The Story Behind The Song
By Andy Schar
If I can correctly recall, it was back in 2008 when Warrior Poet first arrived on the scene. Back when John Dobson, the now Western Provence Vodacom Cup coach, was still coaching UCT’s Ikey Tigers 1st XV Rugby Team.
At the time I was filming the team as they pursued glory in the quest to win Varsity Cup. The then legendary manager at the time, Stephen Butt, half joked with me one evening about me writing a kind of Ikey Tiger theme song. We laughed at the idea, but quickly realised that it wasn’t half bad. “Something to get the guys pumped, a song of their own”, he said, “but something that the whole of UCT can embrace as their’s too.”
At the time I had a song of mine airing on KFM and Highveld stereo, and had just returned from London where I’d been recording. And having attended UCT myself a few years back, it seemed only fitting to write a song.
I wanted to write something that wasn’t specifically about UCT, and yet still personal enough for the Ikey Tigers – something that would fit just as easily on my next album as it would on the iPod’s of the rugby players and the supporters. What I mean, is that I didn’t want to write a cheesy stadium chant that while useful for supporters to sing, wouldn’t be usable on my next album.
I wanted to write, as the Brits would say, a ‘proper-good’ song. Of course, I had to keep to a specific set of rules – namely that whatever I wrote, had to be singable for a team of rugby players. That meant keeping the pitch of the song fairly low – and of course writing lyrics that the players could relate to, and be inspired by. On the other side of the equation, I still had to write a song that wasn’t overly obvious – something that wouldn’t be easily seen as a song written about a rugby team from the University of Cape Town.
But after a few days with my guitar, a song about Warrior Poets emerged.
I get a lot of questions about the name of the song, even though I feel it’s fairly evident. A Warrior Poet, as is also referenced in the closing lines of Braveheart, is an epic way to describe someone who is more than just a skilled warrior – someone who is courageous and virtuous, and who holds respect and honour in the highest regard. And at the time, John Dobson had nurtured a squad of players who were so much more than just skilled rugby players. And so I thought it fitting to write a song entitled ‘Warrior Poet’.
At the time all I had with me was my acoustic guitar and a microphone, and so what I ultimately recorded was an acoustic song that wasn’t exactly a loud, powerful ‘pump-up’ tune, but instead became a kind of acoustic ballade, that referenced their field of battle – the Green Mile.
In many ways, the acoustic version will always be the real ‘Warrior Poet’ for me – and indeed for most of the players too – but I always knew that I’d have to do a studio version of the song if I ever wanted it to be more than just a pre-game, locker-room, theme song.
So many years on, the team no longer coached by John Dobson, or managed by Stephen Butt, I finally managed to complete what has been a work-in-progress of huge proportions.
Warrior Poet – The Radio Edit
For this version, I spent many, many hours in studio re-writing, and re-recording a ‘full-band’ studio/radio edit of ‘Warrior Poet’. And let me tell you, it was no easy feat. It was a long, tough journey.
You see, it’s one thing to take a full-band song and create an acoustic version of that – it’s another story entirely to take an originally written acoustic track, and turn it into a full-band version. And that’s precisely what I had to do.
For starters, if you’re wanting to use electric guitars, basses, and drums, a song played only on an acoustic steel string is unlikely to sound alike – so you’re already running the risk of ending up with a song that doesn’t sound all that similar to the ‘original’, and that was something I was particularly concerned about. The last thing I wanted to do was create something that detracted from the original in the minds of those that loved the acoustic version.
Obviously the song needed to be a little faster and more ’30 Seconds To Mars-ish’ – if that makes any sense – for the supporters to really get into it.
I quickly realised that the song was sounding so far removed from the acoustic track, that it could easily be another song entirely – which completely defeated the point. Back to the drawing board.
After many hours I gave up. Feedback was terrible and the song sounded like a mangled pop track. I was tired, and I simply felt like there was no way we’d be able to make it happen. So I shut down ‘Project: Warrior Poet – Radio edit′.
But with 2013, came a new season of Varsity Cup, and a new round of encouragement, especially from my friend – Bodo Sieber – who happened to play his fair share of games for the Ikey Tigers a few years back, before I was on the scene filming.
So I decided to head back to the studio. This time I didn’t get any feedback from friends – I just went with my gut on what I thought would work. For me, it’s still ‘Warrior Poet’ – it’s just a little louder, a little faster, and a little more playable in the locker-room, the stadiums, and the radio.
My hope is that for those that knew the original acoustic track, and especially for those that loved it, they’d be able to dig this version too, and hopefully find a place for both.