I took five minutes out to catch up with singer-songwriter Freya Ward. We discuss overcoming stage fright and her current and upcoming EPs.
You released your EP back in November – tell us about the project!
If you listen to my first EP, By the Sea, it’s sort of me in a nutshell – which I didn’t realise at the time of writing! All of it stems from growing up in Devon, with clifftops and moors, combined with that slight wildness and need to run away that you get as a teenager (and that I still have in me today).
By the way, if you ever make it to Exeter, there’s a gorgeous pub called Hourglass which was the inspiration for that song (By The Sea). The songs came together pretty easily and Matthew Lowe, who produced them, totally agreed with me on which direction they should each go in, which was great.
You’ve performed with Imogen Heap, Sam Smith, Laura Mvula – how was that as an experience?
It was amazing – a real privilege. It was particularly inspiring to sing behind Imogen Heap and Laura Mvula; two incredibly strong female musicians who are unapologetically creative and completely original. Singing with them filled me with ideas and ambition, in equal measure. I performed with Sam Smith on the main stage at Wilderness Festival, so that was a pretty special one just in terms of the view you get!
What made you decide to launch your solo folk career?
I have so many amazingly talented musician friends – and I was constantly going to their gigs and feeling partly inspired, partly proud and partly desperately wishing that I was up there too… It was mainly with their encouragement and a bit of an ‘I can do that too’ mentality.
You’ve struggled with stage fright in the past – how did you overcome that?
I used to need to take prescribed beta blockers to have any hope of controlling my hands or voice when performing, and even then I would still give in to panic. I also found that taking them would create a sort of barrier between myself and the audience – I didn’t connect in the same way and I didn’t get the same high after performing.
One day I decided enough was enough and started exposure therapy. I started with an open mic night in Dublin where I was completely anonymous and it didn’t matter if I was rubbish. And I WAS rubbish – I almost dropped the guitar I was shaking so much. But I survived! I practised from there – the more I played, the more I could start to trust myself that I could cope and would pull it off despite feeling scared.
Still sometimes it will still start to creep in, often mid performance, and I have a little shout at myself internally, and refuse to let it any further and that usually works.
Any tips for other performers who might experience nerves before a performance?
My tip is: rehearse. Then you can trust your body that you can do it even if your brain lets you down in terms of feeling panicked and anxious. Also, if I can do it anybody can, so get out there and play!
What’s currently in your headphones?
I was lucky enough to sing with The Staves just before Christmas with my choir LCV, so I’ve been listening to them a lot recently. Also Wildwood Kin, Stables, Flyte… to name a few. I have a passion for electro too – and I’ve currently got Cut Copy and Kiasmos from that genre in my headphones.
What have you got planned for this year?
I am in the middle of recording my second EP – again with the brilliant Matthew Lowe. The tracks for this next EP are more varied – and we’re being a bit more experimental in terms of what we include – which is exciting! Other than that, more writing, more gigs and a few festivals.
We were also given access to an exclusive live session recording of That Place Where I Belong which will appear on Freya’s new EP. Check out the video below.