Belfast Telegraph

Freya Ridings: 'I put everything I have into this album ... it's one of those things that you get very good at, channelling harder moments into music'

Freya Ridings has a Glastonbury performance and a hit single under her belt. Following the release of her self-titled debut album, she talks to Kerri-Ann Roper about the inspiration behind her songs and being a female songwriter in the music industry

Rising star: singer-songwriter Freya Ridings
Rising star: singer-songwriter Freya Ridings

By Kerri-Ann Roper

Freya Ridings had a Glastonbury performance under her belt before her self-titled debut album had even hit the shelves. And it's not like 2018 was a slow year for her either.

Her single Lost Without You sat near the top of the charts for weeks and, according to her official biography, helped her become "the first female artist to have an entirely self-written top 10 hit since Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill returned to charts in 2012".

The 25-year-old reflects on her songwriting achievement.

"That, I think, out of all of this is honestly the thing I'm most proud of, because for so many years it wasn't championed for girls to write their own songs or play their own instruments. My mum and dad were like, 'You play your own instruments, you write your own songs, feel proud you're not doing what everyone else is doing'," she says enthusiastically.

"Now when I see little girls, they send me videos of themselves playing Lost Without You on the guitar or playing open mic nights, I'm like, this is something I'm so passionate about.

"Hopefully inspiring even just a few girls to pick up instruments and write their own destinies, because it's not the thing that was championed when I was up and coming."

Her father is the actor Richard Ridings, whose credits include voicing Daddy Pig in the children's hit series, Peppa Pig.

"Watching my dad play and write from a young age, I just thought that was the norm. So, you know, when you start getting told you have to co-write with men double your age to have any chance in this industry, you would think that's true and it's not true.

"The Kate Bush thing is an honour but I'm also baffled by it. I'm like, Why is that true? That should not be the case.

"And for me, this is just the beginning in terms of making young female musicians aware that there is so much power in songwriting and it's their story as well. They can tell their story as well - they have a place at the table.

"And I'm so lucky that I found an indie label (Good Soldier) that championed what was really authentic about me and let me write my own songs because for a long time I worked with people who told me that I couldn't," she says.

She smiles when I ask about growing up having her father as the voice of Daddy Pig.

"I remember growing up, he did a lot more acting so he was away a lot and the fact he was doing more voice-overs meant he was home more often, so I was excited about that. I'm so, so proud he makes little people so happy," she says.

Her music conversely has done just that for a growing legion of fans and she can count the likes of Taylor Swift among her fans too.

Released on July 19, she says her album is "almost like a collaboration with the fans who made it possible".

Ridings reflects on how grateful she is to have played on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury this year before the record was even out.

"I mean, I write a diary because I have to, because every day is such a whirlwind... and there are so many elements of this job that I love, but for me all of this happening without having an album out is the thing I can't get over," she says, somewhat incredulously.

Finishing her album, she says, was a way to thank her fans "for just giving me the opportunity". "They are real people and I know them and I see their faces at every show," she adds.

Elaborating on how her fans helped her make the album, she says: "I put everything I have into it over the last two years while touring and feeling this atmosphere around the songs, and which songs, then led towards more.

"There were some fans that got tattoos of lyrics of songs I played once and I was like maybe that's a sign, maybe that should go on the album. I really listened to people, so this album wasn't made in isolation - it's almost like a collaboration with the fans who made it possible."

She's also still processing the whirlwind success and popularity of Lost Without You. So, what inspired her to write it?

She explains: "I always write based on personal experience and growing up really dyslexic and really tall and shy and a red head - at school it made me such a target, but it also made me incredibly isolated so all the years I spent in the piano room at lunch time just on my own just in complete silence... it's one of those things you get very good at, channelling those harder moments, into music.

"So any kind of heartbreak, loneliness that's where I turn (to music)".

Her album and Glastonbury aside, Freya has had a diary packed with other festival dates and will also tour the UK in November.

Despite the fact she's still finding her feet in the industry, she seems very certain of who she is and what she's about.

"I was really lucky from a really young age that I was championed, even when I was a little girl, to sort of be who I was, not be who people or society thought a little girl should be.

"My mum let me dress myself since I was three and even though it was hard at school to be something that was not cool or not accepted, I kind of went into my shell, but I kept who I was.

"In those quiet years it made me crystallise who I was a lot earlier than maybe other people because I had that time and space to think about it and that silence to sit and it makes you realise who you are on your own without other voices talking to you."

Ask her where she wants to be in five years' time and her list is very attainable.

She really wants a dog (but she's away too much at the moment) and hopes to have a third or even fourth album under belt.

What about meeting her own musical heroes like Swift or Florence Welch?

She tells a lovely anecdote about meeting Welch in a team room but being too starstruck to say too much.

"I was not cool at all, it was a complete shock. I couldn't speak," she says, adding that Welch sent her a lovely note after their meeting.

"I still have it. She was literally on a poster on my bedroom wall growing up!"

And as for Swift?

"Stop it, I would die," she says, all excitement. "Even just the idea of meeting her, I would not be cool, she's too much of a hero."

A few days after we meet, Swift shares a screengrab of Ridings' song on her Instagram stories, telling her fans to listen it.

So that's one step closer to ticking off meeting her hero then.

  • Freya Ridings' self-titled debut album is out now

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