Electronic-pop artist HEBE was born into a family of artists, her father is a film and documentary director, her mother is a theater designer and teacher at The Rietveld Academy and her brother is a visual and light designer. This helped pave the way for her career in music. After HEBE had graduated from the Conservatory of Amsterdam in 2014, she released her 6-track debut EP ‘The Beginning’ in October 2015 at the age of 24.
HEBE’s newest single Hunting Me is a groove based Electro-Pop song. In the verse she focuses with a grounded, warm voice and minimalistic production on telling her story from where the melody fluently moves to the powerful, uplifting chorus.
Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?
As a young girl, I remember sitting in the back of the car. Me, my brother and parents were going on holiday to France. I had a discman with two cd’s and I would play them over and over, looking through the window dreaming away (most of the time dreaming I was in a film drama, leaving everything behind and starting over in some new place).
I loved to pick the songs for these two cd’s, carefully deciding which one would best fit for a two week listen. These compilations would see Joe Cocker and Buena Vista Social Club, but also John Mayer and Nelly Furtado.
My interest in music production came later, I’m not very good with technical stuff, and I felt craftsmanship on an instrument was most important. After I graduated from the conservatory I started talking to producers about making my first record and while talking to them, I realised there were still a lot of choices to make even though the songs and arrangements were ready. I started working with producer Huub Reijnders, he told me to make a ten song playlist of productions I liked. I think that was the first time I really listened to the way a song was produced, what choices they made in sounds, type of drums and instruments. All the hours sitting next to him has given me so much, looking over his shoulder and trying to understand what I liked and disliked.
If you could paint a picture of your unique sound, what would it look like? It would be impressionistic and in balance. Many shades of blue and use of only two other bright colours. The painting should not provoke, but be open for interpretation. A certain simplicity if you would look from a distance, but multiple, deeper layers once you look up close.
What are some of your key musical influences?
The album ‘Van Morrison and the street choir’ by Van Morrison is an album I listened to since I was very young and brings so many childhood memories. After all these years, I still love this album. Van Morrison has been one of my biggest influences as a songwriter. On this album all songs are uplifting/danceable and sad/introvert at the same time, which I think is a beautiful balance.
Other’s that influenced me amongst others are D’angelo, his vocals and band is super groovy, his songs are sexy and productions sophisticated. Hopefully he will release another record in the near future.
One of my favourites also: Bon Iver. He touches me right in the heart with every song. What’s on your current playlist?
James Blake’s new album ‘Assume Form’. Amazing record, his love songs are very well written, cute without getting cheesy. Also nice to hear in his music, that he is in love!
‘Graceland’ by Paul Simon, actually all of his repertoire, because I have been reading his biography, so wanted to listen to all his songs again with some new background information.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
There are two different songwriting flows for me. There’s the process when I’m writing for somebody else. Before the whole writing starts, I try to understand what fits the artist or person (sound, theme, tonal range). When I have a clear picture, I make a pallet for theme and lyrics and reference artists. From there I start with melody and chord progressions.
This songwriting process has some sort of structure, while writing for myself has no structure at all. I try not to force myself when it comes to writing music for HEBE. I mostly start a new song with just a single lyric- or melody line that came to me at night or on the bike. From there I start vibing on these words with different chords, new melodies and I try to make other lines that fit the first line. Sometimes I finish a song in an hour, sometimes it takes two years to finish a song.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
My mind has to be open for creativity, when I’m really busy, stressed out or in the middle of a release, I can’t write for a certain period. That part of the brain sort of shuts down when there is too much going on, especially when there is a lot of practical stuff that I need to do. It happens that a melody-line comes to me or I read a nice lyrics that I want to use for a song, but if I’m not inspired, I record it on my phone and leave it at that.
However when my mind is open and relaxed, creative juices come in all forms. On the bike, at night when it’s dark, when I see a poster with a nice line or when somebody describes something in a beautiful way for example. I think I wrote most of my songs when I was a bit sad, but as long as I’m open for creating something there are a million forms for it to start.
As an artist, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?
Art and business is a tricky one. Of course I don’t like the fact that it’s so money driven and that artists most of the time come out pretty shitty from deals.
At the same time I can’t be naive and have to accept the fact, that part of creating something as a job (not if it’s a hobby) is agreeing to the business side of it. However I do feel the business side of music is in many ways driven by people who are schooled in music business, but have no experience in what it’s like to be creating something, to be on stage and release something you made. If more people at the business side of music knew how fragile that is, that might help in sometimes getting a more respectful base of communication and agreements.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage. The concerts I will always remember, are the ones that gave me a feeling of power, made me want to cry somewhere in the middle and by the end of the concert let me go home with a lot of energy. Music can be healing and if my audience would in someway feel that my music gave them some power, reflection or healing, I would be very grateful.
What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?
Once, after a concert in Alkmaar, a woman came up to me. She told me my song ‘I knew it from the start’ was the song of her relationship with her husband, their relationship was not an easy one, but they had accepted that and ‘I knew it from the start’ described their struggles. Her husband had died a couple of months before and they played the song at his funeral, they wanted to see me live together, but they weren’t able to anymore, now after some months she decided to see my show alone.
That somebody feels a song you wrote, is theirs, is the biggest compliment I can ever receive.
What would you like to achieve with your music? What does success look like to you?
For me success is the freedom to write music for myself and others whenever I want, to release music whenever I want, to do a club tour with a light-show I designed whenever I want etc. At this point in my career I am still very dependant. I have a limited amount of resources, that means I have to be smart in when and where I will release new music, think about who I collaborate with, think about when other artists are releasing new music and think about what type of venues I want to play (and make sure there will be an audience;).
All these things are not part of the creative process of being a songwriter and artist, but are company management of a start-up. I’ve learned a lot along the way, so I’m grateful for all these experiences, but success for me at this point is being able to have the freedom to decide how you want things and when you want them.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?
I’ll be releasing an acoustic version of Hunting Me the 6th of december. I’ll be in Morocco for a collaboration with a Ugandan artist and I will be in Uganda in the beginning of 2020 to write new music. So a lot of travelling, before I release my second single in February 2020. The title of the second song is still a surprise, but it’s about a love affair at a long distance, a song very close to my heart.
In May I will release my album with a show in Amsterdam and London, so I’ll be coming your way soon!