Venturing into a fantastical world
With only a handful of concerts behind her and zero songs released, good luck meandering the web trying to find out about Judith Kiddo. Curiosity got with us and we sent out a team of determined local correspondents to learn more about the sensual voice behind the pop-synth demo tape we found in our inbox. We arranged a hangout on a Saturday morning at Place du Jeu de Balle in the Marolles, the old working-class neighbourhood of Brussels where Kiddo lives. As the flea market was wrapping up and last-minute bargains were being made, we sat down for coffee and chatted about her new life as a musician to the roars of the road sweepers getting the marketplace ready to become a parking space again.
Interview by Julien Van de Casteele
Photos by Lauren Lizinde, shot in Brussels
Singing in English is an integral part of me. And it’s just a fun language to play with. I don’t want to have to choose one. At least not today…
Hi Judith! How are you?
Good. I’m kinda getting out of bed. I’m feeling very happy because I have a lot of things going at the moment, with this band especially.
Yeah, I saw that you guys just confirmed a gig in Paris. Going international already!
Yep, it’s just before the Bota one. It’s organised by Fortune Collective. I’m busy translating some of the songs into French for this francophone competition, we’re finalising the songs for the first EP and preparing our very first music video.
You have some songs in French and others in English? Why not stick to one language?
It’s really about the emotions that I want to convey. I feel like certain themes work better with one or the other. Before I started composing my own songs, I was singing other people’s songs and more often in English. I started when I was about six, singing all the time everywhere, getting on my mom’s nerves in the car, on the way to school. Since then, singing in English has become an integral part of me. And it’s just a fun language to play with. I don’t want to have to choose one. At least not today…
Why did you only start to make music now, and not back when you were six?
I studied theatre and until I graduated, making music wasn’t on my mind. I was really focused on auditioning and casting – which I’m still doing, actually. But then during my downtimes, I started composing my own music just to keep myself busy. Gradually, with the help of Lucien (Robbing Millions), we reworked some of the songs, improving the production, re-recording some bits with better equipment. Today we’re ready to release an EP.
How’s the musician life? Too early to judge?
A little, because I’ve only done five concerts [Laughs]. It’s nice and refreshing, ’cause the pressure is not as high as with theatre. Even though I love it, it’s not always easy having to go through thousands of castings where everyone finds you great but ends up hiring someone better known or whatever. With music, you get to come with a final product which is yours, and no one can really do anything to it.
Singing is so direct and intimate. I want to keep this fragility and rawness but find more recreation
With your background and experience in acting, do you still feel challenged, performance-wise, with this project?
Yes, definitely. It’s totally different. I’m still relatively shy with the band. Singing is so direct and intimate. At the moment, I’m being very careful and simple. I want to keep this fragility and rawness but find more recreation. As I go through concerts and stop questioning my own legitimacy, things will probably get more funky. Also, I love when theatre meets sound. Kate Bush’s The Tour of Life, for example, moves me to tears. So I might want to put on a bigger show someday. But I’m happy with the present state of things, me singing with four amazing guys in the back [Laughs].
Did you really spent a night in a Jaguar drinking Russian vodka?
[Laughs] You’re talking about the dollars song, right? No. This is the only song that’s not autobiographical. I recorded this song so long ago, for fun. I never looked at it seriously. Then listening to the radio, I realised that there was so much successful but bad music out there, so why should I be ashamed of my songs? It’s weird that I had to come to this realisation to feel comfortable with my work.
If you have something great in your hands but you don’t believe in it, you can easily destruct it by yourself
What good stuff are you listening to?
People with great voices have always attracted me, so from there it can be very vast – like Joni Mitchell, Mariah Carey, Sade, Ella Fitzgerald. When I need to chill, I put on some Indian music or Charlie Parker, with candles and a glass of red wine. Do I sound like your dad? [Laughs]
Have you had any regrets lately?
Sometimes I regret not believing in myself more, it would make things easier – and especially faster. I’m not saying that it’s my case, but in general, if you have something great in your hands but you don’t believe in it, you can easily destruct it by yourself.
Judith Kiddo plays Les Nuits along with David Numwami
and Lomboy on the 26th of April at Botanique.
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