suggestioni musicali a cura di raffaello russo
After taking part in many different projects, Chantal Acda, Dutch-born but long time Belgian resident, recently released the first album under her own name.
“Let Your Hands Be My Guide” is undoubltely among this year’s most deeply felt, elegant and emotional records. Here’s how she talks about the making of the album and about her overall approach to music.
In first instance, your different artistic experiences make me curious about your musical training…
Mmm I didn’t have any musical training. My mum is an opera singer and teacher but I never took any lessons. She heard something special in my voice and always told me to follow my own way and take time to find my own voice.
And then, how did you come into folk songwriting, ambient music and – generally speaking – more experimental fields?
I don’t really look at music thinking about genres. I think most of all I am a songwriter and these songs can wear different coats. The ambient part came in because I always felt a lot listening to that kind of music. I always do think it’s interesting to work with musicians who have a different approach like for example jazz musicians.
In Sleepingdog you and Adam Wiltzie succeeded in balancing melody-based songs and experimentation: do you think that a similar formula can be the right one to renew the typical songwriters’ way of expression?
I do think it’s already happening. Some musicians, like for example Sam Amidon, are already crossing these boundaries. For me it’s very refreshing. It breaks the patterns that we all got used to.
How did you first get in touch with Adam Wiltzie?
We moved to Brussels in the same week and immediately met each other and had dinner. The beginning of a long very intense friendship (13 years ago).
After Sleepingdog, True Bypass and Isbells you finally released a solo album: did you feel something different in your musical approach while writing “Let Your Hands Be My Guide”?
I had a lot of collaborations but I always tend to put myself behind the other musician. It was so hard to define to others what my strength is not being a great technical musician or singer. I had to find people who would embrace just that only thing. Almost honoring it and giving up the will to play their own style/parts. This was my dream and this was also what happened. Truly my best music experience I ever had.
Apart from those you’ve already worked with, is there any artist you feel close to your way of making music?
Sam Amidon for sure!
As you’re already used to be involved in projects with other musicians, is there any other artist you’d fancy working with?
I would love to work with Joni Mitchell. But that is way out of my league :). Maybe more possible I would say Bill Frisell.
You’re Dutch but many of your projects are based in Belgium. It seems that plenty of interesting new music is coming from around there: what do you think of Belgian and Dutch music scenes?
I moved to Belgium 13 years ago and I feel at home here. I never really did in Holland even if I was born there. The Belgian music scene is very exciting. A lot of crossover. In Holland its more the middle of the road. But some great bands too! Good people always find their way!
Would you suggest any artist worth checking?
Kim Jansen and Astronaute!
What’s your ideal condition for writing music?
When no-one can hear me or when I am watching very bad television. I don’t know why that is but it works :)
Generally speaking, are your songs mostly born from emotional inspiration or do they come out in a more “technical” way?
Definitely the first thing. I don’t have the technical baggage to work with it. My songs appear in my unconsciousness. I don’t think at all when I write. It almost feels as if I am in a trip and on drugs. Most of the time after writing a song I don’t even know what happened.
The title of your record is really fascinating: which feelings has it been inspired from? What’s the message you tried to give through its music and lyrics?
Hands can mean so many things. They touch us, meet people, let things go. They hurt and embrace.
This record is all about embracing and letting go. That’s the general spirit of the record. When we look at all the aspects and patterns inside ourselves, without judging ourselves so much, we find each other in a strong, serene place.
What role does music play in your life? Do you live it simply as a passion o do you think it can turn in a work?
Music is my home. My only home. The only place where I can totally be. It will never turn into work I think!
How would you describe the meaning and the goal – both personal and artistic – of your music?
Because making music is something spiritual to me, I hope it can also be for others and inspire or give listeners some peace of mind in this crazy and sometimes harsh world. But again, when I write I have to goal. It just happens. I never think” oh lets write some songs”. I don’t think there is a real goal to be honest. It’s just a long road of growing to me.
Some of the songs in “Let Your Hands Be My Guide” could be describe as quite similar to a female version of Peter Broderick, and you also sang with him the wonderful duet in “Arms Up High”. How’s been working with him and Nils Frahm?
They both are amazing, just like Gyða and especially Shahzad. Wonderful musicians. Peter was the only songwriter in the team next to me. I do feel extremely connected with him.
What do you think of the increasingly growing “modern classical” releases floating around? For what a definition might mean, do you like it?
I like it. It calms down my kids. But I do think people like Nils make it more interesting to me because he doesn’t stick with just the romantic parts. Walks on different fields. I also think the growth shows that the world wants to slow down a bit. A good thing!
What do you think about the way music spreads nowadays through the web?
Mmm what I like is the direct contact with fans. To be able to hear how people who like my music are doing. What they listen to.
Are you interested in different arts other than music? Any literary reference or inclination?
I love poetry and dance especially. Like Anne Theresa de Keersmaeker.
Lastly, after an album so intense and peculiar, what else can we expect from you in the near future, and what do you expect from music?
I expect and hope that music will stay my home. My safety and a reflection of my soul. Depth.
What you can expect? I think only my unconscious knows and it will hide itself until I listen back to the music I wrote. Mmm This makes me feel like a weirdo… :-)
(foto: Levi Lenaerts)