The Balance of Solitude & Loneliness: A Conversation with Luwten

Luwten © Eddo Hartmann
‘Draft’ sees Luwten at her most open – the result an album brimming with passion and heart, and Atwood Magazine spoke with the artist on its creation.

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“It’s all about balance.

Draft – Luwten

Luwten’s Tessa Douwstra has shown a proclivity for combining pop balladry with intimate moments through a unique set of soundscapes. From synths to samples, The Dutch producer and artist creates heart-laced music – music that will stir a listener into a state of warming ecstasy. It’s pop in a new lens, storytelling that explores the human experience with beauty and sincerity. With her latest album Drift, Luwten only expounds on her talent, showing an artistic growth to be lauded.

The album is a new avenue for the artist, placing the loner ideology to the side as she dives into companionship with not just others, but herself as well. Each song is purposeful, sharing a story, a moment, that provides a window in which listeners are able to gain a deeper understanding of Luwten. The vulnerability on Drift provides a powerful image for the artist, one that enriches the album and leaves listeners hard-pressed not to be enthralled with the first words sung.

The Thought of You” is a somber start, a story of loss and the coping mechanisms one employs when trying to deal with it. But it’s Luwten herself that works to ensure what could be a melancholic start is instead one of warmth. Her dulcet vocals glide across the melody while the sonic repetition in the foreground creates a space of hypnotic grace. From despair to hope, it’s a start that shows fans this is an album full of unexpected moments. One of those moments comes from “Control,” a song whose sensual harmonies craft an intoxicating aroma that’s easy to succumb to.

Watch: “Control” – Luwten

The track’s end is an outpour of emotion and sound, each note furthering the trance set in place from just moments before. The title track, however, embarks on its own sound. The song is haunting – a gorgeous piece of music that sees Luwten at her most personal. Draft is an exploration into the differences between loneliness and solitude, and it’s on this title track where this idea is fully delved into. Joining her own vocals are voice memos from her family and friends, creating the companionship right in front of viewers’ eyes. It’s one of the album’s most alluring songs, and it’s the perfect example of the nonpareil artistry Luwten possesses.

Going in a faster direction, “Stopwatch” brings out an energetic melody that will have feet moving with its thudding beats and harmonious backing vocals all coalescing into a charming splendor. Smiles are an inevitability after listening. With the closer “Call Me In,” acoustic guitar playing takes the spotlight to great effect. This stripped-back finale is an endearing goodbye, a story navigating the world of self-responsibility in an angelic manner. No other track is like it, making for a vibrant exclamation point to a journey of incomparable heart and majesty.

Drift sees Luwten at her best, and it’s an album that has made 2021 a little brighter. Achieving this feat was no easy task, though, and Atwood Magazine spoke with the artist to learn more about her process and the story behind the album’s creation.

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Listen: ‘Draft’ – Luwten


Atwood Magazine: To start, congrats! This is such a wonderful album, and it was a treat listening to it. How does it feel to have it so close to being fully out?

Luwten: Thank you! It feels really good. It has been a long time in the works and I’m so happy to be able to finally share it.

I want to dive into the album as a whole, specifically the idea of opening the door, as you put it. Now that you have indeed opened it, what challenges did you face when exploring this new avenue of vulnerability and openness?

Luwten: It’s a work in progress, I think. I’ve always viewed myself as a loner but while creating this album, I realized that doesn’t mean I have to be alone all the time. Opening the door and being yourself not only by yourself but also with other people allows a lot of growth. It helps explore different parts of who you are. Being alone is good when it’s a choice – when it’s solitude. As soon as it turns to loneliness, it’s time to focus on opening the door and letting people in. It’s all about that balance.

Luwten © Eddo Hartmann

Staying in that same idea, are there ever moments when crafting your music where you think to yourself, ‘’I don’t think I’m totally comfortable sharing this yet’’?

Luwten: Definitely. Creating is a very delicate business. But I also noticed that sharing something that isn’t finished yet can help other people opening up about their process too. For example, in the Drafts Podcast that I’m making I’m talking with other musicians about the first versions of songs and how they develop to become the song that they are. It really gives you an insight into how we shape our ideas and that every idea or reaction to one is a very human thing. No one is alone in their search; it’s what we all do I think.

Your appreciation for the human experience is quite apparent with your music – many of your songs so rich in emotion and heart that it, despite some of the more somber themes, brings a warmth. When approaching the song creation process, how much does emotion play in your craft?

Luwten: A lot I think. It’s really hard to tell how much of what goes into a song but as long as you’re just following your gut and intuition, I think it’s always that. I’ve always been fascinated by this experience called life. When I translate my experiences into songs, I hope that tells the listener that they’re not alone in experiencing the good as well as the challenging parts of it. That’s what music and art, in general, have always done for me so I hope to return some of that by trying to do that myself.

Something that stuck out to me about Draft is the sonic diversity. So many of the songs feel so distinct. Tracks like ‘’The Thought of You’’ with its acoustic and electronic playing compared the seductive nature of ‘’Control’’ - each song acts like a new layer. Was there a certain soundscape you wanted to explore with Draft?

Luwten: Yes, it was actually having no restriction in my approach to genre or instrumentation. I didn’t want to think about that during the making of these songs but just accept them as they appear. Inside all of these songs the first idea of it, the draft so to speak, still lingers. That’s why they all are living inside their own world and that’s also what ties them all together.

Watch: “Sleeveless” – Luwten

Onto the tracks themselves, I would love to talk more about the title track. From the starting lyric of ‘’I want to be alone’’ to the inclusion of your friends and family with those single note recordings. It’s such a moving track and one of my favorites from the album. How did you approach this song – both in terms of production and your own personal headspace surrounding it?

Luwten: The lyrics came first. I was struggling with what I described earlier – the being alone vs. being with other people – and wrote these lyrics. Later in the song I sing “I want to hear you coming home” so it wasn’t that I wanted to be alone solely. I thought: what if the people surrounding me would guide me through these words? So that’s what I did for the production. I texted them and they sent me back a voice memo of the note and I incorporated that into the song to sonically remind me of their existence. It starts with my mom and my sister and ends with an entire group of people accompanying me at the end.

The track ‘’Call Me In’’ also stood out to me with its major focus on acoustic balladry. Because of this, it truly shines, and your vocals as well are divine on it. What was it that made you want this song to be more stripped back compared to other songs on the album?

Luwten: This was a song that I wrote in one evening. Just me and my guitar. Lots of the other songs started on a computer so it felt more natural for them to be surrounded by bigger arrangements. I couldn’t imagine this song living in another world so that is why I kept it where it was. Like the first version of the song.

Something else I’ve been enjoying with these songs are the music videos attached to them. Although simple in its presentation, the visuals feel like such great complements to the music, making for a robust experience all around. Do you have an idea of what you’d like the visual element to look like before these videos are created or is it more of a team collaboration effort?

Luwten: For “Airport” and “Control” I worked together with director Charlene van Kasteren. We started out with an idea of wanting the visuals to be open to your own interpretation. I love for people to have space and time to think and feel on their own so I wanted to create something that could act like a painting; it tells you more when looking at it longer and leaves a lot up to the viewer. The idea of the sweater for the “Sleeveless” video was born in the brainstorms with Charlene too but I directed it myself (it was my directorial debut!). I saw an interview with Bjork where she says that videos complement music so well because our eyes are more developed than our ears. I do experience that myself too and that’s why I love working on these videos myself because it helps me tell my story even more. I’m busy working on another one as we speak.

Watch: “Airport” – Luwten

You’ve been making music for quite some time, so when you look back to your beginnings to where you are now, how do you feel you have developed not only as an artist but also as a person?

Luwten: That’s a good question! I think that what I’ve learned from making music and videos is that I deserve to take up space to think my own thoughts, to follow my dreams, and execute my ideas despite what other people tell you. You are your own boss! At the same time I’ve learned that it’s something I could never do on my own. If I want to withdraw and move inside my own world I can but I have to come back because I cannot live without connection.

When Draft finally releases, what’s next for you? Are there any immediate plans or avenues you’re excited to explore, or maybe some insider insight you might be able to share?

Luwten: Right now I’m diving into my online tour. With actual touring still out of the question, I’m organizing online events about the artwork, videos, music, and philosophy behind it all which I’m really looking forward to. I’m also working on a couple more visuals to complete the visual “Draft” experience. I’m also following an online philosophy course at the moment. Maybe I’ll subscribe to something new after that. The most important thing for me is to keep learning new things, have new experiences, because that way I have things to remember. Days I’m only doing the dishes I will probably forget. I’m looking for things to look back on, enjoy in retrospect or be proud of. I hope to be touring sooner than later but if that won’t be possible, I’ll probably be working on more music, videos, ideas, and memories.

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