“I’ve been on the main stage of Glastonbury, so why could I not do this?!”: the platinum-selling Caro Emerald on her reinvention and return as The Jordan.
Words: Iris Beek
After a few years of radio silence, Caroline van der Leeuw is back. The Dutch singer and songwriter – who’s best known as Caro Emerald – has several big hits and albums under that name already. But now Caroline has reshaped herself as an artist and started a brand-new project The Jordan. With her new single ‘Best Damn Day’ and her upcoming album Nowhere Near The Sky is Caroline truly herself and completely free with her music?
Hi Caroline! First, how are you doing? Does it feel good to make music again?
“It does! I think it’s been the same for everyone at this point, we’ve all been gone. But for me it’s been even longer, I’ve been out of the spotlight a little longer but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t performing at all. I performed quite a lot before the pandemic but I’ve only performed a bit less in the last few years because the focus has shifted elsewhere. I was already working on this project; it just took a little longer because of Covid. I think I’ve been shouting for three years that I can’t wait! Now it’s finally time and it’s all very exciting, fun, and very busy. It’s the next level of what I used to do because I’m the project leader now, I managed everything and that is quite a lot but also a lot of fun.”
You say it’s different now because you managed to do everything yourself. Are there more differences between The Jordan and Caro Emerald?
“Yes, the biggest difference is that I wrote everything myself, with the help of other people of course. With Caro Emerald, I was just part of the writing collective. You could really think of Caro Emerald as a kind of band that you only see behind the scenes. So I did write my own songs, but with a group of people with lyrics that weren’t even about me or my life. Now the lyrics are about me, they have also been written with co-writers, but they are my stories and that is a very big difference for me.”
And is that also how your latest single ‘Best Damn Day’ got born?
“Yes! I always wrote my songs from my own feelings, but it always suited Caro Emerald’s repertoire. Now these are just my stories and feelings that I build together with other people. But then I can just say: this is the story! And then to be able to sing it on stage is unreal. The Jordan is different, I also have a new band and we had rehearsal week. I’ve met them, but we hadn’t played together yet. So, I walked in, and they were just playing one of MY songs! That touched me so much that I had to wipe away a tear.”
That’s so beautiful! You described that ‘Best Damn Day’ is a ‘Personal anthem of freedom’, is that based on all your experience now?
“Definitely. How this started was I always wanted to do something different, and I also knew that there would come a time when I had to give it some structure. I really wanted to have an opportunity to do something I wanted, so I just knew that everything had to be different. We’ve set up a label but also a management and publishing company. That really felt like walking away and starting over.”
I can imagine that because you created a huge name with Caro Emerald!
“Yes, that was quite strange, but need to distance yourself from that, also in public because I think you should be clear about that. I wrote songs about what was going on in my mind, during that period I felt I had to escape but I didn’t know how. I also felt quite alone at times because I did it alone. I found that very confrontational but that’s what the new songs are about. In the end, it has also given me a lot of comfort because it tells me and many others that you just have to do it. It can just be something big and bold, so dare to face it. You shouldn’t be happy with something that doesn’t make you happy.”
Did you have any mental support in this? Because it seems very hard to do this all by yourself.
“I have had a lot of support from the people around me. I have spoken to people and asked for advice as it is also a huge maze. The music industry is simple, and the cash flows are simple. I also thought; how do you build your own business? That’s what it was all about, not just the creative part. I’ve had support from people around me to get myself out of this.”
But you did it! And now your debut album for this project is coming out on February 10. How do you feel about that, what can we expect?
“I am very proud of how it turned out! It had to be a personal album, that’s the most important thing. I wanted to have songs that give strength but also describe the pain… songs that hurt so much to hear. That’s what it all turned out to be, it’s very honest and that’s all I wanted. People sometimes ask me if I don’t think it’s scary, and it is. But the scariest thing is already done. I was very scared that I wouldn’t be able to make a good album. The bar is set high, and it feels like I have something to prove because what I’ve put down is already so great. But it feels like this album doesn’t have to surpass anything, it has its own place.”
Recently you had your debut show in Bitterzoet and next March you’ll have a show in Amsterdam at Paradiso – how did that go?
“That was also a lot of fun, I really missed performing the most. I love nothing more than that, it’s really something I don’t want to miss anymore. It was a special evening, I lived for it with the people around me because I had been looking forward to this for years. It was sold out and all friends, old acquaintances and fans had bought tickets. It was so special that everyone was there. It was bizarre and it went very well, but I was also very nervous, and I didn’t quite realise it yet. I am looking forward to the show in Paradiso. Currently, I’m on tour with my amazing band at Dutch radio stations, so we’re performing twice a week but that’s also how we develop. I’m just really looking forward to the shows.”
Did you know the band already or did you just start with them fully blind?
“No, I didn’t know them at all. I found them through my producer Wouter Hardy, we understand each other very well. It’s hard to play a produced album live, but since he also played in bands, he knew what he was doing. Wouter selected the band for me, and he did a great job. I just jumped in! It’s very exciting when you don’t know people.”
It’s very cliché, but you only live once. Right?
“That’s true! But I still find things scary. I never go on stage with confidence and I’m always nervous that something will go wrong, but I also think it’s a part of the job. I keep thinking; I’ve always done it. I’ve been on the main stage of Glastonbury, so why could I not do this?!”
I think a lot of people are too scared to get out of their safe circle, so I think that’s impressive of you to do that.
“I must honestly say that I also think it is very impressive of me, I also had to overcome it. I’ve also heard from people that they think this is very cool and I love that so much, they see and hear you. However, I also understand that people stay in that circle if they have something good. But the listener is going to hear that you’re not so inspired anymore and then you lose them, you don’t want that to happen. The listener also deserves to hear something new to listen to!”
That’s a good tip! – Last but not least, what do you hope to achieve in the future as The Jordan?
“I am quite unrestrained in my ambitions. It always needs to be better and bigger, but on the other hand I am very grateful for what is there. Especially in the Netherlands; I get so much attention and I’m so happy about that because it could’ve been nothing. The sky is the limit in many ways, I want to break through internationally and perform at festivals all over Europe. But I also want to develop myself a lot in the field of songwriting and make better songs. This is just the beginning.“
The Jordan’s new album Nowhere Near The Sky will be out on February 10 which you can pre-order right here.