Freya Ridings Blood Orange interview: "I was rewarded for heartbreak - but I couldn't live like that forever"
The skin of the blood orange fruit is thick. So thick that when you finally break through it to taste the bitter sweet flesh, you realise that you had to work hard for something that tastes so good.
Freya Ridings knows how that feels. So much so, she named her new album - Blood Orange, her second and most accomplished album yet - after it. It's a rich and sumptuous record, as adept at turning out big pop moments (the disco flourishes of Weekends which returned her to the UK Top 40 this year, the hands-in-the-air Katy Perry-esque Dancing In A Hurricane) with tender balladeering which helped Freya breakout with her self-titled 2019 debut album (Face In The Crowd).
"I'll always be a ballad girl at heart," Freya tells us from her home in London. "But [2019 single] Castles really taught me the beauty of a big pop moment. I wanted Blood Orange to take you on a journey."
And that journey is actually Freya's own. The album tells the store of a painful breakup with an ex-boyfriend and all the heartbreak, insecurities and doubts you feel knowing you might never see the love of your life again. But like all good rom-coms, we have a happy ending; Freya reconnected with her partner, becoming engaged in the pandemic and marrying last year. At the end of Blood Orange, you feel like you know her intimately, having had a first hand experience of everything she's gone through.
"I want people to come out of the other side," Freya explains, "[feeling like they've just watched] a rom-com. Because it is like a rom-com...where they get married at the end."
In a long-ranging chat, we discuss how Freya worked through her doubts about the album, feeling trapped in a sad girl box and the exciting news she's set to perform at King Charles III's upcoming Coronation concert.
Blood Orange is both a celebration and reclamation of the pain of heartbreak. Sometimes, you have to get through the bitter to taste the sweetness.
The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you've been writing this album for a long time - how does it feel to have the (pardon the pun) fruits of your labour finally coming to pass?
I'm not gonna lie, I'm excited, I'm anxious...I've been taking some ashwagandha gummies...I need to calm down! The last three and a half years of my life have been building up to this. It's been an incredible three months releasing all the singles and playing stuff like Graham Norton, and I'm going to play the Coronation! I'm just trying to take everything in and enjoy it.
I didn't do that [on Freya's debut album]. This time I'm just really trying to enjoy it. We've booked a tour and we're playing Glastonbury, so it does feel like you wait for a bus and then 10 turn up at once.
Did you feel like you didn't take everything in on the first album?
Exactly. You get these pinch me moments, almost like you're in a movie and they're kind of gone. The pandemic really taught me [to appreciate my life more] because I finally got the time to really sit down and think about [everything I'd experienced]. And that was extraordinary! You never know if you're going to get to do this again. With this album, there had to be no regrets. I put everything I've got into it.
I really connected to you saying last time that you are so many different versions of yourself throughout your 20s - the album definitely reflects that
I think from, like, 24 to 28, there's a huge jump. My first album, that was just such a massive learning curve even learning how to make an album. This time, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and that feels a bit brave. It would have been very easy to just copy and paste [everything that worked before] and do the same things emotionally and lyrically.
I didn't want to do that. I wanted to say the things I didn't know that I'd be allowed to say, to mention my biggest fears. It definitely helped me grow as a person. There's a lot of therapy, a lot of internal growing done while making ths album. I can't even believe I'm the same person I was when I started making it.
What was the impetus for you to go on this journey - like you said, you were quite hesitant at the start
Interesting question George! I love the question! I think there was definitely a moment. I was watching - and this happened very much after I'd finished the album - the new Lewis Capaldi documentary. Have you seen it? He's such an incredible human being. I have so much respect for him. There were so many similarities in terms of [our journeys] and it didn't make me feel so alone.
But for me personally, there was a moment in lockdown where I was like - I can either make this album exactly the same way I did before, or I can just throw it all out of the window and say f*ck it and make an album I love and want to listen to, and don't care if anyone else wants to listen to it.
And you wrote the album split between home and LA, right?
Half of it was written in my husband's shed at the bottom of his parent's garden, but we weren't even together at that point! I wrote a lot in lockdown, looking around every supermarket aisle or walk thinking...has he moved on? Is he with someone else? That's where it all began, because it wasn't the first time I'd felt like that...so I made a very conscious decision. I could either feel like this forever or do some real work on myself. There's a weird feeling where you've been so rewarded for your pain and heartbreak you do start to think, do I have to live like this forever? I didn't know if I could sustain it, I couldn't feel that bad forever. It felt almost taboo, but I admitted that I was going to try and be happy.
But then when I went back to LA [to finish recording] we were engaged and I was like...this is so f*cking cool. I was so happy, after so many years in the earth and soil, just this all-consuming darkness. So this is really the fruit of many labours of love. But it was very painful to get to this point. It's not easy to have a relationship and be a musical artist. Hopefully, I've come back more grounded, with a healthier attitude!
I love the name of the album - can you please confirm or deny if its called Blood Orange because the fruit is bitter, but it tastes really sweet?
If we're going to be real, I love really organic, euphoric music from the 70s...I also love fruit. I originally wanted to call the album Blood Orange Tree, but it didn't have the right to it. But in essence, blood orange has a thicker skin, it's harder to get through, but then it is sweeter to taste. And you have to fight for that. So you're bang on.
You mentioned this in passing earlier, but you've just been announced as one of the acts to play the Coronation of King Charles III - just a small, low-key gig booking for you there, Freya
It's such an honour. It's so surreal and I feel like it's going to be a very out of body experience. People are very impressed, my old primary school teachers have been coming up [and congratulating me]. It's very...like what the hell is going on? I'm such a huge fan of history. I love The Crown. I love Queen Victoria and all royal history. It's an amazing opportunity.
I imagine you won't be singing Weekends or Castles for this one?
No, we're doing a cheeky cover. It's a beautiful song. We have an orchestra and a choir. I think it's going to be a real moment. I'm a huge proponent of the Prince's Trust and how many young people they help. My mum was in a theatre group when she was younger and the Prince's Trust help fund it, like there are so many elements of my life that have been affected in a positive way by it. I think it's going to be a really, really beautiful moment.
And you will of course be on the same bill as the Queen...of Pop, Katy Perry
Katy Perry!!! I can't believe that. It is so wild. I used to be obsessed with her. Me 10 years ago, if you'd told me that...I would have lost my mind.
Going to need you to insist she plays Teenage Dream, thank you
I love her so much. I'm getting to bring my mum too. I have to choose my outfit next week. No pressure!
Blood Orange is out at midnight, April 28.
Article Image: Josh Shiner