Spotlight On: Nurdjana

This week I’m pleased to share with you new music from Dutch-Canadian singer-songwriter Nurdjana who recently released a new EP titled “Coming Home.”

Coming Home is an emotional and evolutionary journey that takes you right into Nurdjana’s life as she works to rediscover herself and her identity, dealing with her immigration to Canada, losing her parents, becoming a mother, dealing with divorce and learning how to parent as a single mother.

Listen to the feel-good MoTown-esque single “Do The Right Thing” now and read on for our interview below.

Nurdjana – “Do The Right Thing”

You have a new EP out called Coming Home which I was moved to hear was written by both you and your late father. Had you two collaborated on music before this?
My dad Rob de Rijcke and I made music together for almost 20 years but never collaborated in songwriting. I think mainly because I didn’t feel confident in my own songwriting skills. I tried it in my early twenties but I wasn’t impressed with the outcome. I also just loved his songs so much I didn’t see the need to write my own. It puts a big smile on my face that on this EP we finally collaborated this way.

What made you want to share this collection?
Right before the pandemic hit I had carved out time to start making music again. It was 8 years after my dad passed and I felt ready to start playing again. I had inherited hundreds of his songs and song ideas. If I wasn’t gonna put his songs out there, who was? I wanted to leave this for my family but also share it with the world. My dad was too modest to do this.

How great of an influence would you say your father has been in your own writing and art?
The songs I co-wrote with my dad on the EP were my first real attempts at songwriting. By leaving me these unfinished songs and rough ideas, he created a stepping stone for me to start writing.

The first two songs I co-wrote with him were a continuation of what he had left me. So I would say a big influence. But now I’m writing my own music for a new album I’m releasing next year. My partner pointed out that some of the chords I use remind him of my dad’s work. I feel my lyrics are more direct and his more dreamy and poetic.

My dad was a big part of my own musical upbringing, constantly bringing me to concerts – both newer bands that I had discovered and wanted to share with him and ones he grew up with and wanted to share with me. Did you two share a favourite artist?
We shared a lot of favourite artists. It’s hard to choose. From Fado singer Amalia Rodrigues, to Aretha Franklin, Hendrix, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Bjork.

Aretha Franklin – “Ever Changing Times”

I really love the production of “Do The Right Thing.” It hits you right out of the gate and makes you want to dance. It’s a style of music I’ve always been drawn to but not one I’ve ever imagined myself tackling myself as an artist. What drives you towards this style?
When I found this song idea in my inbox my first reaction was: let’s turn it into a Motown song. I was in a Motown band with my dad for years and his song idea brought me back to that time. “Do The Right Thing” (revision) is almost like an ode to that period. Then for this remix I started researching more with producer Lucas Meijer and the outcome became a bit more bluesy at times. Luckily I also discovered a more soulful part of my voice.

Your vocals perfectly compliment the arrangement. When did you first start singing?
Thank you so much! I started singing when I was 12. My voice was way different when I was young. Certain things have stayed the same. The vulnerability and honesty. But since I started working with vocal coach David Wilson I started tapping into a more soulful and powerful part of my voice I didn’t even think I had.

Who’s your favourite female vocalist of all time?
Still Aretha Franklin 🙂

Along that same way of thinking, who’s one vocalist that you’d love to collaborate with?
Oeh I think I would choose Sara Bareilles. Incredibly musical and her voice is just so beautiful. I love the honesty within her singing.

Sar Bareilles – “Brave”

You wrote “Do The Right Thing” while going through a divorce which is something else I can relate to. Those feelings can be difficult to go through alone. Who or what was your biggest support through this time?
Singing has been the biggest support. Of course close friends and family as well. But the situation was incredibly complicated and still to this day I can’t explain it properly. So finding my footing within singing has been a game changer. It translated into me feeling more confident in life. It gave me the tools to handle the challenges that came my way and was an outlet when I was sad, felt powerless, heartbroken, disappointed. I could let it out and literally find my own voice again.

What’s one thing you learned about yourself while going through your divorce that you’ll take with you into your next relationship(s)?
To not ever make myself small again. To not doubt myself. That I deserve to be treated with dignity and to choose a partner that lifts me up and has my back. I want a relationship where we both admire each other and are being honest in a respectful way.

Given my own experience I often wonder how many women stay married because it’s just expected by our society to tough it out. Ultimately how did you know you needed to break it off? And I don’t necessarily mean a personal experience but was there something you realized you weren’t getting out of the relationship that you now know you need in one?
I wasn’t singing anymore. A big sign that I wan’t feeling good enough to express myself. But also when I looked at my daughter, I was wondering if this was the example I wanted to set. Would I want her to be in a relationship like this? If it wasn’t good enough for her than why would I stay in this? Deep down inside I also felt I had something to offer with my singing. But if I would’ve stayed in the relationship that would not have happened.

What’s one piece of advice you might have for any young, emerging artists that are still finding their own voice?
When it feels good, you’re doing it right. Be yourself because that’s what’s interesting. So dig deeper. We all have something unique to bring to the table; Find it and sing. Stand tall and surround yourself with people who want you to grow. Choose a couple of people you trust and who are equipped to give you solid feedback. But most of all, trust yourself. You’re the boss.

What’s one thing about you that you can share with us that your listeners might be surprised to hear?
I’ve made music basically my whole life but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I found the joy and motivation in practicing. It also wasn’t until then that I knew that making music is what I want.

Do you have a favourite mantra or motto that you turn to to help you maintain a positive outlook and move forward?
When it comes to music: Just keep showing up. Talent is great but in the end of the day you gotta consistently put in the hours (or when you don’t have time, even a couple of minutes every day).
In life: Treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong (got this one from “The Artist Way” book 🙂

Finally, what’s one artist you’re dying to see perform live?
I wish I could have seen Sharon Jones.
But for now, Feist and the Kings of Convenience and Sara Tavares.

Our immense gratitude to Nurdjana for being so open and honest with us in this interview. Be sure to check out “Coming Home” and keep up with Nurdjana on all her socials that you can find right here.

Need some more ear candy? Here are some more recommendations based on the interview.

Kings of Convenience – “Misread”
Feist – “How Come You Never Go There”

If you’re an artist or you want to submit one to The Treehouse for a feature, check out our submission requirements page.

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