Need To Know: a balladeer


By Gregory Miller

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 group's ready to take on America. We chatted with de Goederen to discuss his sweet sounds, being gay in Amsterdam, and why he's so interested in a possibly dead porn star.

Out: You're based in Amsterdam and you've 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. It's the best place to be as a band. Or maybe we all have dreams to make it big in America. I don't know. It's 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 -- there's 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 you've 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 couldn't 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 don't have in Holland. And going to church and praying for soldiers in Iraq, which I thought was strange as well.

You're openly gay, right?
I don't have it tattooed on my head, but, yes, I'm gay or bisexual.

Do you think it's 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 don't know. A few years ago, I would say it's easier to live as a gay man in Amsterdam, but there's some gay bashing going on lately here, so I'm not sure. I think it's 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 couldn't believe it, and I just kept reading and reading and hoping for a different outcome somehow, which of course, couldn't happen. I was somehow intrigued by the story that I couldn't 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 couldn't 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 couldn't imagine what it was like to be there for 18 hours -- I'm not sure if he was conscious or whatever -- but it seemed such a long time when you're waiting and there's no one there and it's 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. It's not like I thought of it beforehand and thought I'm 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?
It's 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 we're like, sure, whatever you want! We'd like to come over there and do whatever it takes. I'm not really concerned with picking out a single myself. I think whatever works in whatever country, I'll just go along with it. I do like the song 'Swim with Sam,' it's one of my favorites. It's about my favorite book. Of all the songs, we've played that song the most, and it still doesn't tire me. I still love playing it. I still think it's a pretty song, and I'm really proud of it.