A large suitcase, an old guitar, a heart full of love and an open-minded outlook on life. That was all the French musician known as Shélhôm brought with him when he came to Leipzig in 2008. In Glasgow, he had fallen in love with a woman who lived in Leipzig. He dropped out of his English Literature degree course and moved to Saxony to be with her, despite not speaking a word of German. “It was tough at the beginning. My first job was in a hotel washing dishes. I hardly understood a thing and I was pretty miserable,” says Shélhôm, now 31 years old. Seven years later, he is sitting in a recording studio alongside his band mate Torsten Schroth, enjoying a cigarette. A lot has happened since then. “Leipzig helped me make it somehow. I moved into a room in a shared flat, which had nothing in it but a bed and a chair. Bit by bit, people gave me everything else I needed.” Leipzig’s creative and open atmosphere fascinated him, he says. “I found it really easy to get to know people and settle in here on both a personal and an artistic level. So much is possible in Leipzig.”

The Two Wooden Stones band project

Shélhôm met Jeau Champ, the future drummer of Two Wooden Stones, at a party in late 2008. The pair began making music together, which had always been Shélhôm’s real passion in life. Everything else was simply a job to earn money so he could pay the rent. Six months later they had composed five songs and decided they needed a producer, so they approached Torsten Schroth. Schroth, an experienced musician with his own studio, produces and arranges music. But this particular production job turned into much more. Working with Torsten and a fourth musician, Monsieur Simon, the band project Two Wooden Stones emerged. The name is a reference to the band’s mixed music style that lies somewhere between folk, rock and world music.

From Saxony to the rest of the world

The four members of the group have grown together over the years. “They’ve become my second family,” says Shélhôm. The young musicians have released two albums, with a third planned for the end of next year. The band is now an established part of Saxony’s music scene and regularly receives bookings from all over Germany. They embarked on their first international tour in 2014, around the Middle East, playing in Istanbul, Beirut, Amman and Dubai. “The tour was amazing. We saw so many impressive sights, played some fantastic concerts and got to know lots of young people. But it’s always great to come home again,” says Schroth. They have deliberately chosen to base themselves in Saxony. Shélhôm says: “You can build up a great fan base here in Leipzig. Berlin is fiercely competitive by comparison, and there’s a glut of culture on offer there. We much prefer Leipzig. We can develop the band at a slower pace here.”

A conscious decision to stay in Leipzig

The two young men are very reflective and know exactly what they want. They are not particularly concerned about finding quick commercial success. “My aim is to be able to make a living from my music,” says Shélhôm. When asked about his dreams, he pauses briefly to think and then says: “Well, we’re already doing what we want to do. I want to have a deeper understanding of every stage in the process, and I’d rather make progress slowly than too quickly. We’ve deliberately chosen to live this life here in this city.” To underline the point, Shélhôm says that some time ago he turned down an offer from a major music label. He’s worried his decision might sound arrogant. But it doesn’t – it fits perfectly with the guys’ philosophy of choosing to tread their own path with quiet confidence.

Shélhôm goes into the recording studio and sings an excerpt from a new song, pouring his soul into his voice and sounding vulnerable yet powerful, tough yet fragile. It’s the exceptional voice of a musician who is completely at one with himself and who has truly found his niche here in Leipzig.