GINGE: finding confidence, empowerment and joy through music
Written by Story of Song
“I don’t think I remember a life without singing, or without music”, GINGE (Renée), tells me one evening over our WhatsApp video call. GINGE laughs, and continues: “Well, I guess that’s most people say when they are asked this question.” She is bubbly, surrounded by a full head of red hair (probably a big sign that that’s where she got her name inspiration from), and with a voice that reminds me of a mix of somewhere between Peggy Lee and Joy Crookes – but one that is unique in its own way. GINGE’s vocals remind me of dripping honey, the sharpness of a lemon and the tang of a lime; sharp and intoxicating.
The Leeuwarden born GINGE originally had a passion for the theatre, and enrolled in a theatre course. However she slowly realised that music – and more particularly singing – were her passion. With the help of a friend she met on the course, she started uploading some covers onto YouTube. “There was one friend I made, and she already made these [music] covers here and there. I already sang and did stuff here and there but that was I think the starting point of it all”, she tells me. “I started realising: ‘Oh wow, okay! If I put a cover online with us two together and we’re singing harmonies and doing fun stuff from the earlier ages, people really react with enthusiasm.’ So that was the key moment that I realised that this could be more than just… a fun thing I could do. I started making more covers and putting stuff out on YouTube.” And thanks to GINGE’s new found confidence and covers, she came into contact with her current manager Gillionaires. With the help of Gillionaires, GINGE tells me that they managed to show her that “singing could be more, and saying I could make my own music. So, the beginning of 2018 I had just started writing my own songs and my own lyrics. I had my first session where I met the producers I work with the most now – they’re called Clarkxkent. They produce the songs I’ve put out now. They also really took their time with me to allow me to discover what this was, how I could I write and what kind of music I want to make.”
With a quaint but impressive list of three songs, GINGE’s tracks are all in English, however, considering that she is Dutch, this makes them even more impressive. I ask her about her song writing process – but she tells how her process changes for every song. “It’s difficult to really point out what the process is – because it’s always different. But sometimes – most of the times – I just put on some instrumental music and try to find words to it. Or when it was still possible, I travelled by train every day to school (just a short trip), and on those trips on the train I started writing down stuff in my notes on my phone. Thoughts, or things I saw – even quotes from somebody that I thought were interesting. I take those notes with me when I go on to write a song…, I tend to work on those notes or sometimes I listen to songs where one word really sticks to me, or I learn new English words.” The first song I heard from GINGE was “Triggerhappy”, a trippy R&B ballad, combining incredible wordplay with equally incredible production, it caught me by surprise with its power and its strength. “Triggerhappy” – that’s a fun story. I was once watching TV and there was nothing on, so I flipped through all the networks, and I just started watching this CSI – I really wasn’t following it, but someone was saying to someone with a gun: “Don’t be trigger happy”. I had never heard that word before, and I was like, “what does that even mean?”. So I started to watch it with the subtitles and stuff and I googled it. And then I found out it was like, being too eager to shoot the shot. Don’t be too trigger happy – it’s about… don’t be too excited to already shoot the bullet.” I tell GINGE about my love for the track: “It’s such a cool track, when I listen to it, it makes me feel like such empowered woman. Honestly. There’s a line that I love as well: “I think I’ll have your brains for lunch”, right?” She laughs, and says: “there are these things about being an angry woman. You know? And, when I sing “Triggerhappy” right now, I feel bad-ass and normally I’m very easily touched or not used to conflict. But when I sing this [Triggerhappy], I’m like: “Yeah, come at me!”. We both laugh and she carries on: “I don’t care, do it!”
Throughout the course of our conversation, I realise that both GINGE and myself find comfort in writing, and GINGE summed it up perfectly: “With this song (“Triggerhappy”), I just wanted to write cruel things and say mean things because I can, and I’m not always sweet, and I’m not always nice. I like being sweet and kind, and I hope people see me as that, but I like it so much when I can be rawer in music and burst open into my voice or words that are mean.” I remember wondering if GINGE could read my mind when she said that. “Sometimes you’re this person who cannot easily get angry, or doesn’t really dare to get mad or stuff, you just feel… a bit frustrated. So it’s nice to have this place where you CAN be angry and you feel that you can be this person.” And while GINGE loves showing her anger in her songs, she also loves showing her vulnerability, too.
“Flowers”, is a track that is very close to GINGE’s heart and one she tells me is her favourite. “I wrote this song in the summer of July 2018”, she tells me, beaming with pride. “There was a boy I was seeing and there was always this summer thing… but it was thing that we always came back to but I always tried to not go in too deep. I still don’t really know why, but I wrote a “Flowers” a week before we had this festival. It’s really about how I experienced love at that age and sometimes still do. Because I had this thing – and I think most people, or a lot of people, have this – where you like the thing that is going on between you and a love interest or interesting person, but somewhere you think: “maybe it’s not enough?” or maybe you break it off for whatever reason. Then, when’s its over and broken up, you start realising “oh shit, maybe I shouldn’t have [ended things]”. She pauses, reflecting. “‘You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone’ is also a bit… toxic in a way. You mostly remember the good stuff. In this song, I’m really telling myself that I’m grateful for myself that I put it like this. I’m really telling myself: “we had a good thing, but please remember there was a reason for why I said “no” or why we broke it off”. I tend to romanticise memories and always stuff in love. When I look back on things, things are so rose-coloured.” She notifies me of how “Flowers” does not actually has the word “flowers”: “People always think I’m singing “Remind me of your flowers” but it is actually “flaws”. The word “flowers” actually isn’t anywhere in the song. It goes like this: “remind me of your flaws, remind of me the ways we didn’t click / how I wish I was more conscious / remind me of the days you make me feel sick”. “Flowers” also marked GINGE’s first time working with Clarkxkent. “I was still really shy and not really confident enough to really write out a song in the room when I was in the studio. I used to record these voice notes and send them to them, and maybe they liked it, maybe they don’t. And with “Flowers” I sent them the note I wrote on my keyboard with the same chords and stuff, and then they – on the same day, or the next day even – they started making a demo out of it with a beat underneath it. It started out as a ballad and evolved into this more… I don’t know what genre it would fit in, but I would say it’s an electronic ballad, because you have these electronic sounds in it. They started working it out and then we came together and we just started working on it. It was a slow process, mainly because I was obviously still learning about how making music works. I think it is really nice that we took that time, and I love how it turned out.”
Despite GINGE’s passion and love for music, singing and songwriting, it’s not the only passion in her life. GINGE currently lives in Utrecht, where she studies “Cultural Society Studies”, which is similar to social work. “Sometimes, people will ask me why I don’t pursue music full-time. And it’s because I really love my studies that I’m doing at the moment. I don’t really like the idea of doing just one thing… Like, of course you’re going to have to put in hours and hard work, and you really have to want it to have it become something… But you can also want more things! And that’s fine. And you know, maybe I won’t do anything with my studies later on but I love doing it now. Even though, I really hope I can make music into my bigger job, I do like this studies that I do, and its mostly about helping other people, and I really love that side of it. Because music connects people, and you can help people with it.” I tell GINGE about how I’ve been finding solace in music more recently, probably heavily due to the fact that the entire world is in lockdown because of COVID-19. She agrees, and tells me how her quarantine has been, and whether its affected her creative process. “At the beginning, I was so used to seeing people every day. It really was such a big switch for me that at first I got really down. But, right now I’m getting inspiration back and at my mom’s place, it is just hard because it’s not that isolated, and I don’t really feel… encouraged to sing out loud. Even though I still talk loads with my mom about different things I’m going through or what I’m feeling. When you just start writing something, or you’re discovering things you’re feeling… it just doesn’t feel right when somebody else is in the room that is not making that piece of music or body of work with you?”. I agree with GINGE, who continues on the conversation to the topic of Instagram and the pressure to be creative in this time. We laugh and complain about the silly things we make ourselves feel stressed about. She tells me about the comfort she’s found in journaling recently, and how she’s been using quarantine as a time of self-discovery.
GINGE and her music have given me little snippets of hope in this strange time. Be it her weekly videos where she compiles her favourite moments of the week, with her singing a cover of a more “retro – older songs”, or simply her Instagram stories of her singing along to Erykah Badu, it is nothing but common sense but to recognise not only her talent, but her kindness and her eagerness to grow not only as an artist – but an individual.
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