It's been a long time coming.
Freya Ridings has been patiently, diligently working on her music for years now, honing her skills, refining her approach.
And then it all seemed to click into place. Her single 'Lost Without You' really hit home with fans, and eventually found its way into an important scene on a little known TV show called Love Island.
Going viral almost overnight, everything since has been a rush - sold out shows, a packed out set in Tottenham Court Road station, and a whirlwind series of engagements.
When Clash finally catches up with Freya Ridings she's in a cab rushing from a Berlin airport, fresh from meeting fans gathered at the terminal to welcome her on to German soil...
- - -
- - -
What takes you to Berlin?
I’m doing a little radio showcase. They invite fans to the station and you play live on air – it’s exciting!
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, what’s it like to be at the centre of it all?
It’s been incredible… honestly, I never expected any of what has happened over the past few weeks. We’ve been away in America, so it’s been really nice – especially when you’re so far from home – to hear amazing news, especially when people have been so supportive about my music. It’s never anything I expected but I’m extremely grateful.
So much of what has happened is viral – it’s all social media driven.
It’s extremely surreal. I wrote most of these songs in isolation, so for that to connect with people is still kind of mind blowing. Especially on social media – people are so, so passionate and supportive. I played for such a long time on my own and to so few people, so for all these people to actually show up and support means the world to me.
You’ve been working for such a long time, the sense of focus there is wonderful to behold.
It’s been a long, up and down journey. Music has always been this anchor through the stormy times of my life. I struggled at school because I was so dyslexic, I struggled academically. When I found that I could do these songs, it was like I had found my calling. I’m so happy I found it at such a young age, but it wasn’t an easy journey by any means. I had to hold on to lots of years in the wilderness – so it’s nice to be back on dry land.
It’s richly deserved! Do the people who’ve been on that journey help you to retain focus?
Hugely! Hugely. I’m so lucky to work with people who are so grounding and supportive and also really focussed. I grew up with a really, really supportive family, and I’m lucky to have that, but I’m now mirroring that with this small, independent label. Everyone sits around the table and makes these incredible things happen that I could never do on my own.
I’m lucky to have them and they really do ground me – whether things are going well or it’s a bit more tricky, just having people who bring out the best in you is really important.
Your pop up show at Tottenham Court Road station was a real event…
It was so much fun! That came from a friend of mine, who saw the Lewis Capaldi cover that I did there about eight months ago. She said, what would happen now if you went back? I had no idea, I thought maybe a few more people would come… I really did not expect hundreds of people to come down and for them to almost have to shut down the station that was absolutely mind-blowing.
It made me quite emotional, especially since one of my friend’s choirs came down. They learned the song and sang it with me… it was a really special moment.
Shutting down central London!
I felt really bad for commuters…
- - -
- - -
You covered ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the start of the year – is that a song which is close to your heart?
It really is. I have to have an emotional connection to a song in order to sing it. It’s not just like I would sing something because it’s cool, I have to feel that what I’m singing is true. I always feel like choosing a song is like choosing a pokemon – they have to choose you back!
I was going through a hard breakup and my friend suggested that I should cover this song. Initially I doubted if I could bring anything new to it, but the first time I sang it was a lightning bolt moment – it made me want to cry. I knew I had to release it as the next single.
The full UK tour kicks off in October, and you’ve already sold thousands of tickets.
To go from my first headline show 18 months ago – in October it will be two years – to go from 100 people to 2000 people in that space of time is such a humbling experience. I played venues with two people and a poodle so for 2000 people to even theoretically turn up to my of my shows is really heartwarming, especially since there’s so much heartbreak in the songwriting process. It’s just a really beautiful thing.
Where does that open-ness in your songwriting come from?
Since I didn’t have any classical music training I didn’t have the barriers of thinking what you can and can’t do when it comes to music. I find that if I let go of that critical mindset and let my heart just sing then those are the songs that I connect with most, and I think other people do as well.
There’s no critical filter, they come from a true place. That’s what I was most afraid to show people but it’s also what people have responded most warmly to, because that’s the most honest version of who I am.
That must come out really clearly in your live shows.
Yeah. Playing live is my most favourite thing in the entire world, so you’re in that moment and you can’t afford to over-think anything. You prepare and you practice but on the actual night anything can happen, so that connection with people in the room is my favourite thing ever and to build on that is such an incredible opportunity and I just want to make the most of it.
How do you retain that intimacy when you begin to play such huge venues, do you think?
I think you just have to find those authentic moments. I’m a huge fan of people who really put on a show, and I’ve always wanted to give people more than their expecting to show them how important they are, and how grateful I am to find this.
At the last show we gave out 500 red roses to thank people. Finding new ways to excite people and connect with people.
It’s been a hectic year, have you found time to actually sit down and write?
You have to grab those moments when you have them – whether it’s soundchecks, or playing the piano in a train station. You just have to find those moments and grab them when you can because there aren’t many dull moments, that’s for sure! I do miss being at home and writing but I’m sure I’ll get some time soon.
It’s a balance, and that’s what I love most about it. I get to be a hermit for a bit and write, and then you get to come out and see everyone.
- - -
- - -
'Lost Without You' is out now.
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.