Songwriter Freya Ridings ‘grateful’ for dyslexia


Freya RidingsImage copyright
Carlos Baez

Image caption

Freya is currently putting the finishing touches on her debut album

Freya Ridings has been all over Radio 1 this week after her track Lost Without You was selected by Scott Mills as his tune of the week.

Prior to that she was all over Love Island too, with all three of the 23-year-old singer-songwriter’s opening singles having helped to soundtrack ‘totes emosh’ scenes in the popular ITV2 reality show.

Now Freya’s moving across America, playing major festivals and headline shows for the first time ahead of her biggest UK tour to date in October.

Not bad for somebody who was written off as a musical no-hoper as a kid, due to her severe dyslexia.

“At school I was really heavily dyslexic, so I really struggled academically with reading and writing,” she explains.

“I loved playing piano and guitar, but I couldn’t read music or other people’s songs. Basically all my music teachers gave up on me, one by one.

Image copyright
Carlos Baez

Image caption

Her father Richard is an actor, musician and voice artist

“Then, at the age of nine, I started writing my own songs as no one would teach me anyone else’s.

“At the age of 11 I did my first open mic show, and it was one of those lightning-bolt moments where I suddenly found what I wanted to do.”

Freya, who later attended the famous Brit School, like Adele and Amy Winehouse before her, adds: “At the time I used to be really embarrassed about it – not being able to play like classically trained people.

“Now I look back and I’m so grateful for that. It was one of the most defining moments of my life, as it meant I had to write my own songs.

“It just became the greatest love of my life and really anchored me through some of the hardest years.

“Now it’s just this incredible time where the songs I wrote in isolation are actually the thing that are connecting me with people.”

Her advice for other would-be songwriters who aren’t necessarily great academically is this: “If you can hear it and work it out, you can ‘write’ it.”

This is unofficially known as the Sir Paul McCartney method – and he did all right for himself.

“I never sit down with a pen – I just let it come into my subconscious” she says.

Freya’s first three tracks – Lost Without You, Blackout and Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover Maps – all made it out of her brain, onto record and then onto TV.

Lost Without You was the most ‘Shazamed’ song ever to feature on the series, suggesting viewers were loving what they were hearing.

(That was the song playing when Laura Anderson was dumped by Jack Fowler, in case you were wondering.)

“They used all three of my first singles on the show, which I was shocked and blown away by. I need to send someone some flowers!” Freya jokes.

“All my songs are based on personal experience, and Lost Without You came out fully born.

“That moment had really affected me, and I almost didn’t realise until I was writing that song and felt that much emotion.

“I definitely never thought I’d never ever share it with anyone, so the way it’s been received is really heartbreaking and heart-warming at the same time.”

Ridings is currently sharing her songs with thousands of new fans across the States. She was at Lollapalooza last weekend and has Austin City Limits to come.

As well as moving into other countries, the London balladeer has also crossed genres after another of her tracks, Ultraviolet, was remixed as a dancefloor filler by Welsh electro DJ High Contrast.

“I love the fact that someone wants to experiment with a song you’ve written,” she admits. “You just write them on your own on a piano at home and then it’s like, wow!”

Backed by BBC Music Introducing, Freya cites “incredible female performers” like Taylor Swift and Beyonce as inspirations, both musically and sartorially-speaking.

She lived out a childhood dream last year by performing at the Royal Albert Hall, as support for Tears for Fears.

She’d actually appeared at the iconic venue before, under very different circumstances.

“I was in a choir at school and we were part of the BBC Proms back in around 2002,” she reveals.

“There were 200 of us in our little yellow T-shirts, looking down at the stage thinking ‘oh my god, imagine playing there!’

“So walking out onto that stage was so surreal. It was so dark and I couldn’t see or hear anything.

“I was almost more nervous walking off than walking on.”

Freya Ridings tours the UK in October.

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