Ilse Gevaert is a Belgium-born singer and songwriter based in New York, and is currently preparing to release her debut album, I Am Human.
Can you tell us a little about your upbringing?
I grew up in Genz and was singing before I could speak. I was born without a left arm, and was never able to confirm why. At the time, doctors thought it might have been because got stuck in the umbilical cord, or that there wasn’t enough blood flow to give it the chance to grow at the appropriate time.
I’ve always been all right with it. Despite sometimes being bullied about it – kids thinking I’m freaky, staring adults – I’ve never tried to hide it. In the end, everyone has a disability, one way or the other. You need to look at what you have, and not at what you don’t. Otherwise you’ll never be able to move on and enjoy life.
What made you decide to relocate to New York?
I tried working [on music] with different people in Belgium and a few in New York, and was going back and forth for a while, but I really liked it here – though at first it was a struggle. I was doing one gig after another, and at one point actually got a polyp that made me lose my voice. I couldn’t afford the surgery to treat it, and would have given up had it been for a phonecall looking for volunteers to test a new treatment. It turned out later on that it was the same laser treatment that Adele received when she had the same problem. I volunteered to have three laser treatments, and was out for about six months.
New York can be a tough city – how did you support yourself?
You just have to take every gig you can, whether as a backing singer, or on a co-writing project. Luckily, writing’s one of my stronger skills, because not all artists can write. That’s how I started, , then moved into background singing and ‘reference singing’ for people making demos – lots of dance projects that end up being played in Ibiza, things like that. I’m now very blessed with a small record label where I can record the album, which is amazing, and hopefully we can then start touring. It’s one step at a time.
What can you tell us about the album?
I Am Human has cinematic, ‘soundtrack’ songs on the one hand, and some mid-tempo tracks with lots of modern and urban sounds on the other hand. There’s also some fun summer songs that are very light and positive. What makes the album unique is that it’s almost like a book – there’s even a poetic intermezzo and it ends with a complete orchestra. It’s quite a trip!