Let’s start from the beginning: your years as Sleepingdog. What strikes me is a certain maturity even in a starting, new project like that. What inspired you to create Sleepingdog and what came before that?
I used to have a band called Chacda. I loved playing with them but I missed something that was completely mine. Than I started with Sleepingdog but being best friends with Adam Wiltzie naturally developped us being a duo. It was such an inspiring process to work with him. The combination of songwriting and ambient felt very special.
How would you describe your evolution as an artist and a songwriter during the Sleepingdog years? How do you look at that experience from your current “Chantal Acda” perspective?
I have learnt a lot in my Sleepingdog years. I think I slowly felt that my need in music is to calm myself down. To feel at ease with the world. Adam is a fantastic musician who is so much inspired by sound. That was new for me, being a impulsive musician. His atmospheric sounds calmed me down. After a while I did felt stuck though. I felt the need to liberate me. As much as I loved and still love Sleepingdog, it was also pretty static in some ways. I needed to feel free and jam with people. Record moments instead of months of work. Work with more people, less overdubs, more just people in a room recording songs. I needed to aproach music in a spiritual way. Liberate my voice and find my strength instead of hiding myself behind a very strong and beautiful person like Adam. Thats when I started working on my record.
Then you have decided to put Sleepingdog to rest and you have started a real solo project, with your name in front. What sprung this decision?
I wanted to work with other people but not like a 50/50 collaboration. I wanted to make sure that the music and process was just embracing my emotions, struggle, intensity, spirituality. Adam and I got involved lovewise and it also became hard for us to not let that effect the music. All together I think I needed to find my strength. And I could only do that when I would fully embrace my strength instead of being afraid of my fragilety.
“Let Your Hands Be My Guide” is also the result of many collaborations. How did you meet this new record’s collaborators and how did you work together?
I knew Peter Broderick since a long time and through him I also met Nils. I saw a lot of concerts of both of them and than I played a show in Paris supporting Nils. He played some songs with me and the same week we started talking. Talking about me feeling stuck and it slowly became clear we would work together. Gyda was one of the persons, together with my boyfriend, who told me I was stuck in a box. It was my saviour that she confronted me with this fact. It made me think. We met when she was on tour with A Winged Victory For The Sullen. We opened with Sleepingdog and she started playing with us. Shahzad was not supposed to be part of the recordings. He was just in the house working on mixes. But his energy blew me away. Nils, Peter and Gyda were drinking coffee at a certain moment I was just practising a song. Shahzad came in, grabbed my guitar and started playing. And than Nils ran to the recording desk and we started playing together. He really put everyone in the right place.
I absolutely loved “Let Your Hands Be My Guide”, it’s surely one of the most moving records of these last years. I also noticed a certain difference of tone with respect to your previous records, an increased maturity and a more sober way to convey emotional intensity. Do you consider this just a result of the arrangements or did you notice (or look for) a change also in your songwriting?
Its really touching to hear you like the record this much. What I feel is that I am in a different place. Nothing felt the same after the recordings. Really weird. I feel truly liberated from a big heavy stone I always had in my body. I think I was fighting a lot against the world. Didnt feel at home. At these moments, in the studio, the world just started making sense. I still wonder if the other musicians have any idea how big this influences my daily life. Its great if this can reflect on people who are willing to listen to the record.
How do you plan to play “Let Your Hands Be My Guide” live? While being so sparse, I think it’s not easy to reproduce it in full… Will you be touring with Peter or Nils?
I just played my first 5 shows in Belgium. Nils was there and I have an amazing jazzdrummer, Eric Thielemans, and guitarist, Gaetan Vandewoude. They managed to get me back to the right place. It will be my main goal to contain the freedom I gained in the studio and I feel that I can do this with them, even if it is different ofcourse. Its important to just not try to copy the record. The only thing that counts is the spirituality. The feeling that I can be so vunarable that it makes me feel stronger than ever. Does that make sense? Sometimes hard to explain these things!
You represent an important part of the Belgian independent scene, as Sleepingdog, True Bypass and now as yourself, but you have also been part of Isbells. Can you give us a quick sketch of today’s musical environment in Belgium?
Belgium is a weird country. There is so much chaos in here. I love it. A lot of musicians are supporting eachother. I like the fact that there is a lot of crossover between styles. Thats something I really missed while living in Holland.
Can you speak about your touring plans? Is Italy in them?
We are working on it. I have a really lovely guy working on it. We will first do a tour in Germany and Belgium and I know he is working on a Italy tour as we speak.
To be honest, the reactions from Italy have been just totally heartbreaking and I cant wait to play for all these sweet and open people.