The interview with the Dutch singer Dianne van Giersbergen has become a reliable tradition for MetalGossip. This year, the artist received her first solo composition. We couldn’t pass by and talked with Dianne. Read about her solo career, debut album, Xandria and more in our exclusive interview.
MG: Hello, Dianne! Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. First of all, congratulations on the release of the very first solo single!
Dianne: Thank you!
MG: So let’s talk about your new solo project. How did you come up with the idea of a solo album?
Dianne: Well, I’ve been asked to do a solo album so, so often I think ever since I left Xandria, people already started asking me, “Oh, will you continue somehow in some symphonic metal, maybe with another band or do your own solo album?” And the question really increased over the years. But for me, I knew that I wanted to do it at some point, but firstly, I needed to find the right form to do it because I also still have my progressive symphonic metal band Ex Libris, as well as my jewelry. And now I also have a podcast. So I already have so much to do. And with that in mind, I came up with a plan to release my album over the course of five years. The album will contain 10 songs and then I will release two songs each year. And that for me actually makes it doable.
MG: You’ve said that it’ll take five years before the release of the album. What is the concept behind this decision?
Dianne: Well, so apart from the practical side of things that otherwise I would have to let go of something that I’m already doing which I really do not want to do. But apart from that, I’m going to take my listeners on a journey, the journey that I’ve been on in the past five years. And I really want them to take in every subject, every lyrical subject that I’m going to offer and not just skip over a few songs because I think now if you release an album, the songs on the back of the album, you know, at the very end, they don’t get listened to that often, especially not as often as the first songs. And I think that’s a total shame because we pour our hardened souls into every song we write. And then I’m talking about us as musicians in general. So I want my audience to be captivated by each song. And therefore, I’m offering them all up as singles. And I’m spreading it out over the five years because it’s going to be about the journey that I went on. And that took me five years.
MG: Actually in the latest Q&A session Manuela Kraller also mentioned the same approach in music releases, like couple songs in one period of time.
Dianne: Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe it’s an ex-Xandria singers’ thing now to do that. But I follow her on her socials. And I’m really looking forward to what she’s coming up with because she has such a beautiful voice
MG: Is “Soulward Bound” a concept album?
Dianne: Yes, yes, because it will all tie together. So it will be one story from me getting from A to B. And if you look at the artwork then, obviously the castle at the very end is the end goal. And the end goal is actually the point where I am now. It’s the point where I’m starting to create symphonic music again, symphonic metal music. So yeah, it’s one big concept album. It’s me getting to the end goal. That’s the point. It’s really nice that even the cover of the album holds the concept.
MG: Tell us more about “After the Storm“. Is this song about time in Xandria?
Dianne: Well, it’s not about my time in Xandria, but it is, of course, about the breakup and my time. Well, actually, the moment directly after. So in the song, there are multiple emotions. It’s me feeling sad, feeling betrayed, feeling angry, confused, because I clearly remember thinking, how did it evolve like this? And how did we end up here? Because we used to be such a solid pack together and we could really work together. And it all turned around. So there’s also a bit of confusion there. And yeah, also sadness, because well, to this day, I’m still very sad that it didn’t work out. I gave it my best and it was really, yeah, it was time for me to leave. And I did. And everything that I felt at that point is in this song.
MG: Is this the only song about that period of time or there will be other songs about this?
Dianne: No, from there on, I will move ahead in time. So yeah, stuff might come up that happened to me afterwards that still has some reference to Xandria, but most of the songs will be about what I encountered in the years afterwards.
MG: What do you think about telling such stories through the songs? Does it help to forgive and let go?
Dianne: Forgive and let go. That’s a really heavy term. I don’t know if that’s going to be applicable, but for me, I’m creating this album not for the outside world to steer up more gossip. It’s for me, it’s an album that might even serve as therapy. I’m going to pour everything into music. And it’s more like I’m telling the people, look, I’ve been through a really hard breakup and this is how it felt from my point of view. And I think there are always people that can relate because there are so many breakups happening in the world. It can be between you and an employer or you and your boss, you and friends or in a relationship that ends. So it’s, you know, I’m of course talking about my experiences, but I’m going to write it as if it’s just, it’s more a general topic.
MG: Tell us about the songwriting process of the solo songs. Does it start with lyrics or with melodies?
Dianne: It starts with melodies and chord progressions indeed. I am fortunate enough that I get to write my music together with Joost van der Broek, who I know actually from Xandria. I got to know him when we recorded, I think “Nightfall”, which wasn’t, or at least my parts weren’t recorded with him, but he was already producing that album. And I got to know him from there. And he was such an important part in Xandria music. And he is just amazing, especially when it comes to symphonic metal music. And I approached him and I said, “Look, I have an idea. I am thinking about going solo. I want my music to be symphonic metal music. Are you up for teaming up with me, possibly writing together with me and doing the production?” And he didn’t have to think about it that long. He just said, “Yes, I’m in, let’s do this”.
MG: Can we expect any vocalists guest appearances on your solo album?
Dianne: It’s a good question. I’ve been asked that before in the comments that I read underneath my posts and my video. And I don’t know, at this point, everything is wide open. I know the topics that the songs will be about, but everything else is still open. I haven’t written a note for the next song. That’s what I’m going to do in the next couple of weeks. Otherwise, if I linger any longer, I will get really nervous. So I don’t know. If the song asks for it, then definitely I will invite people to join me. But they have to have a role, so they have to portray a certain someone. And that has to be important enough to the story.
MG: When can we expect the second single?
Dianne: Well, I promise two in a year, so it must be this year still. Also, that I don’t know yet. And I really don’t want to say it out loud because then I’m giving myself a deadline and that is killing for the creative process
MG: Will there be another video for the second single?
Dianne: Also that, you know, if it’s completely up to me, if I would have all the time in the world, all the money in the world to spend on such things, then absolutely. But let’s just see how things evolve from here. And I would love another video. But I don’t know if that’s in the cards. I’m going to take it step by step and see if I can manage another video.
MG: Do you plan live shows with solo material in the future?
Dianne: Well, not yet because that would make a very short set since it only contains one song. But in the future, absolutely. I cannot wait to get on the stage again.
MG: Besides Tarja Turunen solo career, whose solo career of ex-vocalists impressed you the most?
Dianne: Oh, that’s such a hard question because if you didn’t mention Tarja, then I would obviously have chosen her. I really like what Floor did, especially with Revamp, which again is another band. So I don’t know if you can then call it a solo career. But anyways, that’s what she did after After Forever. And I really, really loved the albums that Revamp put out. But Marcela Bovio is a good friend of mine and I absolutely admire everything she does. She’s an amazing vocalist and she does everything by herself.
MG: Whose solo album do you wait for?
Dianne: I’m not queuing up on anyone’s solo album at the moment. I’m more of the kind of girl that has some notifications on Spotify and then checks something out. I’m way too focused on creating my jewelry and writing my own music. So I’m more someone who stumbles upon things.
MG: What is your reference point in your solo career? Who is an example for you?
Dianne: Oh, that’s really hard to say because then it might sound like I am mirroring myself to another singer and that’s exactly not what I want to do because I just want to create stuff that makes me happy and of which I think this fits my voice. But hey, I think almost every woman in symphonic metal is a very tough woman and an inspiration. So then I would just have to say everyone.
MG: What about Ex Libris? Are you working on new material?
Dianne: Well, plants is not the word yet, but we are definitely writing. We have a great new concept which we will be putting to music and we have a new writing session coming up in a few weeks. And there will definitely be an Ex Libris release in the upcoming five years. So in between me releasing all the songs, there will definitely be an Ex Libris release.
MG: We will wait for it because the end trilogy was just fascinating.
Dianne: Thank you. I actually really, really love it. I love listening to the end trilogy. I can even listen to that album as a listener and just be flabbergasted because there is so much going on in the album. I absolutely still love that album.
MG: A little bit tricky question: Did you listen to the new Xandria album?
Dianne: Ah, yes, that is a tricky question, but I’m okay with answering that. No. I didn’t listen to the album that I put out so many singles before they release the album that I listen to bits of that. I think I only listened to the first song, which I have the video clips with the triangles. I listened to that as a whole and then the other songs just bits. Wow, what can I say? I of course know a lot about the writing process in Xandria and I’m not really surprised by what I hear. I also, for me, haven’t evolved in a way that I now think, wow, this is something completely new and on a different level. I do think that they are moving towards a much more popular mainstream sound, which is okay by me because I’m sticking to using operatic vocals in symphonic metal. So we’re kind of moving apart here and that’s something I think that’s for the better.
MG: In your opinion is the return to pop vocals in Xandria can be considered as a downgrade for the band?
Dianne: No, it’s just different.
MG: How long do you think the new singer will stay in the band?
Dianne: I think as long as she’s together with Marco, she will definitely be in the band. They are a couple and they were already when I was still singing in Xandria. So they have been a couple now or they aren’t anymore. That’s something I really don’t know, but they got together when I was still with Xandria.
MG: Operatic vocals are quite an uneasy instrument. How to achieve this combination with heavy sound of music?
Dianne: Well, first of all, you have to really know what your instrument is about and that means study your instrument, get yourself a proper classical education. Don’t think that if you have a few singing lessons and you’re able to manage a steady vibrato and color your voice a little bit darker than usual then you’re there, because it’s much, much, much more than that. So that’s a first. Be sure that your technique is in order and then you always have to wear in-ear and make sure that the balance on your in-ear is a proper one for you to be able to intonate so that you sing in key, but also not too loud that you destroy your ears. You have to leave enough room for your voice to be, if you have the, oh, all the different layers, then leave enough room for your voice to fill up the well, non-existent because it’s an in ear system. So it’s not an actual room but you have to imagine that there’s a room because the voice needs, I don’t know, if this is getting confusing for those who don’t understand what it is to be a vocalist. But if you’re a classical vocalist then you always work in an acoustic setting and if you are singing with in-ear then you have to somehow trick the in-ear to function as an acoustic setting. So what I do is I have the band and the backings, I have some really low-in volume and then myself much, much louder with an echo on there so that I get the impression of being in a room, for example, a bathroom or a church, you know, something that really has a nice reverb. I think those two, so one being classically trained and then two having a proper setup for your in ear, oh yeah, and then three, get in of rest, stay hydrated, don’t do any silly things when you are on tour, so don’t party, keep yourself to yourself, be very strict because the instrument, that’s just two tiny muscles, it’s muscle tissue actually, and they can get hurt really quickly so you really have to take care of that because once they’re gone, they’re gone and you really do not want to enjoy yourself.
MG: How is Precious Metal Jewelry? Do you have any new ideas?
Dianne: Ah always, always. Well, since we last spoke, I’ve moved from selling on social media to having my own website and workshop online and that just, that means a completely different world for me, things are now not only so much more structures but I also find that people find me more easily, so I’m really busy with creating jewelry and sending them out all around the world actually and that’s something that I really love. So yeah, things are going great and I could not be happier about that, the only thing I’m maybe not complaining about, but which is getting hurt is how busy I am with my jewelry and the combination with my music.
MG: Did you consider expanding with your jewelry? For example, to decorate outfits? Because I saw in the video this this armor pieces on your dress and it’s look beautiful
Dianne: Thank you, well I could never create armor myself. I actually got that from Mytholon which is a German company and they are really big in having all sorts of armor, for example, people who do cosplay and they wanted to team up with me and so they provided the armor and the dress was provided by The Tailor Witch again a designer from Germany. And yes, there were two pieces of mine so I wore a necklace and a single earring and the necklace was made with basically tawn strings and the earring was made out of a symbol and that’s as far as I’m going to stretch it. I might do bigger jewelry pieces of course but I will never like to create a full outfit because I’m not a seamstress and I’m definitely not able to create or to make armor.
MG: You took sabbatical in 2021. Tell us more about it. Did it help you to reboot yourself?
Dianne: Oh absolutely, it totally did. It gave me the opportunity to create the webshop because I didn’t travel for a year and did nothing. I actually went offline and started to do everything that I needed to do but couldn’t do because I spent so much time online and doing for example my quarantine quiz. So in that year I created the webshop and I created this whole idea and started planning out what it could be but also how I should go about it. So it was really a year in which I could create maybe Dianne 2.0
MG: You have a podcast with Marcelo Bovio, “Are we better friends yet?” Tell us about it, how you came up with the idea to make this podcast.
Dianne: Well we’ve been wanting to create something together for a long time and obviously the first thing that wanted to come up with is music, but we’re both already so busy with all kinds of musical projects that we were like no we have to do something else but what and then we thought hey we’re both fans of podcasts so maybe we could start a podcast together but what should it be about and that actually wasn’t such a hard idea because when we’re together we’re talking non-stop and we’re always having such a good time and silly conversations and then we just thought oh maybe we should just record those and invite people to listen to what we come up with and all the all kind of nonsense that we share and well people seem to love our little silliness so yeah that’s I think how the podcast came about.
MG: Do you consider making some recordings of classical/operatic pieces?
Dianne: No, not really no. There are other singers and then I’m mainly thinking of the people that I studied with at the conservatory. They are devoting their whole life to classical music while I am devoting my whole life to the crossover of classical vocal technique and a metal band so I’m really fine with sticking to where my devotion is and I will leave the honors of recording classical music to them.
MG: Last but not least, a couple of words to our readers.
Dianne: Oh well thanks for taking the time to read this article and if you haven’t heard my song yet it’s called ‘After the Storm”. It’s the first song of my upcoming solo album which is called “Soulward Bound” and you’re all invited to give it a listen. I have a really cool video on YouTube. You’re invited to take a look at that as well and for those who have already heard it, thank you so much for supporting me and I’m really looking forward to seeing you someday, maybe online. It might also be on stage wherever it will be. I’m already looking forward to seeing you there.