Led by out front man Marinus de Goederen, a balladeer has made a name for itself in the Netherlands, where the band is based. Now the groups ready to take on America. We chatted with de Goederen to discuss his sweet sounds, being gay in Amsterdam, and why hes so interested in a possibly dead porn star.
Out: Youre based in Amsterdam and youve got a pretty good thing going on in Europe. Why try to break in over on this side of the pond?
Marinus de Goederen: I think every band would like to come to America. Its the best place to be as a band. Or maybe we all have dreams to make it big in America. I dont know. Its a very good question. I think America and Great Britain are the two most important countries, music-wise.
You were an exchange student for a year in Texas. Did that make you hate America?
[Laughs] No I was 16 then, and I was really excited about going to America, and I really enjoyed my year over there. [American] culture -- theres a lot of things you guys do differently than we do. It was really an experience I really cherished. I feel blessed to have done that for a year.
On one of your albums youve got an anthem called America, America. What made you decide to write that?
Tijs and Eric -- the other two guys in the band -- came up with the tune and I was kind of settled with the album, but we really liked the track. So I tried to write the lyrics on it, and I couldnt figure out what it should be about, and somehow I ended up writing about my year in America and what was kind of strange to me when I was there. Which was, for example, allegiance to the flag every morning, which we dont have in Holland. And going to church and praying for soldiers in Iraq, which I thought was strange as well.
Youre openly gay, right?
I dont have it tattooed on my head, but, yes, Im gay or bisexual.
Do you think its easier to be gay in America than it is in Holland?
I have no idea. When I was in America, I was dating girls, so I dont know. A few years ago, I would say its easier to live as a gay man in Amsterdam, but theres some gay bashing going on lately here, so Im not sure. I think its probably different in big cities than in Laramie, Wyoming or wherever.
Speaking of Laramie, the album also features a song called Poster Child which you wrote for Matthew Shepard. What made you decide to do that?
I heard about his name a few times, and I found out that a few artists had been writing songs about him, and the case and what was going on. I started Googling his name and looking things up on the internet and I really got sucked into the story and how horrible it was. I just couldnt believe it, and I just kept reading and reading and hoping for a different outcome somehow, which of course, couldnt happen. I was somehow intrigued by the story that I couldnt understand why someone would do that to someone else. And it was such a sad story, and in the pictures he was a pretty boy to see, and he seemed so cool, that I couldnt understand it. What struck me most was the speech that the father of Matt Shepard had given during one of the trials of the murderers. I just couldnt imagine what it was like to be there for 18 hours -- Im not sure if he was conscious or whatever -- but it seemed such a long time when youre waiting and theres no one there and its cold. And what struck me about the speech of his father was that he tried to summarize the good things there -- like the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the pine trees and somehow that really struck a chord and was really emotional for me. And somehow I started writing a song. Its not like I thought of it beforehand and thought Im going to write a song, it just struck me, and I started writing words and I would play something on the piano. I just remember that I got sucked into the story for a whole weekend, and I was really emotional about it.
Your first U.S. single, Swim with Sam, has been out in Holland for a while now and received a lot of attention. What made you decide to release it here rather than something new?
Its not really up to us. We got hooked up with a really nice guy named Arthur from Zip Records, and he was really interested in the album, and he wanted a few tracks from our first album as well. So were like, sure, whatever you want! We'd like to come over there and do whatever it takes. Im not really concerned with picking out a single myself. I think whatever works in whatever country, Ill just go along with it. I do like the song Swim with Sam, its one of my favorites. Its about my favorite book. Of all the songs, weve played that song the most, and it still doesnt tire me. I still love playing it. I still think its a pretty song, and Im really proud of it.
Youve said your audience is 60% female and 40% sensitive male. Where do you think the gays fit in there?
[Laughs] A little bit the sensitive, maybe? I cannot always tell if someone is gay, by the way, especially not in the audience. But I did a show with Jay Brannan, the songwriter and actor from Shortbus. There were a lot of gay people there, and I think a lot of gay people saw me perform there and know who I am now.
Where does the name of the band, a balladeer, come from?
I first heard of it in a song, Heropsychodreamer, by the American band Live. I was listening to the song and I heard the word balladeer, and I was like I like that word, what does it mean? And I looked it up in the English dictionary, and it said its someone who sings ballads, or sings slow songs, or whatever. And I was like, OK! And a few years later, I had to decide a name for the band, and I couldnt think of anything and somehow that word kept popping up in my head, and I was like, maybe thats something. I tried to see if balladeer.com was available, and it wasnt so I thought, Ill make it a balladeer. And I liked that a lot, and I also like the way it sounds and what it means. Its always hard to pick a name.
And why are the letters lowercase?
It looks better. I think it looks better with the small a and the small b. I know k.d. lang does it as well. There are some Dutch bands that do it, too.
The album is called Where are you, Bambi Woods? Who is Bambi Woods?
She was a big star of the foreign trilogy, Debbie Does Dallas. She was probably a girl with a drug problem and needed some money. And she decided to play the part of Debbie in the movie and the sequel and then another sequel as well. She probably didnt know that she was starring in a movie that would become an all-time classic of foreign movies, and she just needed the money and probably had a drug problem. At the end of the '70s or the beginning of the '80s, she disappeared and 25 years after the movie, there was a documentary on TV I saw that talked about how they wanted to make a DVD box out of the Debbie Does Dallas movies and they were interviewing all the actors and actresses. And they couldnt find her because her name was a [stage] name, not a real name. They just couldnt find her and there were these two theories. One, that she died of an overdose at the beginning of the '80s. And others say that she just took her stuff and left and started a family somewhere else. And I thought it was interesting that it was either the good way or the bad way. And when I first heard her name, Bambi Woods, I thought it was kind of silly but poetic as well. I was wondering what would have become of her. I wrote the song pretty fast -- I was just thinking about her and what would have happened and what had happened.
a balladeers new album, Where are you, Bambi Woods?, is available now.