Forming a band is a roller coaster of emotions. From the excitement and struggles at the beginning to the euphoria of releasing music that finds a listenership. It is a constant journey taking you to different places and to meet different people. You go through creative phases making you feel invincible and throwbacks into the abysses of artistic misery and doubt. And then, once you went through the circle a few times, released some albums, toured a bit, got a little older – when is the moment to put it to rest? Which exit do you have to take to not desperately cling to the quality of past music with inferior compositions, which one is too soon to sign off?

These questions probably cross any musician’s mind after a certain time in the industry. Stefan Honig first set foot into the business in 2007 and threw himself fully into it. He ‘went the extra mile’ playing countless gigs and pouring his heart into the job. What started out as a solo project of folk-tinged singer songwriter compositions, soon grew to be an ensemble. HONIG recorded four albums. The first effort by Stefan Honig saw him pursue his creative dreams alone with the 2007 LP Treehouse. Its minimalistic tracks feature mostly vocals and Honig’s delicate guitar skills. The lyrics vary from simple daily observations to poetic outbursts of emotion. Even when Honig moved away from working completely by himself and recognized the possibilities working with a band brings, the songs still had a silver lining. Upbeat, acoustic guitars and bright melodies catchier than a cold in October give HONIG a unique ring.

From Solo to ensemble

The latest release, last year’s The Last Thing The World Needs, follows the debut more than a decade later. With it came the notice, that this is not just the latest but also the last work the band will put out under the name. From the beginning to the end, the musical evolution of an artist can be traced. The first efforts limited to basic yet elaborate elements, to enriched tracks backed by a band without loosing touch of the humble simplicity of a down-to-earth musician with a vision. To round up the years of making music together, HONIG will embark on a Goodbye Tour these days. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION has followed the artist on his journey over the last decade, with a few interviews, record reviews and features. So for us it’s a logical move to take a moment and send HONIG off with this interview, quickly realizing that the end is not the end at all.

The process of adopting a band into his solo work, was ‘pretty fluent’, Stefan Honig tells us. Even the first record, in all of its minimalistic beauty, involved other musicians and friends stepping in to play on the tracks. ‘For the second one we were already a band’, Stefan Honig adds, ‘I wrote the songs and then we arranged them together.’ With the last record, the artist even broke open that boundaries and united forces to write and compose the music as an ensemble. Luckily, working with friends can be easy especially since the artists had previously worked together on other projects. ‘It was more of a going back to what we used to do, than doing something completely new. I really enjoyed putting the guitar down and just concentrating on the vocals without having to play simultaneously all the time.’

The band HONIG. Photo by Christian Bardenhorst

Going out on a high note

But working in music was not all that drove Stefan Honig over these years. Back in 2012 he had just quit his beloved job as a Kindergarten teacher to fully focus onto the music. A decision that was as risky as rewarding, he told us in our interview back in 2012. Sometimes you just have to let yourself follow your heart to see where it gets you. Stefan Honig was never really the type to stress about security, comfort, money and stuff, he told us seven years ago. A lot of things happened since then. The artist picked his job as a teacher up again in 2016 and now, in 2019 took the decision to stop working on the project HONIG.

‘Being 40 now I can still relate to what I said then and I would definitely tell 33-year-old Stefan to do it again and to go after the music. I never regretted that decision. Nevertheless, a lot of things have changed since then. I have two kids now and I am not the only one in the band anymore. Everybody has different jobs, responsibilities, and lives but we still enjoy playing together and we did enjoy making the last record together. I think all of us are actually really proud of that one even though it largely went unnoticed. There was definitely never a moment when I thought,  ‘Okay, I quit, the band is done’. It was more of a slow realization that we are not the same people leading the same lives anymore. And instead of growing increasingly frustrated, we decided to end the band in its fixed form and go out on a high note.’

Moving on to a new chapter

Going out on a high note is certainly what HONIG are aiming for when they announced their farewell tour this year. This is also one of the things Stefan will miss the most, once the band finds an end; playing together. Over the years the ensemble formed a strong connection, especially because many of the members are long-term friends of the singer. But as time moves on, some things do not align the way they used to anymore and keeping a five-piece band together is no easy task. Thinking about the future, Stefan Honig says:

‘We want to go back to making music like we used to: On our own schedule with whoever has time and motivation. That way nobody needs to have the feeling that everybody else is waiting for them, nobody needs to grow impatient waiting for rehearsal dates. We can all just go ahead, make plans, start something, and if our schedules align we can still do it together.’

‘So that’s why we decided to play this „farewell“ Tour. We still like each other! And we really like what we did with this band for the last 12 (and actually more) years. We wanted to be able to consciously say goodbye to this chapter together and not realize in 2 years that we have already played our last show months ago. This way we also get the chance to meet those people again that our band meant something to. I have already heard a lot of personal HONIG stories and I am really hoping that people will tell me more about their relationship with the band at these upcoming shows.’

It is about the balance

Even though a singer will probably never truly let his passion rest, Stefan Honig did find solace in other jobs. Being around kids was something that inspired his first album as a musician as well, so it is no surprise he picked up the work again. As he already mentioned in another interview with NBHAP ‘I can definitely picture myself going back to that job at some point. It largely depends on how well the record does.’ Sadly money is always a question when you pursue a creative career.

‘I was able to earn enough money with music for a while to not need a regular job. But touring with a full band is expensive and I returned to the kindergarten job in 2016 when my daughter was born. Since then I have been working there for 3 days a week plus a job at the Weltempfänger Hostel in Cologne where I also book bands and organize concerts and a yearly festival called MELODICA FESTIVAL COLOGNE (though I think nobody ever played a melodica there!). Together with the music and family that makes for a good balance. It never feels like I am doing the same thing every day. Plus I am on parental leave now.’

Embracing Change

Still, working creatively is almost like an existential need for some. Music is an outlet of emotions, a way of dealing with problems, and celebrating successes. Driven by this passion to express himself, the songwriter entered the industry, which he might leave but being a creative mind, he does not think he can ever fully retire from the art. ‘After every record I feel like I am empty now. No songs left.’ He says. ‘But after a while they always start coming again.’

Stefan Honig is moving onto new shores after putting out four albums under his last name. But that is not the only thing the artist hopes to leave behind. ‘I hope to leave behind a couple more records and some good memories for people who enjoyed our music and shows. But honestly, I am more concerned with how it feels doing it than what will be left behind in the end. I also like that all my records are in vinyl so the music could technically survive a nuclear winter’, the singer laughs.

Stepping down from the seat in the music industry was a natural decision communally decided by the members. Yet, in our society ‘giving up’ is often mistaken for a defeat and something you should not be proud of. But finding the right time to ‘give up’ can also be a release. Needless to say for Stefan, leaving HONIG behind does not feel like giving up at all. More than anything he is looking forward to something new. ‘I feel like we are adapting to our personal circumstances and that definitely feels like we are making room for something new and it feels rejuvenating. I think holding on to something because it once worked can be a huge mistake.’

‘Change is inevitable. Embrace it!’