselves and that we did know that a way to live music is by playing in the street. Somehow, united, you find the way to do what you really want.
Patrick: I think pretty much the same as Sarah. I think, specially, for young musicians, it’s so hard to see how to earn money. Also, like in Denmark. You can earn money, but, maybe, you can earn on a Friday or Saturday night or once a week, every other week or once a month. Playing music in the street gives you the opportunity to play whenever you want to. You don’t have to let everyone else too, like, help you to do it. You are already enough. You just have to figure it out what’s that thing that you can do. It is kind of amazing because more and more people now love what we are doing. It feels like… The more we do the stuff we love, the more people love the stuff as well. It feels like if you are passionate enough, work hard and find the right way of doing something, it would become possible. I think that’s how it is.