_T_his week, managers, bookers, publishers, record labels, and many more music industry professionals from all over the world are visiting New York for A2IM’s annual Indie Week, a conference and networking event aiming to maximize the global impact of independent (indie) music. In addition to a Dutch delegation of professionals, who will participate in panels, workshops, and round-table discussions, musicians will show their talent at the free Dutch-Canadian Indie Week Showcase (Tuesday, June 18), organized by Dutch Culture USA, Dutch Music Export, and M pour Montreal. It is the 4th time that this showcase is organized as an official part of Indie Week. The Netherlands will feature three live acts: YORI, Awkward i, and Blanks.
_B_lanks is the artist name of Simon de Wit (22), self-proclaimed “overexcited music boy”. A master student of computer science at the University of Groningen by day, he has become famous online with his YouTube channel Music by Blanks. He started his channel, making his own tracks as well as covers of famous artists, when he was fifteen years old. He rapidly built an international fanbase and currently uploads videos for almost 830.000 subscribers.
Blanks. Photo by Isabel van der Vlugt
Blanks started out as a musician when he began playing the acoustic guitar he found at his parent’s house. During his bachelor studies, he began making videos with his younger brother. “We made these mini-movies in the backyard with a camcorder. Then I discovered the vlogging community, which was mainly a thing in England at the time. I figured I could do that too, but in Dutch. I started making videos, and eventually moved on to music videos,” Blanks says in an interview with the Groningen University newspaper.
His Youtube channel (he now speaks English in his videos) includes One Hour Song Challenges, where he covers a pop song from scratch in less than an hour, and Style Swaps videos, in which he covers hit songs in the style of other music genres. Aside from going viral, his style swap videos also grabbed the attention of world famous artists, including Ariana Grande who loved his 80’s version of her song Thank U Next and world famous DJ Armin van Buuren who challenged him to do a style swap of his track Blah Blah Blah. His 80’s version of Post Malone’s Better Now attracted roughly 4.8 million views on YouTube and 4.3 million streams on Spotify.
Blanks is now focusing more and more on creating original music. On occasion, he lets his online followers contribute to his music and lyrics by setting up polls on Instagram or asking them which topics or styles they want to hear. Viewers get an inside look in the songwriting process as he films how he translates their suggestions into a song.
Last week, he released his new single Let’s Get Lost, which perfectly embodies his happy and energetic personality that is always so apparent in this YouTube videos. Let’s hope that he will perform this new track full of summer vibes in New York this week!
_Y_ori Swart, better known as YORI, is known for her warm and soulful voice and can be quite distinct in her own unique way of guitar playing. She blends pop, blues and country into a rare finger-picking style. As a daughter of a classical guitarist, she was eager to learn how to braid melodies and words together. Her hunger for melodies, lyrics, and alternative guitar tunings has resulted in a quirky but soulful songwriting style. Inspired by the spaciousness of Scandinavia and the warmth of the United States you can easily disappear into different worlds listening to her story’s. In the Netherlands, she is also part of the band of country singer-songwriter Ilse de Lange, whom Americans might know as singing show judge Ilse in the drama series Nashville.
On her second studio album September (2017), she worked closely together with British singer-songwriter and producer Fink (Fin Greenall), American country star Lori Lieberman, and Norwegian singer-songwriter Thomas Dybdahl, among others. Yori writes on her website: “For this album, I have worked together with a large number of foreign and Dutch singer-songwriters for whom I have deep respect. Time after time, they challenged me to push the boundaries in production as well as lyrics.” The album’s ten songs aim to capture the feeling of a new start, described by Yori as “the summer sun showing herself for the last time before being replaced by a cool breeze telling us that winter is coming”.
In February of this year, Yori released a new EP, Live Sessions, with live performances of four songs, including Sweet Summer Rain (see the video above). This new EP forms a contrast with September: where September is an album of contrasts in itself, in Live Sessions, Yori goes back to her roots: the guitar. She is motivated to keep telling stories. Her way of storytelling through her compositions is intertwining the vocal melodies and guitar parts “as if they were pieces of art”, always aiming to create a duality of vocals and guitar that cannot be divided. She consciously chose to record live performances for this EP: “In a studio, I am too often stuck in my head, on stage I am free and I wanted to capture that feeling on Live Sessions”.
_A_wkward i is the singer-songwriter pseudonym of musician and composer Djurre de Haan. In The Netherlands, he is known as a bass guitarist in the bands Alamo Race Track and Hospital Bombers, and as a composer for film and theater. As solo artist Awkward i, he has released three records: his lo-fi debut album I Really Should Whisper, his second album Everything On Wheels, and his latest release KYD. Everything on Wheels is an example of a song that starts small and intimate, with only the sound of his voice and guitar, and with added instrumentation gradually grows into a song with a vivid sound and rich texture.
His new album, KYD, is inspired by fatherhood. On his website, De Haan writes that he found out five years ago that he had – involuntarily – fathered a child. KYD is his reflection on his new role as a caretaker and tender, contrasted with an inner wish to preserve his own childlike whims. The album’s first track, Milkshakes Funnelcakes, features New York’s streets and the New York street artist Matthew Silver.
Awkward i’s lyrics on KYD combine all time lows and melancholy with self-mockery and absurdity. A prime example is the song Happiest Man (at your funeral), which brings to our attention that, statistically, there must always be one person that is the most happy at a funeral.