Of Few Words And Many Songs to Produce - The Femke Story
Let’s just get all of the prestigious cool bio stuff out of the way, shall we?
Because there are a lot of accolades to get through here.
Born in Holland, singer/songwriter/producer Femke Weidema (pronounced Fem-kuh Why-duh-maah) has accomplished a lot in her life so far. She is a Grammy winning producer and songwriter. She has studied with none other than Lin Manuel Miranda, who created a little known Broadway show called “Hamilton.”
When asked if she was actually able to get tickets to “Hamilton,” she didn’t reply, as if she didn’t want to overly impress me with her celebrity clout. Aside from winning the coveted ASCAP Harold Adams award, she has worked in Los Angeles’ prestigious Remote Control Studios, which is run by none other than movie soundtrack guru Hans Zimmer.
Her illustrious career is as diverse as it is impressive, ranging from scoring movies and television shows, i.e. ABC’s 10 Things I Hate About You, to singing on soundtracks with musicians like Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, who is “really nice,” according to Femke.
I haven’t even finished listing off all of the accomplishments listed online, and I don’t think I will.
I’m a little overwhelmed to be interviewing someone who has achieved so much in such a short time.
What do you ask someone who has succeeded in the music industry, a cutthroat business that is not for the faint of heart?
All I could think of asking her at first was “are you familiar with the late night animation block on Cartoon Network called ‘adult swim’?”
“No, I have never had a TV so I guess I missed out on all the cool shows.”
Why did I ask that?
“It’s fine, there are no dumb questions,” she politely replied.
Well, it’s because I’m a serious journalist, getting straight to the heart of the matter, delving deep into the psyche of the artist I am interviewing at the moment.
So I continue my barrage of truth seeking missiles. I noticed from her Facebook page that her three favorite things were her guitar, chocolate and fries. Summoning my inner Walter Cronkite I ask her what are her favorite types of those three favorite things. Her favorite guitars are from the Canadian company Larrivee Guitars, her favorite chocolate is any type of cocoa bean flavored product with orange in it, and her favorite type of fries are sweet potato truffle fries.
If she could have any superpower she wanted, it would be “to make everyone happy with a smile.”
I asked her to name one artist who is no longer alive that she would love to produce music with, to which she replied simply “Elvis.”
Someone call the Times, I am in the middle of a no holds barred expose of one of today’s hottest producers in the music business!
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!!
Alright, that’s enough of that.
Take a minute to forget the last few paragraphs by going on Spotify and looking up Femke’s six song “Red” EP. It is twenty one minutes of gorgeous singer songwriter pop, subtly laced with electronic flourishes, rich string arrangements and other pleasingly melodic surprises for the listener. Her voice is expressive, not overly aggressive like your average American Idol star trying to sing every octave in the threshold of hearing, but subtle and it feels so right.
Some musicians try to be good, Femke just IS good, and it shows in the effortless performances you hear in her recordings.
One thing that I’ve noticed about Femke is that her responses to my questions are very brief, one or two sentences maximum. Her words are succinct and to the point, which can leave very little for a writer to embellish or pontificate on, creating a narrow narrative of the artist which might be less than interesting for someone to read on a Music Blog of their choosing.
Though her replies are less verbose than those of a prose writer, they definitely fit the personality of a very prolific songwriter. Her language is that of music, and she only has a few minutes at a time to express her ideas in between the lyrics, notes, chord progressions, and other fancy musical terms that go into writing catchy pop tunes. She is a musician, through and through.
While writers such as myself are plotting out paragraphs of purple prose on pages you read on your phone, artists such as Femke are placing platitudes of pleasing poppy sensibility in the oxygenated atmosphere of the populace, where they vibrate the air molecules near your ears after they have been digitally encoded from your phone.
While writers such as myself were ordering reruns of adult swim’s Sealab 2021 cartoon from Amazon, artists such as Femke were busy running their own record company.
Yes, not only does she produce and co-write several hits in the music industry, she has her own label, which is called LV Music. A self described “indie label focused on great music,” LV Music is a label designed to benefit the music creators, a revolutionary concept in an age where major label artists owe their companies millions of dollars in “recording fees, advance fees” and whatever else the label can think of to bleed the artist dry.
Femke is joined in this journey by LV Music’s operations manager Miranda Richardson and their mixing and master engineer Joshua Reynolds. Releases from this new label are already generating a buzz in the industry, music from LV artists Belle Mt and Lieza are getting more than 250,000 listens together in their first few weeks and have already achieved premier listening on Apple Music and Spotify.
When I ask Femke questions about her career, she answers them from a producer’s perspective more than a musician point of view, even though she is very talented in the latter. She has some solo material coming out later this year, and acknowledges verbally that she is an artist, but when I ask her if she is signed to her label, her reply is very interesting:
“I see myself more as a producer who owns a record label, the artist think is just an accidental thing and a good way to have an extra outlet.”
Any further prodding, and she just concludes that “My music career is being a producer, and as a way to the help the artists that I work with get their music out there.” You can tell that she is very determined to get the label off the ground, as she adds “I started LV Music” the pride a mother feels while nurturing her newborn child in her arms.
So far, there are only three artists signed to the fledgling label: Belle Mt, LIEZA and Dancing on Tables. Belle Mt (“Bell mont”) is a collaboration between Femke and London based artist Matt Belmont that started back in 2015. The duo took Matt’s sound from the UK and brought it all the way to the Basement in Nashville, and his sound isn’t going to stop traveling the world anytime soon.
Belle Mt’s number of listeners on Spotify went from zero to a million in six months, which Femke attributes to “great songs” and his “amazing voice,” but most importantly, having “a song that connects with the audience right away.” Matt’s voice is what drew Femke to him in the first place, which was also the case for fellow LV artist LIEZA.
Whereas Belle Mt has more of a Mat Kearney slash Coldplay arena emotional music feel, LIEZA has a modern electronic pop feel to it. Sound and music loops weave their way in and out of the melodic tapestry while being bathed in soothing layers of rich vocals to humanize the quantized percussion that keeps the set energized.
The sound achieved is very pleasing, you can feel Femke’s influence in the sound, which strays away from being bombastic like many electronically produced modern hits tend to become. LIEZA’s songs are more subtle, shifting textures like a chameleon who changes musical tones instead of physical colors.
The final artist on LV Music’s brief but very talented roster is Dancing on Tables, a five piece indie pop band from a town near Edinburgh, Scotland, called Dunfermline, a town that sounds like it’s straight out of a Phineas and Ferb cartoon. School mates Robbie, Callum, Hamish, Gregor and Michael have created a relentlessly catchy sound, with guitars that can sound jangly like any pop rock record of the day and synthesizer lines that can transport listeners back to the heyday of eighties pop music.
The bass grooves, and the guitars switch up to conjure a poppy reincarnation of the jagged riffs created by U2’s Edge. Tribal beats, harmonized vocals, Dancing on Tables create a delicious musical experience for old listeners who reminisce on the past and new listeners being introduced to these sounds for the first time. Femke was attracted to the band’s “energy, not just as a band but as people too. They have a great sense of who they are.”
Another artist that Femke has worked with, but is not on the LV Music lineup, is legendary front man Beto Cuevas. Cuevas achieved fame as lead singer for Grammy-winning Latin alternative rock band La Ley (“The Law,” for all of you English speaking/reading people out there). Femke worked on Cuevas’ solo album “Transformacion.”
I shouldn’t have to provide the English translation for that album title, and I won’t because you should be able to figure it out. In 2013, Femke won a Latin Grammy for her work on the “Transformacion” album.
“I was at my parents’ house and I got a call from my friend that the record got nominated, so I got super excited and kind of jumped up and down yelling we got nominated for a Grammy, and my mom said, ‘A what?! A granny?? Whats that?!’ It was an interesting moment.”
She wasn’t able to attend the ceremony since she was busy in Europe, but was able to watch the award presentation on YouTube. Discovering her nomination was still her favorite moment of the whole experience.
Various awards and recognitions aside, Femke seems to have found her passion in helping others work on their music, whether it be artists like Beto Cuevas or her growing roster of artists on LV Music. Recently, she has begun to find other ways to help artists besides being on the producer side of the music industry.
This last March, Femke participated in a speaking event called “Record Releasing on a Budget” in Nashville. Held in East Nashville, the brief seminar gave the Grammy winning songwriter and producer a chance to pass on her years of wisdom to up and coming musicians looking to get their music heard and distributed without going broke.
“I love helping people realize that it’s really not as complicated and hard to write, create and release music. It’s great to see the lightbulb moment when they see how they can be more in charge of their career and don’t have to wait for someone to do it for them.”
Not only is she signing new artists and giving them the chance to be heard around the world, she seems to be dedicated to helping every artist who will listen to her to make it big in the industry. In a world where it seems like everyone is out for themselves and in it to be the biggest thing ever, it’s beautiful to see an influential player in the business offer a helping hand to the little guy/girl.
Femke Weidema is in this for the long haul, and for the sheer love of creating and hearing beautiful, timeless music. She doesn’t want to take over the music landscape, she wants everyone to have a piece of the pie and express themselves worldwide, from streaming music to concerts on stages across the world. When you win, she wins and we all win, because music is a cooperative art form, created by spirits intertwined by a love for all things artsy and you get the point I don’t know how to end this weird but pretty sentence so I’ll do a run-on for awhile and get to the next point now.
When I asked her about the “Three Magic Words” of “Live Laugh Love” Nashville, she merely stated they were her “motto for life.”
Brief but descriptive, how like our favorite Grammy winning songwriter and producer.
Oh, and Femke just recently finished producing a Chinese Hip-Hop record, so tell me you aren’t excited and eager to hear THAT album as soon as it comes out.
I know I am.
To book a Femke show, send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about LV Music artists, check out their website here: http://www.thisislv.com/
You can follow Femke, as well as any of her LV Music Artists on the one and only FACEBOOK!
You can listen to Femke and her LV Music Artists on Apple Music, Spotify and SoundCloud.
Social Media, isn’t it great?!
Written by Charles Bridgers IV for Live Laugh Love Nashville
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