Anneke Van Giersbergen
An absolutely captivating voice, tremendous songwriting abilities, stage presence to die for and stunning looks. With attributes like these, it's inconceivable that Anneke van Giersbergen is not a household name by this point. The former vocalist of The Gathering has carved out an impressive solo career with four previous records, but her latest release, Drive, should correct this grave injustice.
Following a year-long aural affair with her last record, 2012's Everything is Changing, Drive has come along to hijack my ears for the foreseeable future. It is an instantly engaging record with ten songs that will capture your heart and mind. It is powered by the most valuable asset at her disposal, a mind-blowing voice which is both fragile and muscular, often at the same time.
Songs like the title track and "The Best is Yet to Come" will have you singing along in short order and "My Mother Said" will leave you marveling at her ability to make you pay attention to every syllable, both lyrically and sonically. Am I gushing? Maybe. Am I correct? Definitely.
It was a pleasure to interview the Dutch singer by email recently. Maybe next time it will be in person on your North American tour, Anneke (hint, hint).
antiMusic: Like Everything is Changing, which is one of my all-time favorite records, Drive is tremendously strong in material. There are no filler cuts to help round out the record. Every single one belongs. Considering the last record was released just a year and a half ago, this marks a very productive period for you. What is going on in your life that is fuelling such a creative outburst?
Anneke: I am not sure. I am just happy with the way things are working out. I have gathered a very creative and positive group of people around me and everything I do seems to lead to new and different things, which inspire me in making new music. I actually wrote a lot of material for Drive, but producer Arno Krabman convinced me to keep the best of the best and I'm quite happy I followed his advice.
antiMusic: Tell us about your decision to sign with InsideOut Music.
Anneke: I was familiar with the company and since it's kinda hard to put a label on my own musical style (since I like to do a lot of different stuff), I thought it would be best to sign with a label that above all shows their love for music through their releases. Of course my friend Devin Townsend was on the label as well, so I already knew their partnership was working out more than fine.
antiMusic: The music on Drive has taken a slightly more aggressive direction. Any particular reason for this? (If I had to guess, I might say that working with Devin helped prompt this.)
Anneke: It did and I also noticed that whenever I was writing a setlist, I was looking for songs that were full of energy, so I really wanted to write a bunch of those as well. Writing ballads somehow seems more easy.
antiMusic: There is also more of an anthemic quality to some of the songs with really catchy choruses. Is this purposeful?
Anneke: To a certain extent, yes. I have deliberately chosen a producer that is a very good songwriter as well. We share a background in heavy music, but Arno is really into writing nice hooks and keeping the songs to the point, so teaming up with him was a deliberate choice.
antiMusic: You collaborated with Arno Krabman for this record. For those of us who are not familiar with him, please tell us a bit about him and how you came to work with him.
Anneke: His name was mentioned to me by several different people, so that triggered something. His people skills are very good, but he is also a phenomenal musician. He reminds me a little bit of Rick Rubin, both in looks and in the way he is successful in producing, hip-hop, heavy music as well as pop bands.
antiMusic: How did the process work? Was one person more responsible for lyrics and the other for music or was it more of a melding of efforts?
Anneke: I have worked with 4 different songwriters. Usually we would start with a riff or melodic idea and work on that together. After that I started working on the lyrics in my home studio and I would record guide vocals at home. Than we would bring in the band and we would ask them to re-write their parts so that it would become close to them and their individual style and sound.
antiMusic: If the theme for the last record was sort of that the world around us is continually changing, what would you say the theme is for Drive?
Anneke: There is not really a lyrical concept behind Drive, but my overall feeling is that the world IS changing and we should make an effort to make something of our lives and the way we treat ourselves, each other and the world around us. That has been on mind a lot lately: make something out of it.
antiMusic: Was there one song that came out first that helped spark the direction of the others?
Anneke: Not really. I guess Mental Jungle was one of the first songs we finished that made the record. I ended up shelving 2 of the 3 songs we recorded at the beginning.
antiMusic: Let's talk about a couple of the songs. Your voice on the chorus of "We Live On" is just amazing. Please tell us what this song is about.
Anneke: It deals with getting the most out of life. I tried to capture the process of become aware of everything that is happening around you. I mean: I wasn't aware of a lot of things when I was a teenager. You start to notice the big picture once you grow older, at least I did.
antiMusic: Is "Treat Me Like a Lady" based on your dealings in the music world or just a bit of fiction?
Anneke: It's fiction, but I guess every girl has been there. You just want to be treated nice and respectfully. Kinda like the Aretha Franklin song "Respect". Although I do think that that song is originally written by a man named Otis Redding ;-)
antiMusic: The title track is like a shot of Red Bull!! Tell us how this song came together and the idea behind it.
Anneke: Thanks, haha. That song makes me so happy. I can't wait to play that one live. This was an idea that Arno came up with, he felt that the album needed an energetic song like that, so we finished it together.
antiMusic: "My Mother Said" is such a tremendously beautiful song. It sounds like you wrote it in a melancholy mood. How much of the lyrical matter came from personal interaction with your own parents?
Anneke: The lyrics in the verses are actual talks I had with my parents, so it's as personal as it gets. I also believe that children are like arrows. They are close to you in the beginning, but at one point you have to release them, so they can "gain height". Not an easy task for a mother though… but you have to.
antiMusic: Your voice blends so perfectly with your duet partner on "Mental Jungle". Who is he and how did you decide to include this "ethnic" vocal.
Anneke: I have been friends with Turkish superstar Hayko Cepkin for a couple of years now. I have performed with him in Turkey and he has performed with me in The Netherlands. I just love his voice & vocal phrasing and I have been wanting to record that on one of my songs for years. My guitar player Ferry Duijsens had this really cool riff with an eastern-vibe, so I knew this had to be the song. I'm really happy with the way it turned out.
antiMusic: Now that you're on InsideOut, can we look forward to seeing you perform in North America in the near future?
Anneke: I definitely hope so! I did two shows in Chicago earlier this year and that was awesome. Touring the states is difficult, but I really like performing in the US, so we are doing our best to make it happen. I am excited to be part of the Progressive Nation At Sea Cruise end of February 2014. Hopefully that's the start of something nice in North America.
antiMusic: In conclusion, are you satisfied with the way your career has been building to this point? Everything is Changing helped knock down some doors to people who weren't familiar with you and Drive will definitely do the same. Where do you see yourself going from here?
Anneke: I have no idea. My ambitions are mainly driven by wanting to improve myself and have the freedom to create what I feel like creating. With The Gathering I have played the biggest festivals and filled up venues for years and I never thought it would be possible to achieve this as a solo artist, so that has never been a goal itself, but I have to say Everything Is Changing re-opened a lot of doors for me. I love the way things are going right now and I am very proud that I can make a living doing what I do. So yeah, who knows what the future might bring…
You can order a copy of Drive here.
Visit the official homepage here.