British singer and songwriter Freya Ridings makes magic when she starts singing at the piano. Her enchanting voice – which goes from soft wisps to full powerhouse – bares so much emotion you find yourself caught in her spell. Teamed with her gentle fingers on the piano, lyrics that reflect the deepest of feeling, you can find yourself, unknowingly, with tear-stained cheeks while listening to her music.
With her greatest single to date, ‘Lost Without You,’ playing everywhere from BBC Radio 1 – to even finding its way onto Love Island – it has been a rollercoaster ride for the 23 year old. Supporting great acts such as Lewis Capaldi, Ella Vos to Ray LaMontagne, while also headlining her own dates, the singer has been traveling all across Europe and America these past 18 months. So, it’s no wonder that we found ourselves chatting to Freya whilst she’s between traveling gigs.
We caught up with Freya (who immediately feels like a friend you haven’t spoken with in ages) on a rare visit home, in England, to talk about her new single ‘Ultraviolet’, comparisons and getting tips to stay cool.
Marla, BSS: As a great admirer of your songwriting I’d love to dive right into that. Your beautifully heart-wrenching texts haven’t only touched my soul (but many others I know or spoken with). ‘Lost Without You’ has to be one of the few songs that actually makes me cry. Every time.
Where does your inspiration for songs come from? Is it personal or stemming from other peoples’ stories/ experiences?
Freya Ridings: “Personal experience – 100%. I find it really hard to write about things I haven’t actually felt. It’s mostly the songs that come from your deepest subconscious, the stories that you’re not really acknowledging, that work. It’s hard to talk about them but much easier when I sing.
“For instance when I wrote ‘Lost Without You’, I hadn’t even realised that moment had happened and that it had affected me so much. Yet, when I sang about it, it was like: ‘Wow! I think it did affect me more than I thought.'”(She laughs)
Marla: And as ‘Ultraviolet’ is your current single (and one of my personal favourites) – could you tell me what the song is about or the story behind it?
Freya: “So funnily enough, the song has this scientific thing behind it, which I hadn’t initially realised when writing it. My story being about this feeling when someone sees a side to you that you’re trying to hide. The parts of ourselves we don’t show to people because we think they won’t accept us or love us for our darker side. And just the idea of when someone does see that side of ourselves that we try and hide, and does accept and loves us for them – it’s the most liberating feeling in the world.
“So I wanted to sort of capture that. That fear and excitement around that moment of thinking, ‘Maybe I can be like that, maybe someone can love me for it.’
“And also if you shine ultraviolet light on lemon juice it shows up – a bit like invisible ink.” [Referring to a lyric in the song.] (She laughs)
Marla: “Yes! I had noticed that! Thought it was a cool sneaky line.”
Freya: (She laughs) “Thank you!“
Marla: So a few months back, you got to support Ray LaMontagne – who, I’ve heard – made quite an impact on your musical career when you were young when it came to writing music.
Freya: “Hugely! I’m still blown away that that even happened! Yeah, my dad used to play his albums on repeat and we used to cover his songs. He’s just one of the reasons I wanted to start writing in the first place. His voice and his songs are just so incredible.“
Marla: Apart from Ray, is there anyone else that’s inspired you in your musical career?
Freya: “It varies… There are a lot of strong female singer-songwriters that I’ve been inspired by. Like Florence [and the Machine], or Taylor Swift. Growing up I just found them to be really influential people. But also there was a lot of singer-songwriters of the ’70s from my dad, to Carole King, and James Taylor… It was just these two worlds colliding.
“Then, there was also this love for honest storytelling that I absolutely adore. Such as from the likes of Hozier or Tom Odell.”
Marla: Just having mentioned her, I have to pick up on Florence. When I first heard and saw you, I would have definitely described you as a blend of London Grammar and Florence and the Machine.
Freya: “You know, honestly – I find that such an honour. They are two of my absolute favourite bands. So I’m really just hugely honoured by that. I know some people don’t like it but I think it’s incredible.”
Marla: You don’t mind being compared to other people, then?
Freya: “Not at all. You know when you starting out – no matter what you do – you are always going to get comparisons. And I’m honestly just taken aback that it’s two of my all time favourite female singers.”
Marla: Back to songs: I know it isn’t always fair to ask if you have a favourite song – but I’m gonna try my luck and ask just that: Is there a song you’re particularly proud of or love – and why?
Freya: “It’s funny because it changes with almost every show. But there is something about playing ‘Lost Without You’ that has always made me – no matter where I am in the world – miss the people I love and gives me a moment to kind of sit with that feeling. It’s kind of therapeutic to sing it. So this song has probably helped me, more than any other song, to get through all the ups and downs of this incredible journey.”
Marla: How do you go about creating a song? Do you have a certain way about doing your songwriting and recording? Like is it all done at one session or do songs accumulate over time and then get recorded?
Freya: “I definitely prefer writing on my own, first. Get all my core ideas down. Then I find a piano somewhere, some place no one can hear me, shut my eyes and sing. Not really thinking too hard about it, but just feeling.
“Normally, I’ve picked up some words or phrases that I found have really resonated with me. That’s certainly true for songs like ‘Ultraviolet’ or ‘Elephant’. But sometimes you know what you wanted to say that day and sometimes you just have no idea and just have to sing about how you feel.”
Marla: Moving on from your more hidden songwriting to stage. How do you feel performing live? Any sort of stage fright involved still or any pre-gig rituals?
Freya: “I would say I’ve always had pretty bad stage fright. But I feel the more I’ve had to perform, it gets a tiny bit better each time. But when you get a week or two off, it does come back in full force. My mum just told me to just “ride the wave”. You know its coming but it’s important to just take a deep breath. As for pre-gig rituals – I always eat an apple (because it’s really good for singing), hug my band, make sure I have no food on my dress and then go on stage and sing.” (Laughs)
Marla: Now, looking at your Instagram feed. It’s clear that this is an epic musical journey that’s brought you to many places in the last year alone. And with all that travel and new impressions, you must have some more tips on how to stay grounded throughout it all?
Freya: [Sounding audibly excited] “Yes! This is a favourite subject of mine. It’s just become a part of travel life to have these things that keep you grounded and calm. For instance, keeping a diary and writing in it every evening is my anchor. If I don’t do it for a couple of days, I do notice. It just takes away the pressure of the whole big thing and makes it manageable. I also do exercises in the morning such as a ‘Ballet Beautiful’ [a mix of ballet and pilates] and it just gets me ready for a day of travelling or meeting people. Oh – and just because I was on a plane yesterday – face mists! They make all the difference. When you feel jet lagged or just feel like you haven’t slept in ages – it fully revives you.”
Marla: Thanks for the tips. So I’m guessing there’s more travelling on the upcoming agenda. What can we expect for the rest of the year?
Freya: “Well, we have just finished the album which is really exciting. We’re at the last stages of final mixing before it gets sent off for the real mixing and mastering. So that should hopefully be out early next year.
“And for the rest of the year, we’ve just got a few festivals this summer. Then it’s back home for more writing for album number two.”
Marla: “Well Freya, I wish you all the best on this crazy journey! Thanks for the chat!”
Freya Ridings’ latest single ‘Ultraviolet’ is out now on Good Soldier Records – available to Stream/Purchase here.
Freya Ridings will be touring the UK throughout October:
Thursday 18th | Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Friday 19th | Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Saturday 20th | The Globe, Cardiff
Monday 22nd | St Luke’s, Glasgow
Tuesday 23rd | LimeLight 2, Belfast
Wednesday 24th | Tivoli Theatre, Dublin
Friday 26th | Oxford Academy 2, Oxford
Saturday 27th | Dance House, Manchester
Sunday 28th | The Wardrobe, Leeds
Monday 29th | O2 Institute 3, Birmingham
Wednesday 31st | The Haunt, Brighton