Freya Ridings fans have had to wait nearly four whole years for a new album. That said, it’s evidently been a wait worth hanging around for.
During her debut era, the 29-year-old London-born singer made quite the splash. Her 2017 breakthrough single, “Lost Without You,” not only entered the top 10 and achieved multiplatinum status, but it allowed Ridings to become the first female artist to have a top ten single that was entirely self-written since Kate Bush’s legendary “Running Up That Hill” in 1985. The success of her self-titled album furthermore proved Ridings was being appreciated at large. Peaking within the top 3, the record received a gold certification, featured her biggest international single “Castles,” and later earned Ridings her first-ever BRIT Award nomination.
Ready to do it all over again, Ridings re-emerged onto the music scene at the top of this year with the slick, disco-influenced “Weekends” before putting out a string of releases ahead of her sophomore LP, Blood Orange, which debuted straight in the UK top 10. With her Glastonbury appearance around the corner and an upcoming European tour to follow shortly after, EUPHORIA. caught up with Ridings to discuss the new record, its creative process, and how it feels to share such a unique accolade with Kate Bush.
Congratulations on the new album, Blood Orange. How have you felt about the reception of it?
I felt incredibly overwhelmed, but also really, really humbled by the reaction to my second album, Blood Orange. It’s been such a labor of love for the last four years, putting my heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears into making this record. It is vulnerable and honest and true as I really, really wanted to make it as raw as humanly possible and say the things that scared me the most. So it was a really, really scary thing to do to release it. But I’m so proud and happy that it’s out in the world. I really believe in these songs and I’m so grateful to the fans for their really warm reception of it after four years away.
It became your second top-ten album in the UK. You must be really happy about that, especially as an independent artist.
Yes, as an independent artist, I am over the moon that this is my second top-ten album in the UK. Things like this are the stuff you dream about as a child and especially as I write every single song. And it very much is out of pure love and passion that I do this job, just to empower myself through the heartbreaking times and to empower other women through it too. It’s such an honor to get to do this and especially to see it in the top ten in the UK charts was just absolutely spellbinding and I got full-body chills. I was so excited.
Among the 14 tracks, which was the most challenging to complete and why?
There were a few challenges. I think some of the songs came really easily and some of them took years to finish. I’d say that “Weekends” was the most challenging song to finish because it was really heartfelt and an almost embarrassing voice note that I did on my phone, whispered into my iPhone during the last tour we did before COVID and it was just on there for a long time. And it was only when I started playing it on these weekly Instagram live streams that I did during the lockdowns that the fans really championed it and were like, we would love to see this as a finished song. And that’s when I’d taken it into Steve Mac, who is one of my favorite producers and it was his idea to kind of make it a little bit more kind of euphoric and disco.
For me, it was going to be a bit more of a piano ballad, kind of like “Lost Without You” almost. But that was a bit of a leap of faith and a bit out of my comfort zone when it started and I kind of fought it for a while before sort of letting go and just kind of accepting that. I really love the melancholic lyrics mixed with the euphoric dance music.
Songs like “Weekends” and “Dancing in a Hurricane” take on more of a dance feel. What influenced you to go down that route?
I really, really love to dance and I think getting out of my comfort zone musically and sort of leaning into that more energetic side was something I really was craving, especially after playing so many festivals with the first album and only really having one or two upbeat songs like “Castles.” I really wanted to write with more energy and I feel very passionately about how dancing did turn my life around in some of the darkest times and kind of can put you back in momentum. So it was my conscious choice; I wanted something with more energy and more movement to it, so when I perform it, I can move around the stage and I can really give that energy back to the fans like they give to me.
Tell me the inspiration behind Blood Orange and you wanting to title the album after it.
It was only retrospectively that I realized that the album was written almost in two halves. The first half was when I was very, very isolated and alone after a very difficult breakup and going into COVID. And then the second half of it, I thought the whole album was going to be a breakup album. But it kind of turned into allowing yourself to feel self-compassion and love and growth and allowing yourself to love someone else again.
So I really, really loved the idea of an orange grove in the ’70s with real instruments, and I’d only wanted instruments on the album that could be dragged around to a blood-orange tree. That was one of my goals; very organic, real earthy in the music, but also in the lyrics. I wanted it to have that bittersweet, kind of raw honesty that was me singing about stuff that I found really, really hard to say to people. And that’s where the idea of the two halves of the Blood Orange came from.
How would you say your sophomore album differs from your debut?
I’d say that on this album, I had a lot more autonomy over the sound of it and it’s a lot less gothic and a lot more euphoric. I think that one of my goals was to have a lot more say over the sound and the sonics of the album. When I was making the first album, I’d never made one before and so this is the first time I felt I had some real autonomy in the studio to kind of bring in musicians and people I knew who I loved working with on the first record. And I actually get to, you know, write the string parts, write the brass parts, write the BV parts, and like, hand claps and just have real people I know playing on it. That was a really big thing that I wanted to have on this album and also just energy. Like I was saying, I wanted to stand on stage, which had been such a huge part of the first album, was touring. But this one, I wanted to stand on stage and just be able to dance and move and be free and stand up from the piano and just kind of lean out of my comfort zone because my comfort zone was very much gothic piano ballads, and I wanted to kind of have that anthemic ‘fall to the floor’ kind of feeling and singing along. I’m so excited to sing this album at Glastonbury next month.
You are embarking on a nationwide UK and Ireland tour later this year. Where in the world haven’t you performed before but you really want to?
Yes, we are embarking on a UK and Ireland tour later this year and then a European tour after. I have been putting so many ideas into this album and Blood Orange tour for years and I’m so passionate about this show. We’ve built a brand new show with a brand new band and I absolutely think they are some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with in my life. And I can’t wait for us to play this show live. We’ve got real brass, we’ve got incredible musicians who play strings and acoustic guitar, and a fantastic drummer, bass player, and keyboard player. So I can actually stand up and walk around the stage more, but I’m playing a lot more acoustic guitar, which is what I used to do back in the day, playing open mic nights. So it’s kind of full circle for me. But the place I’d love to play that we haven’t been to yet is South America.
We get so many messages from Brazilian fans in Sao Paulo especially, saying that they would love for us to go there and they were such a huge support on the first album. I would love to tour in South America in 2024. That is one of my biggest goals.
What songs are you most excited to perform every night that you haven’t yet made their live debut?
Well, there are a couple of new songs that I think are going to be potential next singles that I’m really, really excited to play live. There’s one we’ve actually written for a film that I haven’t been allowed to play yet because it’s not out yet with the film, but I think it’s going to be one of my favorite songs to perform live. She’s kind of a sister song to “Dancing in a Hurricane,” which is another one of my favorite songs to play live, and I think it’s a fan favorite, too. The amount of messages I get about “Dancing in a Hurricane” is just actually crazy. So hopefully this sister song of hers will be really, really fun to play alongside just the energy of working with producers like Lost Boy, who I’m such a big fan of. Hopefully, that will really translate on stage because I absolutely adore singing the songs that we’ve written together.
Your breakthrough single, “Lost Without You,” allowed you to become the first female artist to have a top ten single that was entirely self-written since Kate Bush released “Running Up That Hill” in 1985. How did you react when finding out this wild fact?
I think it’s still sinking in, to be honest. I think there is a part of me that doesn’t quite believe it. I think a story that kind of sums it up really well is my mum sort of talked me through when she was at sixth form in Coventry in her comprehensive school, and she was like, all the boys got a record player and they would all crowd round it in the library at lunchtime. And she remembers hearing Kate Bush’s running up that hill for the first time and she was blown away by it. She absolutely adored the song, but she said she had no idea when she was 18, listening to that song for the first time, that the next woman to do that, to write a song on her own that would go into the top ten, the next woman to do that would be her daughter. She said that thought never even crossed her mind, but she’s one of my biggest champions and she’s a fantastic screenwriter, scriptwriter, and novel writer in her own right. So she’s always inspired me to write my own music and so has my dad. They’re both the biggest champions of female songwriters that I’ve ever known, which is the reason why from such a young age, they championed me to try and write these songs on my own without any help. So that is something I’m incredibly grateful for. And lost without you did completely change my life as a song I wrote when I was 19 to now a 29-year-old woman. I look back on it with just so much gratitude that that song came into my life and into my head.
And finally, who has shared appreciation for your music that has taken you by surprise?
I think the biggest surprise that I’ve ever had was Prince William and Princess Catherine. They invited me to play at a charity event because I found out that they were massive fans of the song “Castles” and that kind of felt very, very surreal. They were very humble, very lovely, down-to-earth people, and I got to meet the family, and their little children, and it was just such a beautiful day. This really, really intimate event and I was kind of pinching myself. I was doing the washing up the next day with my mum and I was like, Was that a dream? Did I actually play for Royalty last night?
It was absolutely crazy, but they were really, really lovely and such massive champions of female British singer-songwriters that I was blown away by that. So that was the appreciation for my music that’s taken me by the biggest surprise.