Nick: When did you first get very involved with music?
Linde Nijland: Ooh, that must’ve been at a really young age because at primary school I already sang the major roles in musicals because all of the other children were afraid to sing and I wasn’t. So it started quite early. But then when I was about 18 I started a harmony singing duo with a friend of mine so it was two female voices and that’s when it really took off. And I made my first album when I was 20 I think.
Nick: And what was the name of this group you started?
Linde Nijland: The name of the group was Ygdrassil.
Nick: Is that something do with Norwegian folklore?
Linde Nijland: Well yes, it’s a name from Scandinavian mythology in fact. It’s the name of the tree of life.
Nick: So you’ve pretty-much been making music ever since then. What made you first start singing Sandy Denny songs?
Linde Nijland: Well, I grew up with her music because of my parents who had a large record collection. And well, she remained my favorite singer ever since. So at one point I just made a whole album with her songs as a special project. This is already over 15 years ago I think. But since then, every now and then I am doing my homage to her again. And we’ve been doing some Sandy Denny concerts during this U.K. Tour.
Nick: Do you find that you get more people when they know you’re doing Sandy? I mean, it’s very difficult, isn’t it really?
Linde Nijland: Well it attracts of course people who love her music. But that’s not why I’m doing it. It’s mainly because it’s very special for me to sing her music still. And I don’t sing just her songs, but I also sing the traditionals and the covers that she’s done. Especially doing her songs in the U.K. is really special and touching.
Nick: How long have you actually been touring?
Linde Nijland: You mean right now?
Linde Nijland: Ooh that’s so hard. I’ve been making music over 25 years, so that’s a long time.
Nick: And Bert, you joined Ygdrassil… I can’t even say the word can I very much.
Bert: Ygdrassil. I joined the last I think two years of their existence. Maybe one year. And after that they split up and they went solo. So Linde went solo and I played music with Linde for already 15 years.
Linde Nijland: But I met Bert actually when I made the Sandy Denny album. I was looking for a good folk guitar player in the north of the Netherlands and he was the best one around.
Nick: Okay. Tell me when did you start getting involved with music Bert? How old were you?
Bert: I started when I was at a primary school, flute lessons. And then I started to play the piano, classical stuff. And I didn’t like the teachers so very much. I hope she don’t watch this, that she doesn’t see this. And then I swapped to the guitar because I want, originally I would like to play the banjo but I couldn’t get any lessons. So most close to banjo was guitar. And so I started to play guitar.
Nick: Have you played the banjo since?
Bert: Yes, I’ve played the banjo since. And I did a classical conservatory in Holland. It’s kind of music high school. So I became the guitar teacher and yeah, I had my degree, a high degree but I never did anything with it because I liked folk music more than the classical music.
Nick: So your influences, apart from Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny, who would they be?
Nick: Both of yours, really.
Bert: Well, mine was a lot of folk music comes out so… And of course classical music. And very broad… Scandinavian music I like very much, English folk music, Irish folk music, German, French.
Nick: Pretty-much across the board really.
Nick: And what about you, Linde?
Linde Nijland: Well for me it’s both the songwriting side of folk music and the traditional side. And I’m mainly influenced by music that comes from around here or America. Also Scotland, Ireland. And so this whole part of the world.
Nick: I know that you’ve traveled fairly extensively and we’ll come onto the Bhutan bit in a bit. But you’ve actually sung in a lot more countries than some of them. You tour a lot in the U.K. and Germany and around Europe. How many gigs a year do you think you do, doing that sort of touring?
Linde Nijland: Well, it depends a little bit. We used to tour very extensively, intensively, how do you call it?
Linde Nijland: Extensively. Bert got actually quite ill two years ago so we had a short break. And now we’re sort of-
Nick: Building up.
Linde Nijland: … building up again. And Bert’s doing really well and we are both doing really well and touring a lot at the moment.
Nick: Yeah. How many weeks a year are you playing gigs?
Linde Nijland: Well, it wouldn’t be each day of the week of course because it’s mainly weekends. But, well there are periods that we are just playing every weekend.
Nick: Right. It’s a lot of work really, isn’t it, actually?
Linde Nijland: Yeah it is. But especially a thing we really like is combining traveling and making music and just having some air in between the concerts so you have time to see the country, beautiful countrysides, meeting people. So it’s more like a way of life.
Nick: It’s a lifestyle really isn’t it?
Linde Nijland: Yeah it’s like a lifestyle.
Nick: So it’s not just about earning a living, it’s also-
Linde Nijland: No, no. We are making our living out of it, but we’re not doing it for that. It’s more, yeah, enabling a certain lifestyle. And it’s a very positive lifestyle and you meet people in a very positive way and you can interact with people and connect with them and well, that’s a wonderful thing I think.
Nick: Right. Okay.
Talk to me a little bit about the songwriting. We’re very keen to ask people on the songwriting process in this, for Music for the Head and Heart. How does it normally start for you? Is it normally lyrically or is it normally musically?
Linde Nijland: Ooh, I’m very much focused towards lyrics. That’s, well, one reason why I really love to play in U.K. because when I perform over here, people just really understand what I’m singing. Whereas in the Netherlands they would hear more the sound of it or the melody, which is really nice too. So lyrics are very important for me. But I would say that lyrics and music are integrated for me, whenever I write a song. It sort of comes at the same time and they’re interlinked. And it usually goes quite fast. It would be one or two days and the song has been born.
Nick: Do you ever give up? Do you think it’s just not working, this song?
Linde Nijland: Well, no. It’s more like sometimes it’s time for a new song and it pops up and… I don’t know, it’s just time for it. I don’t try to force it. And that way it works.
Nick: Do you write together though at all?
Bert: Mostly Linde does the writing. But sometimes we, Linde comes up with kind of melody and I arrange the piece.
Bert: Yeah. But most of the songwriting Linde does.
Linde Nijland: Because he’s really, really a very good guitar player and instrumentalist.
Nick: Yes. I had noticed that.
Bert: Thank you, thank you.
Linde Nijland: You’re welcome.
Nick: And yeah, because obviously once you’ve written the song and you’ve got the basic melody for it, then obviously Bert can then put a lot of, a different sort of music into that.
Linde Nijland: Of course. As far as the arrangements are concerned, he really adds to it. And sometimes we… Well a song can evolve of course. Once you’ve recorded it, even when you play it live it could have a different life or a different arrangement.
Nick: When you’re not songwriting and you’re not traveling, what do you do?
Linde Nijland: Oops.
Bert: Sometimes we record CDs for ourselves, in the CDs. I’m doing sound jobs. I’m a sound engineer as well.
Linde Nijland: Part-time.
Linde Nijland: And what I really love to do is organic gardening. So I’m a gardener in my spare time. And we live, the both of us live in the same house in a very special spot in the Netherlands. I know you have been in the Netherlands but as you know it’s really crowded and we actually live in sort of the most abandoned spot of the Netherlands, just on the border with Germany in the far Northeast. And we have a nice garden and we look at a river and the river is also the border with Germany. So we love nature and-
Nick: It’s also inspiring for writing songs as well-
Linde Nijland: Definitely, yeah.
Nick: … I assume, isn’t it really? But I mean you’ve had a lot of connection and going back momentarily to the Sandy Denny connection. Obviously, back in 2009 you were asked to sing with Fairport Convention in London and that must’ve been… Did that come out of the blue?
Linde Nijland: Not really because Joe Boyd was of course the very famous producer of the records of Fairport, [inaudible 00:18:14], Nick Drake, Sandy Denny. He had heard my album with Sandy Denny songs and he approved of it. So it goes back a longer time. But at one point Bert and I were playing in Belfast and Joe Boyd was also there and we were just sharing the same very small living room, which is kind of special. And then he just said to me, “Well, you know, I’m thinking of organizing this Fairport Convention reunion concert, and I’m thinking of asking you.”
And I was like, “Oh wow, that’s wonderful!”
And so it took a little while but then he did it. It was a special weekend to celebrate his legacy. And I was asked to sing two songs there, Fotheringay, and Si Tu Dois Partir. And it was really special because I was sort of the only outsider and just being from the Netherlands and all. And yeah, it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done but it went really well and it was amazing just to be there and it was… I had sung with Fairport on a few other occasions but in this case, most of the still living original members were a part of it. So Richard Thompson was onstage, Ian Matthews was. So yeah, I can’t even begin to describe the buzzing atmosphere, also backstage.
Nick: And of course in 2014, Fairport Convention did a tour of the Netherlands and again, they invited you to sing a couple of songs with them didn’t they?
Linde Nijland: Yeah, I sang with them for two concerts and again, very special and I’m very grateful that they asked me.
Nick: It’s very difficult because most of the people that appear on this platform with one or two major exceptions are not selling huge numbers of records. So they rely on the touring and the small venues really, to keep them going, to make a lifestyle of it. What would you say… In your case, you [inaudible 00:21:24] making it by the traveling as well, but for a lot of people, they hold down a job and they don’t go into it full-time. What advice would you give somebody who wants to make a career out of music?
Linde Nijland: Mm, as long as you are good with it and authentic and you stay close to yourself that way, then I think there will always be people who love your music and you just have to find them. And if you consider the whole world’s your stage, so not just your own country or your own neighborhood, and you’re prepared to travel, you will always find people and can build on that to find audiences.
Nick: And of course you did go an awful long way, didn’t you, when you went to Bhutan?
Linde Nijland: We did.
Nick: Tell me the story about going to Bhutan on your musical odyssey.
Linde Nijland: It was 10 years ago and we were, Bert and I were asked to perform for the crowning festivities of the Fifth King of Bhutan, which sounds like a fairy tale. And it sort of was and there was a, how do you call it, a catch to it. We had to drive there by Land Rover. It was a special project. So we both… I don’t have a driver’s license, actually.
Bert: I have.
Linde Nijland: Bert has. And, so we drove together all the way from the north of the Netherlands to Bhutan in the Himalayas. And we decided to, well not just see the end goal as important, but-
Nick: The journey.
Linde Nijland: … the journey as well. And we made it into a friendship journey through music. So we had musical interactions with traditional musicians while in various really beautiful countries like-
Linde Nijland: … Serbia.
Nick: You made a film of it as well-
Linde Nijland: Iran.
Nick: … haven’t you?
Linde Nijland: Yeah, there was a filmer who traveled along so a DVD and CD appeared from it. And you can see us having performances in Iran, in India and Bhutan. And it was, and the most-
Nick: And did they like your music?
Linde Nijland: Yeah, because-
Bert: We even were on MTV in India.
Linde Nijland: Oh yeah, MTV India.
Nick: Oh wow!
Bert: MTV India is a little bit different than Europe where they only play mainstream pop music. This, India. They liked our music.
Linde Nijland: I think that folk music and and acoustic music, you are able to connect worldwide. The tunings are sometimes different and it was special to sing in Bhutan where they have a really different tonal system. But in general, and that was also the main… The biggest gift of this journey was the encounters with other musicians. And even in Iran where we played with traditional musicians, we didn’t speak each other’s language at all, but we just had an encounter. We communicated by making music and that was really wonderful.
Nick: How long do you think you’re going to continue this musical journey?
Linde Nijland: This lifestyle you mean.
Bert: As long as we are alive and healthy. Yeah. Maybe even more.
Nick: You’ll come back and haunt us afterwards.
Linde Nijland: I hope people still play the music and… Yeah, music in general, it can be really important. Other people’s music can be really important to me. We have played at funerals for instance. I think it can be such an important part of life and you can really make a difference even to a few people, you know? So that’s mainly why we do it I think. And because we love making beautiful things.
Nick: Thank you very much. Can you give me a website address for people who want to know more? Or where’s the best place to find you? On the website or Facebook?
Linde Nijland: Yeah, yeah.
Bert: Probably on the website.
Linde Nijland: Yeah. I am on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
Nick: If you look now, you will see that the title has come up for the website, as if by magic. And you can go and have a look at it. But I do recommend it because there’s some beautiful music being played by these two.
Thank you very, very much again for everything and have a great tour of life.
Linde Nijland: Thank you Nick.
Bert: Thank you.
Nick: Thank you.