“No metal album wanted to come out of me”

Anneke van Giersbergen has released what is probably her most intimate album. Reason enough to talk to her about music, dark moments and the future of VUUR.

Ursula von Dark Divas


5. Mar 2021

Anneke van Giersbergen

Almost a week ago you released your solo album The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest. Feel good?

Anneke van Giersbergen: Yes, it really is. All in all, the whole process took more than a year. From writing the songs to the final result. I have to say, I'm really happy. Now it's finally out and people can hear it. Such moments are always very exciting. But there is also a bit of fear. Because it's a very personal album and you hope that people like it and understand it. But so far things are going very well.

I like the title of the album – it brings back a lot of memories. Dark nights, you look at the sky and at some point one star after another appears and the night is suddenly no longer dark. Did you also have images like that in mind when you decided on the title?

Anneke: That's exactly how it was. Well said. There are so many challenges in life for everyone. Each of us experiences darker phases and we have to go through them to get to the brighter ones. I believe there is a balance between darkness and light in life. We just have to find that balance. We should not ignore our problems, but identify ways to cope or solve them and thus find a brighter place.

Do you think it takes the darkness to appreciate the light more?

Anneke: I think so. I am generally a very happy person. But once you've gotten through something, you see happiness in an even more differentiated way. What you also learn over time is the certainty that even seemingly insurmountable problems can be overcome.

Your album is, as you said, very personal, very intimate. You don't hold back your feelings, your worries and your thoughts - that's very brave. Do you see this as your artistic duty and do you find it easy to open yourself up like that?

Anneke: It's easy in the sense that I always write about my feelings and my life. The big difference with this album is that I wrote about a very specific time in my life. When the album was finished, the world outside was burning with the Corona crisis. Then I thought to myself: Here I am with my eleven songs, so get out with it, who cares. I played the album to a few people. We talked about what it was about. The feeling arose that we all have to struggle with these problems. Because each of us is looking for love, but we also all have the urge to fight for what we believe in. That's what my album is about. And the people I played the album to not only understood what I was singing about, but they also shared the feelings. This really surprised me and I wasn't aware of it.

You took your guitar and retreated to a small house near your hometown of Eindhoven to write the songs. So you isolated yourself even more during isolated times - was that necessary to be creative?

Anneke: The self-isolation took place before Corona. So I had no idea that I would soon be truly locked up. (laughs) I had already written songs or parts of them the previous year. I wanted to write a metal album, but it just wouldn't come out of me. Then I wrote all these melancholic, soft songs. Then I thought, what if I just go to a quiet place so I can concentrate on these songs and the lyrics. And also to clear my head and make sense of it all. We always go back to this house – for a week or so – to write songs. And I don't usually like that because I get my inspiration from other sources - like other countries, other people I meet. So inspiration often comes from outside. This time it wasn't like that, it came from within, from my heart, from my head and so I felt the need to shield myself a little and concentrate. The album was then completed during the pandemic.

You already said it yourself, this album is soft and melancholic. Things are tougher at VUUR. Which gait do you feel more comfortable with?

Anneke: To be honest: I love both. These worlds are far apart. But a metal crowd also appreciates a song by a singer-songwriter and vice versa. And when I'm on stage with a metal band, you have a lot of people there. There's a lot of energy coming from the audience and you can sing loudly, you can move freely and I like that - almost like a child, I can let my energy out there. But when I perform with just the guitar and the people in the audience are sitting there, it's a completely different energy, a very personal, intimate atmosphere. I like that too. Then I think to myself: I can do this until I'm 85. (laughs) But headbanging won't work for that long. (laughs) There's basically an age limit for jumping around on stage. I just love both and I want to do both as long as possible.

Your native language is Dutch, you have also sung songs in Dutch. Was it possible for you to sing the album in your native language?

Anneke: I have already written and sung a few numbers in Dutch. I've been carrying around the idea of making an entire album in my native language for a long time. And then I could translate it so that I would have two albums. But the lyrics in Dutch don't come out of me as easily as the lyrics in English. But it would be even more personal, closer to me, because it is my mother tongue. When I write, I write in my dialect. But I just don't have enough songs yet.

Let's talk a little about the music business. You've been here for a long time. What has changed for the better and what has possibly changed for the worse?

Anneke: What has changed for the better is that it has become easier for many people to record music. You can record your own music on the computer at home in your room. It's great that young artists no longer need big budgets to get a foothold in the music business. They no longer need huge record companies in the background because they can do everything themselves. My son listens to many of these young artists who write their own music, sing their own music, record it themselves, produce it themselves. There is so much creativity there. It has this indie style and is called bedroom pop. This is fantastic. In our time, I sound old now, but 20 to 30 years ago, you needed a real budget and a record company to support you. As a result, many talents certainly remained undiscovered. Today we have such great opportunities via the Internet and the various platforms and can network with each other. This opened up a big world. A negative aspect could perhaps be that there are perhaps too many artists now and the audience has a hard time finding out what they really like. There's a lot of bad stuff in there because it's become so easy. But actually I hardly see anything negative.

You are a role model for many artists – including Floor Jansen from Nightwish. How are you doing with that?

Anneke: Honestly, I don't think about it. But maybe that's what people like. You see that I follow my inner drive and my feelings. I work very intuitively. What I write – lyrics or songs – comes straight from the heart. I believe that when listeners and artists are on the same level, there is a good connection. I have the same feeling with many musicians that I enjoy listening to and think are good. For example, Freddy Mercury or Kate Bush. These are great role models in my world. Madonna was also important to me in the 1980s. Simply because she was who she was. When someone gives me that feeling, I see it as a huge compliment. I try not to think about it. Otherwise you'll be too self-confident. Of course you should believe in yourself and be proud of what you do and what you do. But I think you should always doubt and question yourself: Is what I'm doing right? Is that the right song? You can't stop asking yourself questions and questioning yourself. But Floor – she's so great and she's one of the best singers in our scene. It makes me proud to hear her say that about me.

We are slowly coming to the end and we still have to talk about Corona. What's it like for you to release an album in times like these?

Anneke: It's a strange time. And the first lockdown - when the whole world was locked down - that was such a strange feeling. It took me weeks to find a way to deal with it. At some point I thought to myself, I'll just concentrate on the album. So it wasn't all that negative. The album was also finished much earlier than planned. We will get through this time step by step. But I won't be able to tour properly again until 2022 at the earliest. Until then, smaller performances with a few people may be possible - we depend on the government as to what will be allowed. But we have to wait another year for real touring. This is difficult. But we carry on. Day after day, week after week. And we have plans and ideas – and we also have something nice planned online.

Looking to the future, what are your plans for VUUR?

Anneke: VUUR is there, you know. It's my project and it's very free at the same time. If I want to go the hard direction again, I'll do it with VUUR. Anything heavy will go under the name VUUR. But first, as soon as we get the green light, I want to tour with my solo album.

One of our followers wanted to know if there might be a chance to work with The Gathering again?

Anneke: Never say never. But at the moment there are no plans. I concentrate on my own projects.

Time flies, we have already reached the end - what would you like to say to your fans on dark-divas.com?

Anneke: We are connected online and that is a wonderful thing. But the best thing is when we can tour again, get on stages and sweat a little again. But until then, I hope we stay connected online. That's the only thing that matters right now.

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