Interview with Aidan & The Wild

Foto: Kim Balster

The artist’s new Single ‘You Needn’t Worry’ is out now 

Aidan & The Wild, is a music project started by talented multi-instrumentalist Diederik van den Brandt. Diederik is based in the Netherlands, and we chatted about his live experiences, his last two singles and guitar influences.  His album is going to be out in October, so definitely keep an eye on him. 

HELLO DIEDERIK, YOU HAVE A NEW SINGLE CALLED YOU ‘NEEDN’T WORRY’, TELL US MORE ABOUT THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG AND YOUR STORY SO FAR. 

You Needn’t Worry started out as a bit of a jam with myself on a delay sound that I stumbled upon, and I found that the lengthy repeat had a sort of self-propelling rhythm to it that I went to explore. That resulted in the driving guitar part of the song, which I recorded right away on the same evening that I wrote it. The repetitive “beat” and the spacious sound reminded me a bit of the desert blues from the middle east, which my younger brother loves. So the tune already made me think of him and I decided to dedicate the song to him. At an early age he was diagnosed with Aspergers and we had a real love & hate dynamic between us, I think we fought about every day but still continued to play together every day. He turned out to become a talented and creative young adult with a passion for creating art, but I know he’s had a difficult time with being told constantly that he’s different from other people. I can only imagine how that must be, and I wanted to write this song to let him know I think he’s just fine the way he is.

YOU HAVE A NEW ALBUM COMING OUT IN OCTOBER CALLED ’REVELATION NEVER CAME’. YOU DID ALL THE PRODUCTION AND INSTRUMENTS, APART FROM BASS AND DRUM, BY YOURSELF. HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE DOING THIS?

I’d been wanting to make a full length album for a long time, but felt like I should wait until the timing was right. I had started producing my own music with my EP “Homegrown”, which really started out as an experiment to just see where that would lead and it turned out to be something that I became really proud of to be releasing. When we had all the time on our hands in 2020 I decided the time was right to start on that album. I had become a bit more confident in the recording process, and had started to be doing a lot of gigs as a side-man as well as as a frontman. That really broadened my perspective on music, learning to play a supportive role as well as being in the spotlight, and I was really eager to take that knowledge with me into the studio.

For me the biggest advantage and the greatest fun of producing your record is that you can really dive into that musical vision that you have in your head and take all the time you need to explore that. Going into the studio with a bunch of guys can be fantastic as well, but the downside is that you’re almost always limited by the time you booked or your budget so you want to work as effectively as possible which leaves less time for exploring. Recording this album I played every instrument layer by layer, and with so much time I could really look for the music that I REALLY wanted to make. I’ve had times that I spent an entire evening coming up with a guitar part, recording it and afterwards deciding that it was not the right fit and throwing it away. But for me that felt great, because I was able to try it out without any pressure and I feel like that allows for stepping out of the box a bit more. I feel like producing this record myself allowed me to really come to the core of the music that I wanted to make.

One downside though was that there’s not a lot of feedback when working alone, so a few months into the process I came to the point that I was not sure whether some parts were absolutely fantastic or utterly garbage anymore, and if I was making anything nice at all. But I think that uncertainty is a part of the creative process anyways.

WHAT ARE THE ARTISTS AND BANDS THAT INFLUENCED YOUR SOUND ON THE UPCOMING ALBUM?

One artist that has been a huge influence since I started making my own music has been Ben Howard, I really love his inventive guitar style and his approach to songwriting. But that’s an influence that has more generally become embedded into my own style of playing. A big influence on this album specifically has been Hiss Messenger, who’s music I discovered way too late in 2019. And closely connected to Phil Cook, who’s music I discovered a few years earlier so I was amazed to learn that he plays with Mike. What really speaks to me about this music is how groovy it sounds within the folk spectrum, and how it’s a mix of all sorts of styles without losing that folky core. I’ve always been a fan of mixing influences into something a bit more out of the box, perhaps that’s why the music speaks to me so much. And the production is just sublime, every instrument plays exactly what it should and nothing more. I think that’s something that I’ve been attempting to search for as well on this record. But in the end I don’t think it’s really one artist that really influenced this record. I think there are some elements to be found from a lot of different places, some with respect to the 70’s folk and soul music and, in the more modern indie-folk and americana spectrum, and there’s even some hints of pop to be found.

FOR BEING 25 YEARS OLD YOU ALREADY PLAYED AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF SHOWS, MORE THAN 450. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE LIVE EXPERIENCES AND WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY ONCE EVERYTHING COMES BACK TO NORMAL?

Ah man. I got to open up for Hiss Golden Messenger in December 2019. I was already a huge fan at that time, and it had been a busy but also exhausting year with a lot of shows all over the Netherlands. Opening up for him was just an amazing experience and it was one of those shows that just feel like a reward for all the hard work. I even got to talk to him about music for a bit and asked him about a way he added a percussive element with his pick when strumming the guitar. It turned out it was accidental and they even tried to prevent that with tape in the studio, but that just didn’t have the same groove so he stuck with it. I thought it was an amazing insight how such an imperfection can turn out to be a positive thing.

Another big highlight was when I got to side-man for Baptiste W. Hamon on the pedal steel at the Once In A Blue Moon festival. I’d only been playing steel for about a year and half and there I was on the same festival as artists such as Gregory Alan Isakov, Tyler Childers and Courtney Barnett. I almost felt like I was just faking it as a musician there, but it was a great show and I’d been practicing day in day out until my fingers hurt like hell, so it was a great confirmation to see where being dedicated can lead you.

I don’t really have a specific stage that I NEED to be on, I think my path will lead me wherever it goes and wherever you get there are always greater ones to find, haha.

I do really want to go to Nashville one time, because I’ve never been there. And I’ve been connecting with a lot of really talented musicians in Paris and haven’t been able to go there for a long time because of the difficulty travelling abroad, so that’s a place that’s high on my list once things reopen a bit!

PREVIOUSLY  TO THIS LAST SINGLE YOU RELEASED A SONG CALLED ‘RUNNING’, WHAT’S THE MEANING BEHIND THE SONG AND MUSIC VIDEO?

Running was not only the first single, but also the first song I started recording for the record. I wrote it in the first weeks of lockdown. I’m not much of a sporter, but decided to take up running to at least keep somewhat in shape because we barely left the house at that time. Running through my neighbourhood I couldn’t stop thinking about what a strange world we were living in, that everything changed so suddenly and that now all the people were potential “dangers” that you had to stay 6 feet away from. I took off running a bit too enthusiastically, which made it go wrong, and I just thought the whole situation was so weird because I never wanted to start running in the first place but had felt forced because of the situation. I think I wrote this song to give all that a bit of a place. I’ve been working with Martijn Kuijten for al off the video’s for the record, and I think he helps capture the spirit very well.

YOU DEFINITELY HAVE A GREAT FINGER-PICKING TOUCH ON THE GUITAR, WHAT ARE YOUR GUITAR HEROES, AND THE ONES THAT INFLUENCED YOUR PECULIAR SOUND THE MOST??

Like I said before Ben Howard had been a huge influence on my play style. I was about 16 when I started getting into folk music, I think that was around the time that Mumford and Sons had their breakthrough. So that greatly motivated me to leave the electric guitar and pick up the acoustic, but I quickly got stuck to the same chords in standard tuning. Then I heard Ben play in his open C tuning, and that was something I really felt connected to so I tuned my guitar to that same tuning, learned to play a few of his songs and then started writing in that same tuning. I think I spent about 3 or 4 years playing only in CGCGGC until I started doing more standard tuning and other open tunings haha. Another acoustic guitarist I regard greatly is John Smith. I feel like he approaches playing the guitar like a true craftsman, and there’s so much finesse to the way he plays. Often including so many different elements in one guitar part. Rhythm, bass, melody, harmonies, it’s all in there.

And ultimately learning from John Butler has definitely been a big turning point in the way I play guitar and approach playing in general. I’d been mesmerized by his 12-minute long piece Ocean for quite a while and had been imagining how great it must feel to be able to play something like that. So eventually I made myself the deal that I would buy a 12-string guitar if I could manage to learn the song, learning it by ear. After a week of practice and sore fingertips I got the first 12 seconds down, so I figured it was a manageable feat. I ended up practicing this song for half a year until I could play it. Of course that added a whole lot of technical stuff to my skillbag. But for me the most valuable thing was learning that I could achieve a seemingly impossible challenge if I’m dedicated enough. That lesson also motivated me to buy a pedal steel guitar, which is known to be an extremely difficult instrument. But hey, if I could learn to play Ocean why not the pedal steel?

HOW’S THE INDIE MUSIC SCENE IN NETHERLANDS AND WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS FROM THERE?

I think there’s a lot of good and bad things about it! It’s a tiny country with a lot of people in it, so I think you’ll always have to work hard to stand out. But I guess that’s not too different from most places. I think a scene is always as good as you make it, and I’ve been connecting with a lot of great musicians from all over the country. Additionally I’ve been hosting a monthly songwriter night in my hometown for about 6 years now, and that allowed me to get to know many talented musicians as well. I think the Netherlands has a lot of nice initiatives that help smaller acts get off the ground, and there are so many really great venues. But at the same time I feel like the more “mainstream scene” is not very adventurous if you would compare it to for example Belgium or Germany, where there’s just more attention to acts that really dare to commit to their own distinctive sound. 

To be honest I don’t listen to a lot of Dutch musicians, although there are some great ones. I can’t really help it, but when I get to know musicians that I think are great I really want to play with them as well, so that’s kinda what happened haha. Dési Ducrot has a killer voice and writes beautiful americana songs, and I started playing guitar in her band a few years ago. I could give a long sum-up of cool acts, but I made a playlist of people I know that make great music, so maybe it’s easier to just refer to that one!

ANY OTHER PLAN FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR? 

This year is really centered around the release of my debut album in October. To be completely honest, other than that, just trying to survive the pandemic financially and hopefully being able to get back on the stage anytime soon.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?

You can already pre-order the album, and receive it a week before the official release! 

https://store.revancherecords.com/Store/?product=aidan-the-wild-revelation-never-came

Artists Links:

By Romeo Ciarla