Coming off the back of playing an incredible set for Bon Iver and just before his debut album Empty Handed drops, singer/songwriter Christof Van Der Ven sat down to tell us just how mega it is to play with Bon Iver, what he’s up to this year, and how he went from the Netherlands, to Ireland to the Hammersmith Apollo in a few years.
Christof is a wonderful man almost unaware of his talent, he’s worked his way up from the bottom, chasing a dream of being a full time musician and absolutely nailing it. Now the title track of his new album is out, and he’s ready to make his grand return to playing solo.
How was playing the Hammersmith Apollo opening for Bon Iver recently? In such an amazing venue for such an incredible band! Do you have a favourite of any of their tracks?
It was nuts but in a good way! I think we played really well as a band for having only rehearsed a couple of days and the crowd seemed to dig it. The Bon Iver crew were very helpful and were welcomed with open arms. He started the encore with 22(Oversoon) and it was just amazing and is also my favorite track on his latest album. But I love all of their music for sure.
What other favourite gig memories do you have?
There was a few last year! Mainly with Bear’s Den as I haven’t really played any solo gigs last year. There was the Lotto Arena show in Antwerp last November which was incredible to play in. It was the last show Bear’s Den were going to do for a while and they packed it out with only a small crowd of 8000 people(!). It was unreal. Then we played at Lollapalooza in Berlin on my birthday and Davie told me he was going to ask me to crowd surf during the set and so he did. And so I crowd surfed. Best birthday present ever!
Could you tell us a little bit about the journey that took you from growing up in Handel, the Netherlands to playing with Bon Iver, The Boxer Rebellion and going on the road with Bear’s Den?
I had pretty normal upbringing and by the time I finished college I moved to Ireland. I’m from a small village near Eindhoven and I just knew there was something more out there. My aunt and uncle always went to Ireland on their holidays and for some reason I really got attracted by it. So I basically packed my bags, flew into Dublin and took a train to Galway and stayed there for 4 years where I got nurtured and shaped by the wonderful culture and incredible musicians. In the meantime my friend Gerry, who was managing me for a while, had met these incredible singers in Nashville called The Staves and he asked them if we could do a few shows together in Ireland. We just stayed in touch after that and I moved to London 6 years ago and toured with them, The Boxer Rebellion (who have the same management) and Bear’s Den.  I met all of these people through these three sisters and I’m very very thankful for that. It’s basically one big community and once you know one person, it will start snowballing and your network will become bigger and bigger.
How are you feeling about ‘Empty Handed’ coming out soon? Are you at all nervous to have it out in the world?
I’m so excited about this and about releasing an actual album. Not an EP, an album! I’ve been through a lot of emotions with this release and nerves were definitely one of them. But it’s all done now. It’s all uploaded on the interweb, CD’s are printed and the records are being pressed so it’s actually happening. Often I’ve been so caught up in all of the other aspects of a release that I kind of forget what I am doing it for. But I just recently started working with my manager Polly and it’s such a weight of my shoulder and I can focus on writing song and playing gigs again.
Tell us a bit about the album, how was it making it and do you have a personal favourite?
It got recorded over a few years in different stages of my life in London. It’s got some revisited older songs, some newer and some song that I’ve dug up from my time in Ireland. It was only last September when I decided it was about time for me to release a full length record. And it’s been an interesting and sometimes stressful 6 months of putting it all together but it’s been an interesting process to go through. I enjoy playing Vancouver live cause it’s got this rocky bit at the end and we can go mental on stage for that one so I think that’s the current favourite.
Not only that, the title track has just come out! Are you happy with the response you’ve received?
Yes for sure! It’s been awesome so far. The German Spotify included it in their Zuhause playlist and it’s ranking up a fair few plays now.
Will be seeing you play in the UK again anytime soon?
Yes you will! There’s some news that I can’t tell yet, BUT I do have a London headline show at Paper Dress Vintage across from the Hackney Central on the 10th of April. You can get tickets from my website.
After the album what’s next? A well-deserved rest I hope!
Oooooooooohhh no. I’ve written off rest or holidays for the next year I think. No rest for the wicked. I’m already thinking of a new EP. I would love to just go to the country for a week though. That would be bliss.
Keep up with Christof on Twitter and pre-order his debut album Empty Handed here.


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