words by christof van der ven
Released this Friday, Christof van der Ven’s debut full-length work is an exquisite collection of folk-pop songs, led by his chiselled and captivating voice. The ‘Empty Handed’ LP is released via Planet Zog Records and follows his recent support slot with Bon Iver at London’s Hammersmith Apollo – and you can listen to the album’s title track, which was premiered GFP earlier this year right here.
Ahead of the release, and in a special guest essay, Christof writes about his love for Damien Jurado, an artist who has so inspired his own work. Read it below alongside a special playlist he’s also curated.
My love for Damien Jurado’s music started just as “And Now That I’m in Your Shadows” came out back in 2006. I got the record on CD from my local record shop Cadans back in my hometown Gemert, NL. In the Netherlands we have a term called “De rode lijn” which we use to discuss “the thread” or the recurring themes and ideas explored by an artist in their work. For me this thread began with ‘Denton, Tx’ and continues to this day with his most recent release ‘Rainbows and Rainier’. It has woven itself in to my work as a songwriter but also into my life, releasing a backdrop and a soundtrack to this day.
I often have to remind myself of how I got to where I am currently. Not in a million years would I have thought to be doing what I’m doing now. Playing shows with Bear’s Den all over the world, supporting bands I’m a fan of, and becoming friends with the people I used to listen to when I was a teenager – and just making music as a full-time job in general. I dreamed of it for sure. You must understand, I come from a tiny village in the southeast of the Netherlands, moving to Ireland and not coming back home is not a usual route to go down in this part of the country.
I took a gamble and I got lucky. It’s taken a long time for me personally, but I got to where I wanted to be and have many more miles to go. The reason why I say all of this is because, when I was a young teenager, I started skating and became friends with the local skate crew. They were all 10 years older than me and introduced me to music they loved. At that age their musical pallet was way more advanced than mine. I hung out with these creative minded people who set me up with all these indie/rock/punk/acoustic bands and songwriters and got me to stay away from all the chart topping hits. They passed them onto me and I slowly started creating my own pallet which lead me songwriters such as Damien Jurado. He should fill out stadiums, knowing the talent he has and songs he writes. But I see him as an artist, songwriter, painter, and musician who stayed true to himself in the best possible way. It works for him and I love that.
Damien Jurado’s music has been a inspiration, a friend and soundtrack. His music seems to be able to fit in to any type of scenery this world has to offer. He creates atmospheres and auras from the vast desert salt pans on ‘Silver Katherine’, to the skyscraper filled city lights on ‘Cloudy shoes’ and to Californian mountainous forests on ‘Last Rights’. His music touches me deeply emotionally and I relate to a lot of his lyrics. One of my favourite lyrics are from the song ‘Silver Joy’. One of the verses goes: “And if you need a place to land, Or come down when you are weary, No more clouds to put away, In the slumber of the morning.” The way it’s written in such a comforting way I find myself listening to that song whenever I’m feeling anxious or down about things. It’s so soothing and tells me that everything is going to be ok. The song reminds of my friends and my family that are always there for me whenever I’m in need.
DJ was one of the first serious serious songwriter’s I came across at a time whenI listened to a small selection of songwriters, bands and records ranging from Fionn Regan’s ‘End of History’, Okkervil River’s ‘Black Sheep Boy’, Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” to Midlake’s “Bamnan & Slivercork” amongst a few others. Although these songwriters are exceptional in their own right DJ stood out for me. I knew he would be the kind of songwriter who’s work I would always love and that’s exactly what has happened. At the time that ANTIIYS came out I had fallen for a girl and we somehow we ended up texting the lines of Denton TX, from start to finish to each other until the song was done. It was a whole lot of cheese looking back at it but somehow romantic and I will never forget it.