ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Catherine Rudie
THERE are few artists who can claim…
BBC Radio 6 Music has played their music. I have been talking to Maaike Siegerist about the station spinning Keep It in the Dark and Yangtze River Blues. She tells me about her debut album, Born Before the Wind, and how her travels and relation influenced her songwriting. Siegerist discusses a move to Bath and what she has coming up in terms of songwriting – what tour dates we can expect in the coming weeks.
I learn about new artists she is vibing to; the sort of music she is influenced by; how she spends her time away from music; the advice she would give to new artists – she talks about a fond memory from her time in music.
Hi, Maaike. How are you? How has your week been?
Really good! Tom Robinson played my track, Keep It in the Dark, twice on BBC Radio 6 Music last weekend, so I’ve been buzzing all week.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a Dutch singer-songwriter based in Bristol. I play a Spanish guitar and love Jazz chords - but have also sung in atmospheric Metal bands. You can hear all those elements in my music.
Born Before the Wind is your debut album. What sort of themes influenced the songs on the record?
The sea, the wind; ships – there’s a lot of maritime imagery in the lyrics. I grew up close to the sea and it’s an important element of Dutch culture. The imagery has made its way into my songs about travels.
There’s also literal and figurative darkness in some of the songs – a love kept in the shadows, a sinking ship; a young woman who ends her life.
It was recorded in Bath – you moved there in 2014. What was the reason for relocating there?
I had spent a week in a mansion in the rainy Scottish countryside in 2013, together with twenty-five other songwriters. We were on a songwriting boot-camp, writing a song a day, and it was one of the best weeks of my life. The camp was run by Bath Spa University and their team mentioned they run a yearlong songwriting course in Bath, so I applied (after working and saving up for a year).
BBC Radio 6 Music has played Yangtze River Blues. What was that like?! Is it important getting that sort of focus?
It’s a thrill to be played on national radio! When the music you wrote and recorded yourself is on the radio, that’s a huge compliment. It also gives you credibility. All of a sudden, you’re not just another girl with a guitar…
You’re the girl with the guitar whose music was played on 6 Music.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jonni Slater
How does the music scene differ in Bath compared to where you were raised in Holland? Is it true you lived in China for a time?
I love the buskers in Bath – they are pros, singing and playing for hours…even in the winter.
You don’t see that many and such good buskers in Rotterdam. There are also way more open mics in the U.K. in general than in the Netherlands. Bath even has one in a church, St Michael’s Without. I met a few of my best friends and fellow musicians at open mic nights in Bath!
A while ago, I lived in China for a year. I studied Chinese in Hangzhou, a beautiful city with a big lake and fields of green tea, near Shanghai. It’s the home of more than nine-million people. The country has inspired two of my songs so far: Yangtze River Blues is the story of a farmer who lives near the Three Gorges Dam, whose land is flooded in the name of progress; Long Way Down is written from the perspective of a Chinese student who ends her life because she can’t live up to her family’s expectations.
I hear different sounds in your music. What sort of music did you grow up around?
My dad listened to all kinds of music: Mike Oldfield, Annie Lennox; Donna Summer, Sergio Mendes; Queen, Eurodance acts – I had no choice but to love them all.
When I was in my teens, my elderly guitar teacher introduced me to classic Jazz – his repertoire basically ended with The Beatles. The Jazz chords and melodies are amazing! I also started listening to Gothic Metal - bands like Within Temptation and Nightwish were really big in the Netherlands. I wanted to sing like their frontwomen, so I took classical singing lessons and started listening to Classical music as well.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jonni Slater
There are Spanish and Argentine elements in your blend of Folk. That is something we do not hear in music a lot. Do you think it is important to remain true to you and not compromise?
Yes. That’s the only way to add something. There’s no point in trying to sound like anyone else. Although, there is room for negotiation when you’re co-writing. Keep It in the Dark was a co-write with Catherine Rudie, who you can also hear on the track.
The song is different from what we write on our own; it’s where our styles meet. We each had to sacrifice a few of our favourite ideas along the way, but I love the result!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
Get the songs to the people who will love them – online, via the radio, and live.
Behind the scenes, I’m also writing and recording new tracks. There are a few songs in the pipeline I’m very enthusiastic about!
IMAGE CREDIT: Artist/Getty Images
Can we catch you perform anytime soon? What dates do you have coming up?
Friday, 20 April, Arts House Café, Bristol
Saturday, 28 April, St Alfege Church, Greenwich (London)
Friday, 18 May, Komedia Café, Bath
Saturday, 26 May, Bath Pizza Company
Sunday, 9 September, Half Moon Putney, London
How important is it getting your music on stage and performing it to people?
Being online is vital, but gigs are definitely still important. I like the personal connection you can make with people at a show - and gigs are also a way of introducing your music to people who haven’t heard it before. I love turning gigs into happenings.
When we’re performing in Greenwich this month, we’ll have piano, flute; trombone and many voices. I’m really looking forward to it.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
My album launch in Rotterdam last year! It was in a small, dark wooden church with model ships hanging from the ceiling. On stage with me were my British friends Susanna and Jonni on piano and keys and my Dutch friends on upright bass, flute and violin. In the audience were one-hundred people who had supported my musical journey that far.
It was totally nerve-wracking beforehand, but it was a magical night.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I think I’m still pretty new myself...
But; my advice would be: be yourself musically; don’t try to sound like anyone else. Make music that you think is good and find the people who love it too. Musical tastes are subjective so don’t dwell on rejections. If you put enough effort in, some of your songs will float to the surface – they’ll get on national radio, make people cry; have people singing along – and that’s amazing!
IN THIS PHOTO: Jonni Slater
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Yes! Jonni Slater, a Bristol-based Indie-Alternative artist, is releasing his new E.P., Inversions, later this month. It’s pure quality.
Leandro Maia, a Brazilian artist who lives in Bath, makes beautiful, interesting music and sings in Brazilian Portuguese.
Or if you like Folk; check out Sharon Lazibyrd. She has a gorgeous voice and a witty way with words.
For Rock ‘n’ Roll, go to David Sinclair Four. Their lyrics are masterful.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sharon Lazibyrd
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Fine wine and good food - and travelling to far-away places or nearby castles. I also like reading Frank Sinatra biographies and watch a lot of Netflix.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Here are two of my amazingly talented friends – Chloe Tyghe & Guillem Mitchel (The Slightest Hiss of Wind)
Follow Maaike Siegerist