A few days earlier the 25-year-old had made her bow at Glastonbury, on the John Peel Stage, an event she says was “absolutely like a ridiculous childhood-dream-come-true situation”. “I’m just not used to walking out in front of that kind of crowd. It was like we hit a wave of energy, it hits you in the chest, it was a beautiful moment. I was so proud of my band and everyone, they did such a good job.”
She admits to feeling “nervous” over how the album will be received but given the runaway success of her song Lost Without You, its fate seems assured. “Anyone’s first studio album you’re saying so much,” she says. “Just trying to condense the last 15 years of writing songs into one record was difficult, but at the same time I loved the experience of getting to write every song on my album and really being hands-on in the studio, playing most of the instruments with incredible musicians. Even getting the opportunity to make an album was crazy to me, but to be able to thank the band who made it possible was even better.”
“Mostly” the songs were written within the last five years, she says. “They’ve been on quite a journey, as have I.”
Ridings began learning piano at school aged seven. “My mum wanted me to have piano lessons but all of my music teachers were very confused by me because I was really dyslexic and I couldn’t read any of the notation, so one by one they kind of just gave up on me but I still had the love for piano. I basically had to teach myself past that point – which is why to this day I still have no idea how to read music. It’s just by ear.”
The guitar came later, through watching her father, the actor Richard Ridings who voices the character of Daddy Pig in the cartoon series Peppa Pig.
She wrote her first song at nine years old. “I was being bullied at school by these girls and I thought I would write a sassy, empowering blues song called Pink Ice. I was a crazy nine-year-old, this chubby, ginger girl who thought, ‘I’m going to write this empowering blues song’. It started something that never really left me, which is turning to the piano or guitar when I’m in a time of struggle.”
Writing songs helped “massively” to combat the loneliness she felt at one stage in her life, she says. “If I hadn’t had the piano room to go to at lunchtime I don’t know what I would have done, honestly,” she says. “It was a kind of safe haven. I was super close to my family, so at school everything about me was just different. Anything that makes you stand out at school makes you a target, so I totally went into my shell. Playing piano at lunchtime was the one time I could be myself and that’s the truest thing through all of this, no matter what’s going on when I get back home to my piano it’s like nothing has ever really changed.”
After attending the Brit School, Ridings began releasing her first music – a series of singles and a live album – in 2017. She also toured with Tears For Fears and pre-fame Lewis Capaldi. She describes the experience of watching more seasoned musicians perform as “a masterclass – it gives you time to visualise what you would want to do on your dream tour, it’s such a beautiful opportunity to really work on your stagecraft”.
“It’s not something that came that easy to me,” she says. “I’m not as much of a performer as people think. I’m quite shy still but I love playing so much, and the better the crowds get the more confidence they give you.”
She cites Taylor Swift and Florence Welch as two of her “biggest inspirations as female writers”. “Other women who played instruments as well meant so much to me, because for a long time you would see a lot of girls who would bring a guy to play guitar or piano for them, I always thought that was so strange. When I saw girls like Taylor Swift or even Adele early on playing guitar it meant so much to me.”
Freya Ridings, O2 Academy Leeds, November 16. Her album is out now. freyaridings.com