Bavarian mayor brings hills alive with sound of music
A town mayor in Bavaria has decided to complement her rising career as a politician - by embarking on a pop career.
They are not career paths that one would immediately think have a huge amount of overlap.
It is hard to image Angela Merkel ditching the Kanzleramt to take on Schlager star Helene Fischer in the German pop charts (although the idea of Sigmar Gabriel as a baritone in a Milanese opera house is perhaps less of a leap.)
But one Bavarian mayor hasn’t let this stop her, and has bravely embarked on a side-career as a pop singer, releasing her latest single Mein Lied (My Song) at the start of the year.
Since 2008 Josefa Schmid has been mayor of Kollnburg, a tiny hillside community of 3,000 inhabitants 40 kilometres from the Czech border.
But while she took the decision to go into a profession that would give her a secure future - she studied law at the university of Passau - music was always Schmid’s inspiration.
When she released her first single in 2012 a cover of ‘Weilst a Herz hat wia a Bergwerk’ (Because you’ve got a heart like a mine), the 42-year-old stuck with traditional Alpine music.
But, in the years since, her tastes have grown more international, marking her latest ballad with influences from a much more contemporary artist.
“At the moment I’m really into Adele,” she told The Local, explaining what she likes as “the way she is melancholic, that she doesn’t necessarily give off a good mood, but is at the same time authentic.”
'Music gives us strength'
But Mein Lied is much more optimistic.
Schmid describes it as “a tribute to music and the happiness it can bring into our lives.”
She also sees it as a message in these times of anxiety that it is important to keep things in balance.
“Sometimes it seems like all you hear about is the refugee crisis - and there are these increasing right-wing voices. This song is telling people to be more relaxed.
“Music gives us strength, we need it to stay happy - it works against the evil in us.”
She also mentions that her lyrics contain an important message about equality.
“There is a line that says that ‘from baker to mayor you don’t need to be a singer to sing this song’ and that’s a way of saying we’re all equal.”
At the moment her songs have only been released as singles via YouTube. But Schmidt has high hopes of winning a contract with a major record label and then releasing a complete album.
But does it conflict with her more important work as mayor?
Schmid doesn’t think so.
She points out that politicians have had other passions in the past outside their jobs. The only thing that makes her stand out is that she is perhaps the first to try and become a pop singer.
Her political position is also a voluntary position, and she says that the people of Kollnburg are content with her following her passion, as long as she continues to do a good job for the community.
She also keeps a strict separation between her two career paths.
Although she is not up for election again until 2020 she says she has no plans to sing on the campaign trail, preferring to stick to “speeches with content.”
Not that there aren’t perks for the people of the Bavarian town.
“If one of the people in the community is celebrating a big occasion, like an 80th birthday, I’ll come down with an instrument and sing a song for them - that’s a time when I would use it,” she says.
Schmid has big plans as a politician too. In the short term she wants to ensure that there are jobs there for the people of Kollnburg and that young people can afford to bring up families there.
But she also concedes she is receptive to opportunities that would take her further from her idyllic east Bavarian home.
She has already been a candidate for the Bavarian state parliament, but her party, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) never crossed the 5 percent threshold necessary to send representatives.
And if there comes a time when she has to decide between music and politics?
She’s leaving that open. All she’ll say is if she has to choose one as her main career, she still leave a bit of her heart open for the other.