An Interview With An Average Woman- Van Wyck
Our first interview of 2018 belongs to the brilliant Van Wyck. When I first heard her song “An Average Woman” I was blown away by its quiet brilliance. Her new album of the same name will be released on Friday, and I cannot implore you enough to go and listen to it. Van Wyck’s music will get under your skin, and stir feelings in your soul you didn’t even know you possessed. When I had the chance to ask Wyck a few questions I jumped at the chance. Even in an interview, Van Wyck is a story-teller, eloquent speaker and an inspiration to all she encounters (myself included). Sit down in a quiet space and read the interview below.
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions and letting the readers of Wordkrapht get to know you a little bit better. When did the moment occur when you knew music was your calling?
I think it was after a busking adventure in Paris. I was visiting a friend who was studying there and we ran into a few street musicians in a bar. We got along really well, more people joined, and the night spiralled into this bizarre drunken road trip though Paris, with stops at different parties – even one on a boat on the Seine – and ended with me, my friend and a guitarist on bench on the Boulevard Clichy in the early hours of the morning. The guitarist starting playing these Samba songs from Astrid Giberto and I coincidentally knew all the lyrics so started singing along. Something big clicked into place then – I think we fell in love on that spot and he asked me to come join his daily busking session in the Metro. So I stayed in Paris for a few weeks and every morning we would sing songs in the metro to unwilling commuters until we had enough money to buy food.
I went back to Amsterdam with a lot of promises and a few weeks later, lovesick maybe, I wrote a song for him, recorded it and sent it on a cassette tape to Paris. I had always had a lot of music in my head and had written songs before, but this one really felt different. I recognised somehow that it was truly a new song, the others had felt more like bad copies. For weeks I didn’t hear back, maybe even months and I had almost forgotten about it when this letter arrived from Paris. Not from him though, but from a girl I didn’t know. She introduced herself to me and described how she was living in an apartment building in Paris and that all the mail was kept at a table in the hall and she had seen this intriguing envelope there for weeks and nobody picked it up. She finally decided to open the envelope to see if she could get it to the right owner. She found my tape, read my letter and played the song and was so blown away by it she just had to write me back and tell me. She described how touched she was by my voice and the song and how she hoped I would have a brilliant career. It was a very bewildering experience, receiving fanmail before I even had thought of the idea of becoming a singer or wanting fans. I was studying history at the time and had always felt way too insecure to stand on a stage. But her letter shifted something inside me – I realised I had created something that had moved someone, that had reached over and touched another human being. It felt like a sign, like someone was making an effort to let me know this was what I was supposed to be doing.
What prompted you to start the One Song A Week Project? Do you have a favorite or most memorable experience from it?
After I released my first EP I was unsure of what my next step should be. I wanted to experiment more with songwriting, work with different people and try out new things before I committed myself to an album. I also didn’t really know how that album should sound. I had so many strands of music in my head, so many ideas that needed fruition. It felt like I had to work through them before I could move on to where I wanted to be.
I think overall the good thing that came out of it was really learning how to be more open to the songs. They are there all the time, waiting to be recognised and all you have to do is open the window and let them in. My favorite experience was with the song My Sweetheart, which is also on the album now, because it came to me in a dream, almost completely finished. I wrote a blog about it here.
Tell the readers a little bit about An Average Woman
It’s the title track of my upcoming album and it’s a very important song to me, both politically and personally. I think through the years I’ve built up this resistance to the way our societies celebrate success as uniqueness and individualism. It’s defined by excluding most people and I wanted to make a fist against that, even though it’s a soft fist. Our society places so much pressure on being wonderful, successful and fabulous, it sometimes feels like only the perfect women are allowed to be visible. Are allowed to have a voice and speak up. There is a whole industry that is based on making women feel uncomfortable about themselves – so they buy more products – In a way I want to rage against that. I want to say to all women that they are allowed to just be who they are. Political songs are often hard and loud. And sure of themselves. This song is soft and full of doubt. It wonders and contemplates and admits to faults on many levels. It’s like a soft-spoken anthem for mediocrity.
What was the most important thing you learned during the recording of the album that other artist’s may find useful?
Maybe the most important thing is to try to be as honest as you can, to trust your instincts and make something that is true and necessary.
Advice or words of wisdom for the women in music today?
I found it easier once I had decided not to act out of a drive for success, but out of a sense of duty. I think you have a duty towards your talents. I felt I had a duty towards the voices that kept calling to me, searching out the untold stories in our past, about everyday woman who struggle and fail on the one hand and the mystical joy of songwriting on the other hand. So often I am amazed by the way women’s voices have been shut up. I think we owe it to other women to keep telling those stories, we need those voices. So we need woman to keep speaking their truths and to define part of our public sphere.
What is your wish for women for 2018 and beyond?
That they free themselves of the pressures of being ‘every woman’.
Artist Name: Van Wyck
Location: Amsterdam, North Holland
Genre: Indie Folk
Label: Maiden Name Records