Even Without a Front Man, a balladeer Rocksa balladeer

by Dylan Beck

Pop music is being redefined by the edgy, socially-aware, supremely tuneful themed melodies of a balladeer, whose creative sparks first ignited seven years ago, when a young vocalist named Marinus was auditioning new guitarists in Holland.

He came upon a string man and music arranger ‘with the best ears for sound’ named Erik and they joined forces with drummer Tijs and began writing hook-studded tunes demonstrating solid songwriting and storytelling.

They needed a name for their band but couldn’t find the title that best described their uniqueness. Then Marinus remembered the word ‘balladeer.’ He first heard it in a song and liked the sound of it, but even more, the figurative meaning: a bit of a drama queen. He wrote the word down in lowercase, placed a small ‘a’ in front of it, and was pleased with what he saw: a balladeer. The band was born.

Though the trio keeps up with the times – “we’re on Twitter and Facebook a lot,” says Tijs – historical events play a significant part in their music.

“I have a tendency to romanticize the past,” admits Marinus who writes most of the songs. “I’ve been accused of not living in the here and now, but I believe that only by studying society’s mistakes can we learn not to repeat them.”a balladeer

Inspired by Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell, his lyrics are personal and honest – many times with a healthy dose of melancholy. They tend to be short stories, mostly from Marinus’ own experience (many of the tracks on their debut album, Where Are You, Bambi Woods?, are inspired by Marinus’ year spent as an exchange student in Texas), but sometimes others. “Nightmare on Elm Street” is Jackie Kennedy’s story about the day her husband was fatally shot and “Oh, California” is an ode to Joni Mitchell.

Thought-provoking? Absolutely. It is infectiously essential, too. a balladeer weaves together rollicking guitar riffs, earthy percussion and soothing harmonies with a whole bunch of smart lyrics. They are regularly compared to the likes of Counting Crows, R.E.M., Keane and Coldplay.

“We don’t mind being compared to other bands,” explains Erik. “People do that, so do we. When someone asks us to describe our genre of music, we say pop/rock with singer/songwriter influences.”
a balladeer made their debut live appearance in late 2006 at a club in Utrecht, Holland. “We were the support act for a Dutch band and experienced one technical failure after another that evening,” remembers Tijs.

“It’s not fun to be on a stage when things don’t go right,” adds Marinus. “But those performances make the best memories.”
Something went right because soon after, the band received a phone call from major record label, EMI, requesting a demo CD. Unfortunately, after listening, the label felt they didn’t hear enough hit singles.

The band was devastated; for a day. They regrouped and decided to record the album themselves. When executives at EMI discovered a balladeer had tapped a top producer, a well-known bass player and arranger Robert Kirby to record the demo, they asked if they could drop by the studio.

They listened, they ate and then left. At 2:00 a.m. in the morning that same night, Marinus received a text message: “We’re gonna do it.”
It took another year before they were signed.

They spent the year touring and cultivating an audience; one they describe as young (a lot of students), 60 percent female and 40 percent sensitive males. They appreciate the occasional grey hair in the audience. “When it is 4:30 a.m. and you’ve got grandma on stage partying with you, you know something works,” laughs Tijs.

The band’s mission is to make a beautiful oeuvre. That might sound not very rock ‘n’ roll, but then again, a balladeer isn’t exactly rock ‘n’ roll. “The best moment is when a song I wrote with a broken heart turns out to be an anthem that everyone sings along to, with a beer in their hands,” says Marinus.

“That’s when I truly do feel like a balladeer.”

Give them a listen at www.myspace.com/aballadeer


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