If they ever come to make Freya Ridings: The Movie they won’t need to invent the film’s dramatic opening. Fittingly with the north Londoner coming from an acting family (her father Richard voices Peppa Pig’s dad!), her ‘I can sing’ moment was suitably cinematic.
A lonely teenager who hid away in the music room at lunchtimes, she mistakenly attended an open mic night for sixth formers despite being a mere first year, yet it was while trying to channel Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles live that the tall-for-her-age redhead discovered her own rasping, octave-spanning voice. Cut to a room full of cheering students and Ridings now certain of her path.
“Growing up I was incredibly shy and struggled with dyslexia at school. Writing and playing songs became an escape,” she explains of how she ended-up onstage. “I never thought the songs I wrote in isolation would actually be the thing connecting me with so many people. ‘Connection not perfection’ is something my Mum said once, that has really helped me when I feel anxious. It makes me remember that it’s not about being perfect, just being human and connecting with emotion in the moment.”
While a biopic remains a little way off, it’s likely that Ridings’ voice and songs will be utilised in films in the not too distant future. Her evocative, atmospheric vocals are soothing yet affecting, while the dramatic, enveloping quality of her songs is so clear even the producers of ITV’s Love Island turned to her latest single, Lost Without You, to add some real emotion to the TV meat market.
Though the social media reaction to the inclusion of the BRIT School graduate’s track was huge (“I owe someone a bouquet to say thank you,” grins the 23-year-old) Ridings’ own highlights so far – and future career goals – are instead focused around the Royal Albert Hall. Having visited the South Kensington venue with her primary school choir, the Victorian music pod looms large in Ridings’ immagination. A slot there supporting Tears For Fears last October even eclipsed her open mic breakthrough in Ridings’ estimation, while the star dressing room is a firm target. “As a Londoner, headlining at the Royal Albert Hall would be totally wild and a dream come true!” she says. “Playing there [last year] was a jaw dropping night for the eight-year-old me.”
With a European tour about to kick off, and an album for the spin-off label of Christian Tattersfield’s publisher, Good Soldier Songs (The 1975, Biffy Clyro), in the works, the RAH might need to be pencilled in soon. “It’s such a privilege to take the sounds you only thought you’d hear in your head and transform them into reality by working with some of my heroes,” she says cryptically of sessions so far. “I’m a huge fan of indie piano, pop ballads and cinematic music. Expect a mix, with a few new surprises too!” So don’t rule out that movie… Action!
By Paul Stokes