"It’s a wrap! And the whole process has been a liberating experience. From day one, the day that I started writing material for the new album I felt totally free to do whatever I wanted to." Dutch singer-songwriter KIRSTEN will release her new album on Idol Media. It’s due in October and will be called VANILLA. Less than two years after her very successful debut: THE CHICK SINGER. A debut that generated lots of publicity for the now 27-year-old, a prestigious Dutch ESSENT AWARD and support shows for Ani DiFranco, Sheryl Crow, Beth Hart, Jewel and Venice. It took her and her touring band to some of the biggest Dutch festivals. (Lowlands, Parkpop and Bevrijdingspop Haarlem.) After a nationwide club tour things quieted down. Or well… so it seemed. The truth is that KIRSTEN has been working very hard indeed. The release of VANILLA will be the proof of that. And also that the hard work paid off.
As it’s been said before KIRSTEN, in spite of her enchanting appearance, is not an act put together on the drawing board of some marketing strategist. No team of slick songwriters, overpaid production managers and plastic surgeons for her. She’s her own woman in full control of her art.
It goes for every self-respecting artist, and it goes for KIRSTEN too: the second album will be looked upon as the litmus test of her artistic credibility. Her audience will expect an album that excels the much beloved first one.
And yet this outside pressure won’t be the main reason why KIRSTEN will consider the release of VANILLA as liberating. "Every song on The Chick Singer album was triggered by some situation or experience that I had a strong feeling about. A bad feeling most of the time. Every time I felt bad and angry about something, a song would come along. The prevailing emotion on The Chick Singer was to be anger. When I started working on VANILLA I was much more deliberate about the whole process of writing itself. I wouldn’t wait till a song happened to come by, I was writing for the sake of writing. I simply thought to myself: ‘I did this once. Let’s see if I can do it again’. In a way this had to do with the pressure I was feeling. I surely wanted to make another record but then found I was really enjoying the sheer craftsmanship of it all. I noticed that by concentrating on song structures and form my subliminal self began to seep through in my writing. It became a stream of consciousness work out. And that in itself generated a much broader set of emotions. In a sense Vanilla is less autobiographical than the first one. It felt almost like a miracle. I sat down, started to write out of the blue and it worked. It was fun! Just doing what I love best: writing. Sometimes light-hearted, sometimes heavy, but taking it with a grain of salt most of the time. I feel the songs don’t try to thrust themselves upon the listener, they’re merely trying to communicate."
Eventually all this asked for another approach in the recording studio as well. "Some of the songs we recorded for The Chick Singer I had carried with me for some five years or more. I had played them a lot of course and I felt sure that we had to stay close to the versions as they had developed over the years." (Due to the empathy of producer Rob van Donselaar and the musicians, Hein Offermans on bass and the great Martijn Bosman on drums it all worked out fine.) "But when we started on VANILLA all the songs were relatively fresh. That meant there was lots of room for experiment. So after the writing period, recording became another great experience again!"
It helped that the crew that had worked on the debut was present again of course, (only Michel van Schie plugged in for Hein Offermans.) but then other instruments were brought in. Most notably the pedal steel played by Urban Dance Squad string master René van Barneveld, and the flute of Jan Kooper. But it was especially the contributions of arranger and sound wizard Sander Baas that made a great impression on everyone involved. "Never ceased to amaze us! Even during the mix we found little patterns and sounds on the tape that before nobody seemed to have noticed in particular." And yet again: VANILLA is a genuine KIRSTEN album. Her voice, that every microphone seems to fall in love with, and especially her unique guitar playing that has developed in a most spectacular fashion over the last two years, call for attention throughout the album from the first to the last note.
With her new album KIRSTEN no longer stands angry and tough in our midst. Her audience will definitely grow in numbers, the admiration will enhance and there will be plenty opportunity to dance. KIRSTEN will be seated. With her guitar, new songs and an ice cream. The VANILLA kind.
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