“We are not going to play again until the new album comes out in October 2010,” says Lady Linn, aka Lien de Greef. Not letting the success go to their heads, they are getting straight down to work. “We did a lot of gigs and played a lot of festivals, so it’s better that we don’t play for a while and start again fresh with new songs,” de Greef tells me from a recording studio between mixing tracks.
De Greef can’t quite believe the year she and the Magnificent Seven have had. Their audience has increased more than tenfold, and their 2008 album, Here We Go Again, hit the number two spot in the Belgian album chart. It has now been in the charts for the last 90 weeks and has gone gold. “I didn’t really expect it,” she says. “I just wanted to see if I could write my own songs.”
De Greef set up the band in her last year of studying jazz at the conservatory in Ghent so that she could sing all the old favourites that inspired her. “I didn’t really know jazz before I went to the conservatory,” she notes. “We played covers for five years. Then I began feeling the need to write my own music.”
In February this year, De Greef won the Belgian Music Industry Award for best female artist. However, the highlight of her year was being asked to play at Flanders’ Rock Werchter in July. Voted the best music festival in Europe several times over, the 2009 line-up included stadium fillers Placebo, Kings of Leon and The Black Eyed Peas. “It was one of the most beautiful days of my life,” she says, “seeing all those people singing along with my songs.”
The gig has contributed to the exponential growth of the band’s fame. For De Greef, dealing with the adulation of persistent fans has not been easy. “Most of the time, they are very friendly, but they don’t always leave you alone.”
The 28-year-old was taken aback at the sheer number of fans wanting a photo while she was trying to enjoy herself as part of the audience at festivals in Belgium this year. “This summer was difficult for me,” she says. “People kept coming to ask for photographs – but all the time! I was really getting stressed out. When I said sorry it wasn’t the right moment, some people got mad and took a picture anyway. My mother says I should wear sunglasses and a scarf,” she laughs.
The experience might make it into her next lyrics. All De Greef’s songs are based on personal feelings. “I only write when I feel very good or very bad,” she says. “I’m not the sort of person who can write when I’m feeling neutral.”
De Greef is half-way through writing for the new album. The new songs range from being single and feeling lonely to the inspiration she feels from the late African-American singer Nina Simone. She tried a couple of them out at Werchter. “There’s one song about the fact that sometimes it’s ok to cry. Sometimes I just feel like crying, and I think a lot of girls have those days,” she says. “It’s also a bit ironic; I’ve written words like: let yourself go and enjoy the fact you’re a drama queen.”
Another is called “Sunday Blues”. “When I was single, I felt lonely a lot of the time,” De Greef explains. “I’d have a really good time partying on Fridays and Saturdays, but on Sundays I’d get so depressed. It’s a really awful feeling, when everyone has gone and the city is a bit desolate.”
But now there’s a new man in her life. “Some of the songs are about that,” she laughs. “But I’m scared to write a love song again because I did it in the past, and it wasn’t appreciated by the person I wrote it for. So there’s also a song about that and how I feel about him,” she says.
As well as working on the new album, De Greef is putting together tracks for her other band, Howie and Lien. “It’s much more electro, and I’m looking forward to performing,” she says. The duo’s first CD is scheduled to release in January.
Performing still makes it to the top of the list of what she wants to be doing in five years’ time. “I want to be still performing, still singing, still writing songs and hopefully living together, hopefully have a child. I would love to have a baby,” she says.
There are still a few tickets left to see Lady Linn and Her Magnificent Seven at AB in Brussels on 21 November