PHOTO CREDIT: Martin Abtman Photography
Gitta de Ridder
FOLLOWING the success and attention her album Feathers received…
I ask Gitta de Ridder about her new single, Till the Day I Die, and whether another album is around the corner. The Anglo-Dutch artist plays The Finsbury (London) on Monday and has a great affection for British music. Loving the audiences here; I wonder whether she will spend more time in Britain and what the music scene is like in the Netherlands. Ane Brun and Björk are big influences for de Ridder so I was curious to know more about her idols and those who have compelled her own writings.
Before that London gig – she heads back to the Netherlands after to perform – I had the chance to get an insight into one of music’s most entrancing and special female singer-songwriters. The video for her latest single has a simplicity and provocativeness I was enticed by – I was keen to know the reasons why it was conceived and what she hopes to achieve from it. De Rdder gives me a thorough rundown of the new artists that she is tuning into – including a link to her own Spotify playlist – and reveals what the coming months hold for her.
Hi, Gitta. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello. My week, huh, been; euhm, has? A little all over the place – in a good way. Last weekend, I had some gigs at Food & Folk Festival in the South Downs National Park – which was beautiful. Rainy, but beautiful! Came back to London – catching up with some work and preparing the first rehearsals with my new band – for tomorrow and Saturday.
We do our first band-show next Monday at The Finsbury in London. So excited! Oh, and BBC Introducing London played the new single last weekend. It won playlist rotation over on Amazing Radio too! All-in-all…a rather good week I’d say!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
So, I’m Gitta. I grew up in the Netherlands where I started doing music when I was little. I moved to London in 2008 – inspired by the English language, the energy of the city and possible trips to the stunning English countryside (that I fell in love with). My music sits with ‘Acoustic music’ and ‘Folk’: somewhere between Ane Brun, Anais Mitchell and Patrick Watson. It’s a rather comfy sofa over there (in that room) among that lot. I like it!
Till the Day I Die is the new song. What inspired that track in the first place?
The track was inspired by a particular point in a relationship where I started to wonder how people experience ‘space’ and ‘freedom’- and whether ‘forever happily ever after’ is really possible.
The realisation that, sometimes, even though one can feel connected to someone and love them forever doesn’t mean that, in reality, their ideas and desires keep aligning. I guess it focuses around the “I love you so I want you to be all and do all that makes you happy” – which, more often than not, becomes “I love you BUT I want you to fit into my picture of you – because that works better for me”.
I love the video – which sees you sitting in a chair looking at the camera. It is very minimal and striking. Who had the idea for the video and do you think that scenario and concept gave new meaning to the song?
The video was a coming-together of my mind and my director/cinematographer friend, Hannah Lovell’s mind. We’ve done some video-work together before (Alternate Reality) and spend some time brainstorming for this video. We’d been very excited to do another one together! We, basically, wanted to challenge the watcher to sit with discomfort/awkwardness: to take in the words and take a moment to just be there. Many of the song’s lyrics are arrows that point towards awareness and consciousness – so we wanted to bring that element into it.
I think the video adds a dimension to the words and bring a lot of atmosphere! The cat appearing was a beautiful moment during the filming we did in my kitchen.
Does a new single mean an album is on the horizon? Seeing as you released the album, Feathers, last year; are you keen to tour more and record a bit more down the line?
Ah, so, yes. That was the final single on my first album, Feathers.
My second album is already finished, though, and, in part, already available to the fans – in the form of a box-set subscription.
Full release of this album will be on 30th March, 2018 – so, a while away. I’m so excited about it! It’s sounding all I ever wanted my recordings to sound like! More touring will happen. Dates are always added to my listings. Mainly U.K. dates and the Netherlands but it looks like some more European ventures will happen this year.
I know you play The Finsbury on Monday. Is that your first time at the venue? How are you finding the U.K. and crowds over here?
I have played at The Finsbury before and love the venue since its refurbishment. It’s a lovely room to play and, as this will be a seated gig, it will be nice and chilled-out! The U.K. crowds are wonderful. Generally, very attentive and I feel like I can really get the words across there. Sometimes, that seems more challenging in the Netherlands or in other E.U. countries – possibly due to language barriers.
After that, you are in the Netherlands. I guess you are familiar with the country? Do you get to play there a lot?
Ah yes, seeing I grew up there I play in the Land of Dutch about as much as I do in the U.K. So, it’s a bit back-and-forth a lot of the time. I have some wonderful shows lined up there – with a big festival called Manana Manana coming up in June (which is very exciting). I do love playing in the Netherlands: people are very kind and venues treat their artists extremely well.
PHOTO CREDIT: Martin Abtman Photography
So you grew up in the Netherlands but have travelled around Europe and Ireland. Your songs look at loneliness and wonder; thoughts and dreams (and much more). How important was your itinerant upbringing and past with regards the kind of stories you write now?
I guess the travelling has brought a sense of disconnect from where I grew up and where roots lie. This has definitely influenced my music and my way of seeing the world.
Family-wise, I grew up with a lot of music too which has paved the way to my musical interest. My family (like most) wasn’t always an easy one to be part of, and I wasn’t an easy teenager, but working through difficult times has made my bonds with my family really strong now, even though they’re in a different country. Though these difficulties have, in the past, driven me to look further from home at what life had to offer and with my grandparents living abroad too I guess it’s not so strange I ended up living in a different country from where I grew up.
How do songs come together for you and what are the main catalysts for new lyrics? Do you set time aside to write or is it quite a spontaneous process?
I guess each song has its own story. Most seem to come to me quick and easy. Some take a while to sculpt and refine. The words are always related to something in my life: be it what’s happening in the life of a close friend, in my own life or that what’s happening in the world around me.
I generally try and write each day – even if it’s (just) random words.
Do you think you have progressed a lot as an artist since your debut E.P., Come Find Me? What are the biggest lessons you have learnt in that time?
Oh dear, yes – it’s been an amazing journey for me since then. I think the biggest changes have been my own outlook on what my music means to me and how I am able to connect to an audience.
I guess, before and over the years, I felt like I, somehow, needed to achieve some kind of success to find ‘approval’ of my own being.
I have realised, over the last year-and-a-bit, though, the music is creating a journey for me and a path I can walk that I absolutely love. Regardless of the ‘outcome’. It’s taking some of the pressure off and has made me so much more grateful for being able to write and sing! Live performing is an entirely different experience to me now vs. then. I also feel my songs have become more understandable and people can relate to them more – because my messages are clearer.
Can you tell me a bit about the artists you hold dearest and have influenced your music most?
So many (soooo so sooo many)! Naming a few: Iron & Wire, Sufjan Stevens; Ane Brune, Björk; Patrick Watson, Anais Mitchell; Ane Brun, Agnes Obel; Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Bon Iver; Angus & Julia Stone, Hanne Hukkelberg; Nick Drake, John Martyn…and this list can go on for quite a while longer…
PHOTO CREDIT: Garrett Coakley
The main thing these artists taught me is that the SONG is the thing.
The words. The vibe. The honesty. The fact some of these female artists didn’t realease too much music ‘til they were thirty gave me the confidence to forget about time pressures and focus on music that means something to me.
If you had to select the three albums that have meant most you; which would they be and why?
These might be different depending on the day you ask me. It’s totally impossible to choose but here’s three that mean something special to me:
Björk: Post – because I grew up LOVING the album – and I still do.
Angus & Julia Stone: A Book Like This – because it’s such an amazingly vibe-y record. Artwork inspired me to make my own artwork the way I do too.
Hanne Hukkelberg: Rykestrasse 68 – production and songs; voice and magic. Massive inspiration for my record second record.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sanel Kadic
Are there any new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out this year at all?
I’ve been hugely into Rachel Sermanni but it’s likely you will have already heard about her. So many great records by friends came out recently, too, like Ned Roberts, Ruth Theodore; Laish, Roxanne de Bastion; Rosemary & Garlic, Brooke Sharkey; Adam Beattie, Carrie Tree; Beatrix Players, Pitou; Ralegh Long, Her Crooked Heart; Black Oak – and this list could go on a while longer.
I put together a weekly playlist on my Spotify page which has some new artists out there I love. You can find it here:
My new record is produced by my friend Stephen Hodd who has recently finished a new album himself – which I am totally in love with. I believe the first single from it will be coming out soon under the name Ragged Rebel City. Worth checking out!
PHOTO CREDIT: Sanel Kadic
What advice would you give new artists coming through at the moment right now?
Focus on the songs: find your own voice and get inspired.
Play a lot live and start making musical friends. Get a connection going with your audience.
Life has a way of unfolding naturally; if one just does something for the art passion held for it every single day; it all builds and accumulates. Do it for the love of it! Then, get business-savvy to make it work on all other levels. Don’t’ forget that, if you want this to be your work, you have to treat it as such. That was a good lesson to learn for me! Then, some courses/seminars/networking events/meeting with people in the know are never a bad idea. Make sure you’re spending your time doing stuff that will help move it forwards quicker!
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
I love this track: Black Oak – The Clearmountain Pause
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