‘In my opinion, artists have two jobs. The first is to tell the truth. And the second, is to describe in peculiar detail the complexities of public and private life – those things which are felt but cannot or will not be said; those moments that exist both collectively and in our own particular consciousness; those things that cause us pain, and those things that keep us alive‘ Samora Pinderhughes, Liner notes to The Transformation Suite, Gray Area, 2016
I was born on a small self-sustainable farm in the countryside near Doetinchem, The Netherlands. I studied Jazz singing at the Jazz department in Enschede from 2013-2016. After the department in Enschede was closed in 2016, I continued and completed my studies (last June) at ArtEZ in Arnhem.
The final year in Arnhem was very helpful but also challenging for me in many ways: I moved to a new city and transferred to a much bigger school where I hardly knew anyone. I didn’t find a place to live during the first couple of months, which made it even harder to get to know the city and my fellow students.
On the other hand, being thrown into cold water like that forced me to really think about what I wanted to do with my studies. It forced me to prepare myself for my career after completing my bachelor and also made me think thoroughly about what I want to express and achieve as a musician and songwriter. It enabled me to look outside of the safe walls of the school and focus on my own music, composing and setting up my band FRÉ – which eventually led to the release of our debut album Nature’s Songs last July.
After playing over 25 concerts celebrating Nature’s Songs this summer, I decided to search for new input. I chose to go to New York City for two months to take private lessons, go to concerts, museums and galleries, meet new people and work on new compositions for my band. I’ve lived in Harlem for almost four weeks now and it’s been an amazing experience so far. It’s really a time of research. I’ve already seen more than 18 awesome concerts, went to several lectures and panel discussions and had lessons with Becca Stevens, Taylor Eigsti, Ben Wendel, Fred Hersch and Theo Bleckmann so far. It’s very exciting to get to know the city, its people, and to learn more about the culture where the music I love so much is coming from.
What gives you your drive in your profession?
From early on I’ve wanted to make the world a more beautiful place in some way. Over the years my way to do this turned out to be music. It’s magical to see how music affects people from all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. For me, it’s incredibly inspiring to meet people from all over the world and get to know them through the universal language of music.
How did you start your collaboration together? What makes your collaboration become stronger?
The first rehearsal of FRÉ was a little more than a year ago. We had played with each other in other groups and with different repertoire before but chose to really form a band after playing a couple of concerts in Tuscany in 2016. FRÉ consists of Julian Bohn on piano, Caris Hermes on the bass, and Lukas ‘Bobby’ Büning on the drums. I studied together with Julian and Bobby in Enschede and got to know Caris through playing with them. My band mates are not only amazing musicians, they’re some of my best friends. For me, that’s very important, especially when playing and rehearsing my original compositions. Rehearsing, recording, touring: everything works so organically and smoothly with this band, because we get along so well on a personal level. I think that that is what makes our collaboration strong. We’re all very open, ambitious and sensitive, and that helps us move forward continuously.
Another thing that is great, is that we all have different tasks we like to fulfill. I write most of the music, Julian does most of the booking, Bobby creates our artwork, posters and website and Caris keeps track of the finances. This way, we can do almost everything ourselves.
Something that I could recommend for bands, especially in the first year/ start-up period, is to spend as much time talking and planning, as rehearsing. We had a lot of gatherings where we talked about ideas and plans and discussed how to move forward. I think that clear and honest communication is the key to successful collaboration.
Who or what is your major source of inspiration?
Many things can inspire me. I guess mostly an observation or a feeling inspires me. I can be inspired by just a one second look in someone’s eyes, or by grains of sand sticking to my toes or raindrops on my window pane. I’m a dreamer and I wonder about many things. Simple things that are happening around us all the time but that are forgotten or taken for granted in the speed of modern life. In Nature’s Songs I tried to point out these little miracles happening around you all the time in nature, because only then, when you’re aware of them, you can appreciate them.
What is your vision of entrepreneurship in the arts?
Honestly, I’m still figuring much of that out. But I think the bottom-line is taking initiative and making smart investments with your time, energy and money. Investing in your ‘product’, in your craft, in your business, in your network etc. I think that I’m in a part of my career where I have to invest as much as I can. I hope that at some point, these investments pay themselves off. Every entrepreneur has to go through that. I don’t know how it turns out, but I’ve decided that this is what I want to do, so I do the best I can to achieve my goals. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m learning so much, and I try to enjoy the journey as much as I can.
I had a lesson with Becca Stevens last week and we talked about things to focus on in the upcoming year. She reminded me that these years of my life (I’m 22 now), are the years to chase my dreams. I don’t have children; I’m not tied down yet, I’m free to go wherever I want. She said, “Right now is this golden period of growth and inspiration and following your dreams and you don’t want to waste that.”
It’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.
How did you start your company?
I’ve signed up with the KvK last January. As I already said, this year is mostly about investing. You first need a ‘product’, and building a ‘product’ costs money, time and energy. I recorded and released an EP with FRÉ in November 2016 and then recorded my album ‘Nature’s Songs’ last April and released this last July on Fattoria Musica Records. With Nature’s Songs, we’ve played around 30 concerts so far in The Netherlands, Germany, Northern Ireland and New York.
What difficulties did you encounter and how did you resolve them?
“I think there’s a great beauty to having problems. That’s one of the ways we learn.” – Herbie Hancock
There’s no growth without struggle. For me, most problems and solutions lie in communication. I like to collaborate with many different artists in many different art disciplines. I find it extremely interesting to bring many people’s expertises together. In the process of creating, there are decisions to be made at every tiny step of the way. Deciding alone can be tough, but making decisions with an invested group of artists is even more difficult. As I mentioned earlier, good communication is key to a successful collaboration. I try to really pay attention to this, because I know difficulties arise when I don’t communicate clearly.
How do you envision your future? Where do you want to be within five years?
I hope that in five years I have an EP and two new albums out with my band FRÉ. (Our new EP is coming out in April next year and the next album in March 2019) I hope to finance the albums by successful crowdfunding campaigns, to tour internationally with my band, collaborate with great musicians and other artists and create meaningful interdisciplinary projects together.
I want my next two albums and all of our merchandise to be either biodegradable, upcyclable or cradle to cradle. I want to collaborate with universities with departments of environmental studies and with product design schools, to contribute to a more sustainable music industry.
I want to live somewhere near nature, live a zero-waste lifestyle and spend two months per year living and working in New York City or Granada. Also I’d like to teach masterclasses on concept design, songwriting, environmentally friendly music production and living a zero-waste lifestyle.
What is a real ‘Must Have, Do or See’ for every artist?
Although your main focus should always be on making the best music you can, a lot of things you have to deal with when starting a band are non-musical. For these things, I can highly recommend this book: Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business. It teaches you all you need to know about setting up a band, from efficient use of social media to creating a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Also, I’d like to remind you that you’re not alone in this. Don’t be afraid to reach out to artists who are on a similar path but a few steps ahead of you. I try to do this a lot and it’s very motivating and helpful. And lastly I want to say, chase your dreams! Because no one else will do this for you! Do what makes you happy, cause if you’re happy, you’ll make other people happy too!
I’ll end with a quote by Duke Ellington:
“There are 2 rules in life:
Number 1 – Never quit!
Number 2 – Never forget Number 1!”
I wish you all the best and good luck!
originally published on ArtEZ Ondernemer van de Maand