Singer Florian Ostertag writes songs that go straight to the heart. Melancholy and a whole lot of emotion are trademarks of his lyrics, and his love for detail can be heard in every note of his music.
Florian Ostertag grew up in a small village in the Swabian Mountains in southern Germany. He still shares a house out in the country with friends. He studied electrical engineering and is a trained studio technician, but has always had music in his life - in, and sometimes out, of a band. And when no one was around who could sing his songs, he'd often just stand in front of the microphone himself.
The 32-year-old isn't interested in living in music hubs Berlin or Hamburg. He says the cities are too hectic. At home, he can play drums until four in the morning without bothering anyone. "I'm a lone wolf," he says, with a shy smile. "I have a little studio in a tiny village where there's no Internet hook-up, no cell phone reception or anything. That's when you start getting ideas."
Typewriters and recorders
Florian has loved to experiment musically since he was a little kid. First with the recorder, then with the guitar and piano - but always underscored with odd-ball sounds from unusual instruments: the clattering of an antique typewriter, for instance, which he found up in his parents' attic, or the drone of a discarded accordion.
"If you want to make pop music and not just be a one-sided entertainer, then you should be capable of doing different things," he says. "If I were to just play the guitar for an hour and sing along, I'd probably get bored sooner or later." That's why he likes lugging an old-school tape recorder up on stage and letting drums or other instruments play off it when he doesn't have any musicians to accompany him.
A penchant for the melodramatic
Florian Ostertag grabbed the spotlight for the first time in 2009, when he opened for singer-songwriter chick magnet Philipp Poisel. Until then, Ostertag had sung mainly at living room concerts. But, like Poisel, the 32-year-old also has the stuff to turn girls' heads - not only because of his brown locks and dreamy gaze, but also because his songs touch the heart. Melancholy and a whole lot of feeling are the trademarks of his lyrics, and his love for detail shows in every note of his music. "I have a penchant for tragedy and drama," he says. "I also prefer movies that don't have happy endings. Sometimes I really get the feeling that I attract bad luck because I need it."
He's not a pessimist, the singer says with a smile, but admits that he can be a skeptical person. He doesn't believe he's one of those people to whom good fortune comes easily. "I started writing when I was in love for the first time and it wasn't going well. You're not speaking directly with someone about your problems, but I found it very helpful to put things down on paper - it was incredibly calming."
The constant search
Florian Ostertag likes quiet sounds. He's an introverted guy, but when he writes, he reveals all of his feelings. Still, he's interested in more than love and heartache; he's on a search for contentment and happiness, which he calls "coming home."
"When I write, I'm often writing in moments of intense feelings - and they usually have to do with relationships," he explains. But he says that the subject of relationships is only a projection since love and finding the perfect partner are constant topics in the media. "It's almost like a religion nowadays that people make their happiness depend on it," he says. "I think the search actually goes a lot deeper - it's a search for contentment and happiness. I'm a religious person and this search for inner peace is part of that."
Ostertag's debut album is called "The Constant Search." He recorded it with the musician friends he lives with and even sewed together fabric covers for it. It's personal and disarmingly honest. The songwriter pours his heart out when he writes about people who stand out in the rain just to get attention, or that he's desperately unhappy when he can't enjoy the smile of his beloved.
A room, a car and music
The instrumentation on the album is sparse; Ostertag's voice is at times tender, at times powerful, but always melancholy. He sings in English because he thinks it sounds nicer. But he also doesn't want to completely expose his emotions. "People listen really closely to a text in German, but not necessarily in English," he says. "I can hide behind the English a little bit."
Actually, Florian Ostertag has no reason to have to hide. It's hard for an artist to stand out of the crowd of singer-songwriters nowadays, but Ostertag has what it takes, and it's not just his friend Philipp Poisel who says that. Several of his songs have gotten regular radio airtime, and his album is available on iTunes and Amazon. The Internet is the most important venue for distributing his music; he doesn't need a company backing him. And he especially doesn't want a record label telling him what to do.
Ostertag has the relaxed attitude that comes from liking what he does and being happy with his life. He doesn't need much money - having his own room and a car is enough. That, and of course, music.
Author: Suzanne Cords
Editor: Louisa Schaefer