You know when you can just feel this twinkly, youthful, uncomplicated freshness within a song, and you just know you’re onto something? Well, it only took a brief listen to Dutch singer-songwriter remme, to make me feel just that.
A 20-year-old singer-songwriter from the Netherlands, with two singles officially out so far – and another one coming this week. This untainted, fresh-faced artist makes pop songs that still depict the heartfelt love of songwriting, and in an overcrowded musical landscape this is a quality which rarefies and exemplifies an artist’s’ innate authenticity.
So I was more than happy to sit down and meet remme in his home in Eindhoven (via a zoom meeting no less, given our current circumstances) to get to know him a little bit and talk about his upcoming single ‘lose touch,’ gibberish-lyrics in his songwriting process and how to pronounce his name correctly.
MG: Just to clear the air – remme is your real name or a stage-name?
[After teaching me to pronounce remme correctly… “ReH- mE”]
R: “It’s my real name! My parents gave me that name. And I was actually named after a Dutch architect because my Dad’s an architect, too…”
MG: Well, it’s a really nice name–
R: “Thank you!”
MG: So, as you’re someone that’s still a little under the radar… Can you just briefly introduce yourself?
R: “Yeah, I’m Remme, I’m 20 years old, I’m from the Netherlands. I started making music from a really young age – round about the age of five or six. I used to grab my Dad’s old guitar at home and start playing – or tried – to play stuff I heard on the radio or what my parents were listening to at home.
“And when I was 12, I started having guitar lessons for the first time. That’s where I met Isa. He started as my guitar teacher and taught me a lot about blues, and all sorts of other music genres. Then one day, he asked me to write a song instead of just covering one. And so I did. Turns out this was an inspirational new step. After that, the guitar lessons pretty much turned into songwriting lessons…”
MG: So when did you properly start songwriting?
R: “The songwriting, I think started at 14 – and actually my first single, ‘get older’ was one of the first songs I wrote. And when I was 16, Isa – my guitar teacher, moved to Berlin. He invited me to come to his studio to record some demos – among which was ‘get older.'”
MG: I definitely feel this personal touch in your songs. Where do you get your song inspirations from?
R: “I just love writing about things people can relate to. And sometimes it’s about my life and sometimes it’s not about my life. It just begins with random stuff…
“My process is always kind of the same. I sit behind my piano – or guitar – and just start playing random stuff that pops into my head. And once I hear something that catches my ear, something I like – I record it on my phone. Afterwards, I listen back to it and try and make sense of what I was ‘singing.’ In the moment it’s mostly just gibberish. It can be super random but there are a few things in there that actually do make sense and came from a subconscious mind, I guess… The inspiration behind the themes I write about mainly comes from my love for songwriting. And for me, that’s really pure.
“Maybe inspiration also comes from various other places. For instance, when I got Spotify on my phone around the age of 14 – you know, growing up, my parents used to always play Bruce Springsteen or Fleetwood Mac along with plenty other classics – but once I had Spotify, with just one tap on my screen I could go from Fleetwood Mac, to Justin Bieber, or from Shawn Mendes to Elvis Presley. You just create your own albums in the form of playlists. So I guess my music is inspired by pop music from the last 50 years.”
MG: ‘hunger’ is your current single. Something that stuck with me from your press release was that it’s about sex – or I figured – just generally longing to be close to someone. Care to elaborate?
R: “I agree with you. It’s a song about desire and the desire you can have for someone… yet at the chorus, for me, it’s basically like you’re having sex. [Laughs] It’s funny because I wrote this song on one of my first trips to Berlin. And I was so tired when I wrote this song because I took this night bus from my hometown in the Netherlands to my friend’s’ apartment in Berlin. And I was so tired in the morning. I think you can hear that in the verses a little bit. It’s kind of dreamy.”
MG: What I’ve enjoyed about your other single ‘get older’, is that it tells a story about seeing a stranger on the train and not having the courage to speak to them… something some of us have experienced as well. Is this idea based on a true story or just a train “fantasy”?
R: “It’s kind of more a metaphorical situation. When you’re in a train and you see this girl and you really want to talk to her but you just don’t have the courage to do it. And before you know it, she gets up and is gone and the opportunity slips out of your hands. And that’s basically what that song’s about. Just to seize opportunities and live every moment with your heart in it.
“But no, it’s not something I literally experienced. The first sentence [Sings:] “I read your lips on the subway, when you were talking to your friends…,” was something I just randomly came up with and listening back to it, it just made sense. And that’s just what often happens when I write music.”
MG: I’ve also been lucky enough to get an exclusive first listen to your upcoming brand-new track ‘lose touch’ – that’s out this month. Want to give me some fresh intel on that song?
R: [Laughs] “Well, that song is not about longing for someone… It’s about someone who pushes you to the limit. Someone that drives you crazy in some kind of way. I also wrote that song in the studio in Berlin. The studio always has a lot of creative people around from all over the world. And ‘lose touch’ was actually the first song I wrote with more than five people. I had this idea for the song on my phone – ‘lose touch’ was already there as a title – and I played it to them [the guys at the studio] and we decided to work on it a little bit. Just after one day, you can really give this song another direction. And I recorded a small demo and the lyrics were still a little bit gibberish – sometimes, you just get really used to these gibberish lyrics – and it feels great when you sing them, that it’s hard to turn them into actual words. Then I visited a friend of mine, Gary Go, in London and he loved the song, so we finished it together. He’s a really good songwriter and he really helped me with making those lyrics “bulletproof” – as he would say.”
MG: Online you also have a few covers – Billie Eilish’s ‘everything i wanted’ to Post Malone’s ‘Circles,’ to name a few – But glancing on your Instagram I also found out that quite a few people have covered your song ‘get older’. That must be pretty cool…
R: “Yeah, it’s crazy. The first time I heard a cover [of my track], it was really weird because – obviously you’ve been working on the song for such a long time and you only know one version of your song. And kept hearing it over and over again. Then, for someone you don’t know to cover that, it’s amazing.”
MG: Have you heard a cover you were truly awed by?
R: [Laughs] “I think so… I think you can play a song many ways, and I just have to watch out that the covers aren’t better than my song. Nah. It’s just really interesting, for instance, to hear a female voice sing ‘get older’ or just generally to hear how other people sing your song. One can possibly also learn from that, in some kind of way…”
MG: In the spirit of praising others and you introducing you a little to the world. Is there anyone you’re listening to right now, that’s maybe not on everyone’s radar – that you can introduce us to?
R: “I have someone in mind. But she hasn’t released any music yet. But will, really soon! Her name is Stevie Bill. She’s also born and raised in the Netherlands. I met her in the studio in Berlin, actually. She was working there with a producer friend of mine. She’s a really good singer and songwriter and actually goes to school in New York now. Her music is really amazing. I think on you might be able to find some quarantine videos of hers on YouTube actually.”
MG: Final question… So we’re all kind of on this forced “big break” right now… no shows, no tours planned… what are you up to right now?
R: “Well, I don’t know if you’ve seen this [Points at the wall] but I have this mattress propped up here so I can record vocals here at home. No need to go to Berlin. And it actually works out pretty well. Funnily enough, the vocals you hear on ‘hunger’ are actually recorded in quarantine right here. Sound, pretty okay, right? [Laughs] But the guys in Berlin also make it sound great, so I have to thank them also… Other than that, I’m writing a lot of songs. I’m recording a lot at home. We’re working on the new release ‘lose touch’. There’s work on a video clip coming up… I’m really excited. There’s plenty of time now.”
remme’s new single, ‘lose touch’ will be released on 19th of June – pre-save here.
Photo Credit: Julian Mathieu