Foto-© Sophie Adams

2018 hatten wir das Vergnügen, Freya Ridings in Berlin zu treffen. Damals war sie noch ein echter Geheimtipp, aber wer in den Genuss ihrer kraftvollen Balladen kam, wurde verzaubert und merkte sich definitiv ihren Namen.

Ihr Debut Album katapultierte sie seitdem vom Geheim- zum weltbekannten Toptipp. Jetzt ist Feya mit ihrem zweiten Album, Blood Orange, zurück und zeigt, wie sie sich musikalisch weiterentwickelt hat. Es gibt neue, so unverkennbare Balladen, aber das Album bietet weit mehr und so mangelt es definitiv nicht an tanzbaren Beats.

We met and spoke in Berlin at the end of 2018. It’s such a joy to connect again and to check in after all the whirlwind years that have happened since. Where are you finding yourself with the album release literally around the corner?
2018 or something, that’s crazy, so fun. I’m so excited. I have a copy right here and honestly, it doesn’t feel real. I’ve put so much of my soul and so much bravery into this album and it’s coming out tomorrow. It’s four years of my life and I’m feeling very excited.

Do you have any celebratory traditions on release days?
Well I’m playing one show at eight in the morning on the radio and then I’m playing another show at eight in the evening with the full band so it will be a long, but fun day. I think going to see fans and celebrate and sing the songs is actually a really lovely way to celebrate it coming out so I can’t wait for that.

That sounds beautiful! I love how you described blood oranges. They have thick skins you said, but it’s worth the effort to dig through the layers to reach the sweetness on the inside. Can you elaborate on what this signifies for you or how it represents the themes you explored on the album?
I thought it was a good metaphor to sum up that I was very inspired by the 70s for this album- organic, but euphoric. I just imagined a blood orange tree and that’s what really inspired me. And they’ve kind of popped up along the way and kind of follow me wherever I go now. I’m a really big fan of symbolism. A Pre-Raphaelite, red-headed woman holding a blood orange I thought was a beautiful visual. The first half of the album was written in a very heartbroken phase and then the second half was written in a very happy, sweet place. So it’s kind of the bitter and the sweet part of the blood orange; the two halves go together well.

Foto-© Sam Kay

Your album touches on emotional turbulence and personal experiences. How do you navigate being vulnerable and authentic in your songwriting while maintaining your privacy?
That’s a really good question and one that I think about a lot actually. Because I want to be as much of an open book as I can with fans. I’ve really been inspired growing up with Adele and Florence and Taylor Swift… these women are such titans of songwriting and pop and they’re so real in the music but so private in their personal lives. That makes me realize that you can do both. I find it easier to sing than to say a lot of these things that are my biggest taboos and fears actually. So I am quite private about my personal life but it’s all on the album and it’s weirdly very open. I just wanted to be as vulnerable as I could be because the fans were so open and vulnerable with me, you know. The messages I get about songs like Lost Without You or even Castles and that they’ve been played at funerals or weddings. I was really embraced into their life and I think I just wanted to share that vulnerability and open this back and be thankful.

That’s beautiful. And I guess the more vulnerable you are the more it allows others to resonate with the stories you’re sharing too.
It was tempting though to play it and just do what I’ve done before, it was really tempting but I just couldn’t have lived with myself doing that because I wanted to be brave. Bravery is a huge part of this album.

And has bravery ever not paid off?
Exactly. When it goes well, great choice. When it doesn’t, very scary.

Very scary but then also probably lots of potential to learn. Okay it’s getting philosophical now..
Very true. I learnt so much from making the first album and what people felt connected to and what they didn’t. They like it when you say stuff that is authentic and scary to say because they don’t want to hear a song that has a million cliches in it. You want to hear something that you’ve not heard before and then you can learn. That’s what I use music for: I learned to soothe and dance and grow and I just wanted to have all of that on one album.

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Why did you choose the actual title track as the album’s opener?
I thought about not doing that and then every time I did it in a different order it didn’t feel right. I wanted to write a song that was just a celebration of overcoming those nights where you cry yourself to sleep because someone doesn’t love you because you’re not there anymore. Whether you’re in a relationship or not it’s like knowing that you’re enough and just celebrating that you’re loved, that you have enough love, but sometimes it’s just hard to see it. I wanted to open with it because it felt something that someone from the 70s might do, to open with the title track and then also it’s like starting at the end. It’s kind of like you sit down in this chair and you go this is where I am now, but let me take you back to chapter one. I wanted it to be a euphoric opening.

You originally had different plans for your second album. What made you change direction?
When I started writing the record I was under so much pressure, just for myself really. I was just crippled, I couldn’t write, I had writer’s block and I was borderline phobic of going into studios. I just burst into tears when I went into the studio. I realised I needed to do some internal work. I was going through a really tough breakup and I’d been on tour for so long that when it came to lockdown, I wasn’t sure what I was doing anymore. I started doing a lot of therapy and that really, really helped me find out why I was being so triggered by this and to let go of some traumas. And I think allowing myself to ask for help… I asked my fans for help and shared that I was stuck back at my parents’ house with all these ideas and that I would love to do a show online every Tuesday night at 8pm for 14 weeks. I played for an hour, old songs, covers, new songs and of the new songs my fans would help me choose which ones they loved. My mum would keep score actually, she’d be watching the comments and count, like a little horse race, of which songs were liked the most.
This is me just sitting at the piano in its most basic, authentic form. Just a song between, what felt like, two friends. But it was actually thousands of people online helping me make this album. And the same people turned up every week and a lot of the songs that they helped me choose are now on the album. Because it was such an intimate space, I felt so comfortable and safe there and I was braver with the ideas I showed. I showed more embarrassing ideas than I would have done if I was playing a show. And because of that, they were like, we like those. I wouldn’t have been that brave without their support.

Foto-© Josh Shiner

When we last met you said that you ‘have to have almost complete isolation when you write. Because the moment someone can hear you, it feels like writing a diary while someone is watching. And that you don’t actually write your lyrics down pen on paper, but close your eyes and sing the stories that want to come out. Has your approach changed at all?
I did used to think that. But this album helped me to actually let people in. And I think that’s the difference, I let people help me. With the first album I was determined to do everything on my own and it was very isolating and it wasn’t very fun. And this one was a lot more fun to make because I really loved the people that I made it with. I found collaborators who really championed me for my weirdness and for trying new things and for breaking out of the industry’s comfort zone a little bit. I wanted to make an album that I really, really like. And that’s not going to be what I thought it was going to be, but it’s going to be better because I’m going to enjoy how I’ve played every drum hit and clap and acoustic guitar and real people I know play cello and brass.

You will be performing at the coronation concert. How do you feel about being part of such a huge event and how do you prepare for a performance like that?
It feels very surreal. I didn’t know that I would be asked, which is such an incredible honor. I’m a huge fan of history and it’s just such an incredible moment in history. I’m wearing a ball gown and we’ll be doing a cover, outside of Windsor Castle with a 70 piece orchestra. I’m about to go do some rehearsal for this after this after our chat. So, wish me luck.

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Sounds absolutely incredible, I can’t wait to see this! You’ve toured all over the world. How do you experience connecting with listeners from different cultures and backgrounds?
I just love it. It’s amazing – and to have played these shows to two people and a dog in a pub and then to get to play them to thousands of people around the world. Especially with places you’ve never been before it’s like walking out into a room full of people you don’t know but you already love them they already love you. You haven’t met yet but you have this huge thing in common which is the music and you get to share that with them and sing together and it’s such an almost spiritual experience. It’s very heartwarming and I’m excited to do it again.

How do you approach live shows? How do you go from album release to playing live?
We spent the last few weeks rehearsing with a whole new band. A brand new show from the ground up, it was so much work and months and months planning. We’ve got some incredible musicians with beautiful voices and they’re multi-instrumentalists as well. This is the first time I’ve got to choose the musicians I play with. Before I was just kind of given them by the label. And I love my old band, but this is the first time I’ve had a choice and I can’t wait for people to see the show.

Are you a kind of person who is experiencing and processing what’s happening right now or are you already creating visions for the future?
I’ve had so much time to wait that I’m trying to take it all in. The first time I didn’t take a lot of it in but this time I felt like if I ever am lucky enough to get to put out a second album I’m going to really enjoy it and I’m not going to be so scared of everything. Just take it in my stride rather than wish it away and just enjoy the moment. I love manifesting, I love vision boards. I’ve just made my first real vision board and some crazy things have happened already. I was on the Graham Norton show this year, that did that. I didn’t have a hope in hell of being on that show. I put some wild things on his vision board, but we’ll see if they come true.

How brilliant is that. Anything that’s on there that you can share or does that kind of interfere with the whole idea of manifesting?
Oh I don’t know, no, I think it’s part of it. I would love to write a song for a film or a soundtrack for a TV show. Who knows? That would be great.

Ohh watch this space! With your first album being such a success, has your perspective on music changed since its release?
Wow to make it, yes. But I enjoy music exactly the same and I love going to shows. I didn’t see a lot of shows because I was on tour for a long time and so over the last year and a half, I’ve seen so many shows and it’s been amazing. That’s been amazingly inspiring to not be on stage and watch a show and see what really connects with people and what I connect with. But I think as a listener, I’m so grateful to music and what it’s done for me. So when people reach out to me and say my music’s done the same for them, I’m just really grateful. For as long as I’m allowed to do this job, I will really, really, really cherish it.

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Sophia Kahlenberg

Sophia, 29. Fotografin. Dann kam das Schreiben. Verspürt starkes Herzklopfen beim Wort ‚Australien‘. Aber Berlin ist auch ok.

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