April 18, 2018 Interview – Sharon den Adel Talks Rediscovery, My Indigo, & Within Temptation
When riding the high speed merry-go-round of life, sometimes it is hard to find the time to process everything that is happening. There is social life, family life, and of course, a career. Moving at an accelerated speed, Dutch Singer-Songwriter Sharon den Adel has been an unstoppable force of creativity for over 20 years leading the international successful band Within Temptation. Touring the world over, recording album after album, and so much more, den Adel found it all coming to a grinding halt when she found herself at a loss for inspiration to write for Within Temptation again.
Fortunately, after some much deserved time off, den Adel broke down the highs and lows of life, returning with a new musical project she likes to call My Indigo. Beaming with a new perspective, den Adel has successfully replenished the creative banks of her mind, eager to let the music flow once more. Recently we caught up with the multi-talented artist to talk her rediscovery, the idea behind My Indigo, plans for Within Temptation, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – Last we spoke in 2014, Within Temptation had recently released their new album, Hydra. The band did some extensive touring in support of the record and kept quite busy. That in mind, what has the past 4 years been like for yourself and the band?
Sharon den Adel – It’s been like a roller coaster. It has always been like a roller coaster with Within Temptation, since the day we started the band. The train started moving and it just has kept on going. Also, with Hydra, it was a very successful album, we toured everywhere in America and Europe. It was an intense tour again, although, we did try to plan it a little bit better from previous years. When I returned home, I was pretty exhausted. Normally when I come back from a tour I have a lot of ideas and I want to start writing again immediately. This time, I didn’t have any energy for anything, I was really exhausted. I thought, “Ok, I am going to start anyway,” but nothing came out, and it was pretty frustrating. Also, that has always been my way to deal with life – I love writing music, it’s the best thing for me, even more than being on stage because that’s where everything starts creatively.
There was an essential part of me that didn’t work anymore. I didn’t panic in the beginning, but later, I panicked a little bit more because I felt, “Ok, if I don’t have this anymore, did I lose the magic somewhere? What is happening to me and why?” Figuring that out, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have the kind of vibes I needed to write songs for Within Temptation. Within Temptation is big, storytelling, but epic and always very powerful as well as uplifting in a way. I didn’t feel that way at all and it’s very difficult to write that kind of music if you don’t feel that.
I felt like I needed to take a step back to see why that was happening and why I was feeling this way. It was taking more time for myself to do a little bit of soul searching. (Laughs) There was some time I took off for that, it’s still a process that goes on and on, and it went deeper than I thought. I have been touring Within Temptation for so many years and there is always a pressure to perform. Also, I never really had the time to reevaluate what I was doing, to think, do I still like what I am was doing? I liked what I was doing, but I never had the time to process the highs and lows of our career as well as personal life. That was in front of me and I needed to deal with it. Out of that, came music again.
My Indigo is something totally different than Within Temptation and I just need to take to find peace now about how things went in my life, but also, our career. I think through music I can do that and this was something necessary. Eventually, when I started dealing with subjects I needed to I did find my way back to Within Temptation again, and I was able to write more powerful songs.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was a frustrating time, but it opened a new door for you. Sometimes you need a break from something to do something different, to recharge inspiration.
Sharon den Adel – Yes, and normally, I felt a few days off, or some time off with friends and family, would be enough. After 20 years, I needed more than that. I think it is also a very natural way of things. Like you said, sometimes take a step back and evaluate everything again. I didn’t realize it a few years back, but I am happy it did happen because it did solve a lot of things that needed to be.
CrypticRock.com – From it all comes My Indigo. Scheduled to release My Indigo’s self-titled debut album on Friday, April 20th, it is certainly a different direction then Within Temptation, but a very compelling one at that. Here you combine Pop sensibility with wonderful song composition. Tell us a little bit about the songwriting process for this collection of songs.
Sharon den Adel – I wrote most of the songs with my producer, who also works with Within Temptation, Daniel Gibson. I also wrote with Will Knox, but mostly I worked with Daniel. For me, it is very important that I feel at ease to open up to explore and write music. When I finally decided to see what was going to come out, not write for Within Temptation, just write what I want to write, what I did was look back at the music of my youth, the music I grew up with. Music has always been very important to me and I wanted to give a wink to the ’80s. Some songs here and there, with My Indigo, are a wink to Kate Bush more or less. Also, a Fleetwood Mac kind of vibe is going on there. It is not like it is totally a Fleetwood Mac or Kate Bush feel, but it is more catching the vibe of the ’80s here and there, but also mixing it with music from nowadays. Also, in a way I am experiencing my own personal life, I am here, looking back at the ’80s, but there are a lot of things from now. It’s a combination of old and new.
That is something I wanted to put in the music. When we start writing, I listened to a lot of music and I’d say, “I want to write music like this or that.” Saying also, “I want to catch this ’80s vibe” and we started looking for certain kind of rhythms, combine it with rhythms of now, and find the right sounds. Normally when Daniel started playing, I start singing immediately. It’s more about the sound of the words and sometimes also the emotion of the words is spot on, then immediately you know what kind of direction you need to go with the lyrics. For certain songs, which I’ve never done before, I wrote the lyrics upfront, then the melody line. There were different ways of working every time, but also, with the new people I worked with, it was so different for me. Also, it was letting someone else into my universe of writing music outside Daniel and Within Temptation’s Keyboardist Martijn Spierenburg, who is not involved with this project.
It’s about exploring different ways of writing music – sometimes just playing acoustically on guitar, and something came out, or piano, and something came out. In Within Temptation, we sometimes have layers and layers of music on top of each other with a big and epic sound, then I write the vocal line. There were already a few layers there, but with My Indigo, it was almost just jamming on guitar, starting to sing, and see what we can build around it. We started from a very small sound, instead of a really big sound from the start.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, so this was a much different writing process from Within Temptation. From what you are saying, it seems you broke away from a comfort zone. What was it like for you to break away from that comfort zone? Did you approach it with open arms?
Sharon den Adel – Well, some things were born by accident. We had a writing session with two guys separately, one day with one and then the other. They asked, “Would you like to join in and see what comes out.” I said, “Why not! We will see where it goes.” I was open for that, and I have always been open for that, but somehow it never crossed my path. When it did, I did grab it with two hands and I said, “Ok, I like this.” You never know, we worked on one song a day, and if it didn’t work, that is just one day that we lost. It’s seeing what we get and the magic that happens when we are there, if it does happen. (Laughs) It’s just trying to put in the effort, and of course everyone wants to write, they want to have a result at the end of the day, which is a beautiful song.
CrypticRock.com – The end result is very good. Much like the Within Temptation songs, these are very thoughtful pieces. Have you heard any early responses from listeners?
Sharon den Adel – People who did see the music video really liked it. It’s a bit strange, you get a little bit more attention than a regular beginning artist because you are from a big band. It’s still very difficult to launch yourself again, you really have to start from scratch again. Of course, the people who like Within Temptation will check it out. I must say the reaction I received from Within Temptation fans has been very positive, but it’s still very different. I am not sure they will react to the whole album. I find it difficult to say how people will react at this point.
CrypticRock.com – Well, it is a very good listen and it will be exciting to see people’s reactions as more discover it! You have a few shows lined up for My Indigo. Will you happen to be doing any more shows abroad?
Sharon den Adel – At the moment I don’t think so, but that is because it is still very early to say. Also, Within Temptation is getting ready to record their album. It’s all crossing each other timewise. What I want to do with My Indigo is see how it falls with everybody, how people are going to like it, and build slowly from there. If there are requests, I would love to play abroad as well – I would like to play everywhere with My Indigo.
I think I need to take it slow, there is also a tour coming with Within Temptation. In times I don’t have anything going on with Within Temptation, in between, I am going to do My Indigo. It’s going to be a project and I want to continue it with a new album, I just have to see where it leads. I would like to perform, but that is not my main goal, my main goal is to really write the music.
CrypticRock.com – Understood, and as you said, you have a pretty lengthy tour coming up in the fall with Within Temptation. You have a lot going on! You have Within Temptation, My Indigo, you are a mother with a family, you have your fashion designing. Is it difficult to manage everything?
Sharon den Adel – The fashion part, I am trying to help the guys who are making the merchandise, giving them ideas. Of course, the stage clothing I am still involved with the designers who are eventually making it. It’s mainly the music part I am always really busy with. Also, performing is a big part of it. Managing it… that is always the balance that I need to find in between everything. Life also changes so much. My parents are getting older. Everything is changing. Kids are getting older, and that gets easier. Sometimes I gain some time because my kids are becoming a little more independent, but my parents are getting older, so I need to help a little bit more there. It’s always finding that right balance between the projects I have, my family, and my personal life. That’s always changing, you constantly have to make new choices, and that is going to be in the future as well.
I think that is also one of the reasons I needed to make this project as well, because I felt like I was not taking enough time for the people who really needed me at the time. I am finally taking that responsibility in that direction as well. My dad was always away when I was a kid, and I really didn’t like that at all. I told him I was really sad that he was always away, and somehow, I find myself in the same position he was. I love what I do, but on the other hand, I have a family I love and I need to make time for everybody. It’s standing between 2 fires, I like everything, that’s a very positive thing, but it’s also making choices. It’s finding that delicate balance in life.
CrypticRock.com – Very understandable. It is fascinating how subconsciously we can tell ourselves we need to fix something.
Sharon den Adel – Exactly. I am glad how things have worked out and the end result, that was the most important thing for me. I could have put those songs on the shelf and not think about it and say, “Ok, I’ve done my processing of things.” I felt I could also share them, it has been difficult for the band of course, because they didn’t know what to expect. In the beginning, I really didn’t tell them because I didn’t really know where this journey was going. I didn’t know if I was going to come back to Within Temptation, I didn’t know what I was going to do, or what I wanted. I had to find it out for myself first before I could start telling everybody what I was dealing with. I didn’t want to scare everybody upfront and come to the realization that I really like what I am doing with Within Temptation, it was just a little bit too much for little bit too long of a time.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very smart decision and something very creative came out of it all with My Indigo. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. Last we spoke, you said you were big into epic type of films and certain television series. That in mind, what have you seen lately that you have enjoyed?
Sharon den Adel – Of course Stranger Things! It’s also been a bit of inspiration for me for My Indigo. I remembered a lot of things from the ’80s because of the series. I had my Walkman, and all those things I remembered again. My son really loves the movie Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and he started with volume cassettes. Strangely enough, the same week we were watching that movie, my mom came to visit with all these cassettes from the attic. She said, “Do you remember these? You made us volume tapes and mailed them to us while we were abroad.” I said, “Of course!” Everyone made volume 1, volume 2, and I recorded those tapes for my parents to have something in the car when they were living in Egypt or traveling the world together for my father’s work.
Because of that, I am also going to release a cassette tape. Not CD, and digitally online, etc, but also on cassette and vinyl. I am really proud of that, it was something that needed to be done. For a photoshoot, I bought roller skates again, I am just looking back at a lot of things from my youth. Stranger Things really helped a lot.
Of course we went to all the latest Star Wars movies, my son knows every figure in the Star Wars movies, he is a total fan! We are now reliving all the Star Wars movies through him again. The last movie I saw was Murder on the Orient Express (2017). We also like the Marvel films.
CrypticRock.com – That is awesome! What is really great about cassette is, yes, you can fast forward and rewind, but for the most part, you really need to listen to the entire album.
Sharon den Adel – (Laughs) I was recently going to rehearse with My Indigo and I just put the cassette tape I had to test in my Walkman. While I was driving, I had my Walkman on. (Laughs) People who were driving at the same speed looked at me strange because I was wearing a Walkman. (Laughs) I really enjoy it and it’s also very easy because I don’t have Spotify everywhere or it’s not always working. It’s actually easier to have that Walkman, so I can just play a cassette or radio. The same with old vinyl records. I like that too, on a Sunday, opening the doors and playing old records. I am reliving everything again! It’s a full circle as they say, you started somewhere and it comes back again.