Any kind of heartbreak or loneliness, I turn to music
Freya Ridings tells KERRI-ANN ROPER about how she hopes to inspire girls to ‘pick up instruments and write their own destinies’
WITH her powerful voice and spine-tingling lyrics, Freya Ridings has been one of the biggest breakthrough music stars of the last 12 months.
Her single, Lost Without You, was one of the standout releases of 2018.
It hovered around the top of the charts for weeks and, according to her official biography, helped her become “the first female artist to have a self-written top 10 hit since Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill returned to charts in 2012”.
“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,” says the 25-year-old of her songwriting achievement. “My mum and dad said, ‘You play your own instruments, you write your own songs. Feel proud you’re not doing what everyone else is doing’.
“Now when little girls send me videos of themselves playing Lost Without You on the guitar or playing open mic nights, I think, this is something I’m so passionate about.
“Hopefully it will inspire 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.”
Freya’s 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.
“The Kate Bush thing is an honour, but I’m also baffled by it. Why is that true? That should not be the case.
“For me, this is just the beginning, in terms of making young female musicians aware that there is so much power in song writing. 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 about growing up having her father as the voice of a childhood favourite
“I’m so, so proud he makes little people so happy.”
Her music has done just
that for a growing legion of fans and Freya can even count the likes of Taylor Swift among them.
She says her self-titled album, which was released on July 19, is “almost a collaboration with the fans who made it possible”.
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.
“I put everything I have into it over the last two years while touring and feeling this atmosphere around the songs, and which songs, 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.” Freya 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 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.
She’s clearly also still processing the success and popularity of Lost Without You.
So, what inspired her to write it? She explains: “I write based on personal experience and growing up 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 or loneliness, that’s where I turn [to music]”.
Her album and Glastonbury aside, Freya’s diary has been packed with festival dates and she will also embark on a tour of the UK in November.
Despite still finding her feet in the industry, this young woman seems certain of who she is and what she’s about.
“I was really lucky from a young age that I was championed to be who I was, not who people or society thought a little girl should be,” she explains.
“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 earlier than maybe other people because I had time and space to think about it and that silence to sit and it makes you realise who you are without other voices talking to you.”
As for the next five years, Freya’s goals are very attainable. She really wants a dog (she’s away too much at the moment) and hopes to have a third or even fourth album under belt by then.
What about her own musical heroes?
She tells a story about meeting Florence Welch in a team room but being too starstruck to say too much to the singer.
“I was not cool at all, it was a complete shock, I couldn’t speak,” she says, adding that Florence sent her a lovely note after their meeting.
“I still have it. She was on a poster on my bedroom wall growing up!”
And what about Taylor Swift? “Stop it, I would die,” says Freya, bubbling with 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 met, Swift shared a screengrab of Freya’s song on her Instagram stories, telling her fans to listen it.
It looks like Freya might just be one step closer to ticking off meeting her hero, then.
Singer/songwriter Freya Ridings was already garnering huge praise before her first album, left, was released Freya Ridings’ self-titled debut album is out now on Good Soldier.