George Van Der Broek, otherwise known as musician Yellow Days, is an 18-year-old artist who tells his life experiences through song.
Expect mellow, mature, and magnificent tunes. We chat about his debut EP, Harmless Melodies, synaesthesia, and catching those raw tunes.
“I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 11 or something. When I was super young used to be really into sports but I broke my shoulder when I was 14 so I just got into making music and writing songs about my feelings and stuff. I played with my older brother for a year or so, it was then I started learning how to sing. I was always writing my own stuff on the side but it was when I wrote the track ‘People’ that I thought of Yellow Days, and I’ve been cashing that vision ever since.”
George’s “songs about feelings and stuff” are not as blasé as this sentence may sound. In fact, his songs are little snippets of heartbreak and learning and yearning produced in such a soulful manner you’ll become one with the same feelings. New track from the EP, ‘Your Hand Holding Mine’, deals with the fact you won’t be holding the same hand forever. In his bellowing voice, George sings, “I think I’ve found something in you / You hold my hand so close between yours / All of this time I always thought it would be your hand / Holding mine”.
All of his songs are personal to him, and he talks about a yellow mist over it. “The yellow mist I talk about is about feeling more, it’s like feelings and thoughts are exaggerated under this yellow mist. Kind of like being young and being overwhelmed with emotion – that’s the sort of persona I write under.”
George has synaesthesia, where you sense or see a colour when you hear a song or listen to music. Not only is there this yellow emotional mist, but also, “For me the whole project has a yellow feel to it.”
Talking about inspirations, George said, “I’ve always been a massive fan of blues and especially Ray Charles, just because of the genre’s attitude for music to be real, meaningful and honest. And all my music is meaningful to me, I make it to say how I feel or a memory of how I felt.”
“‘Hurt in Love’ in terms of inspiration probably comes from stuff I’ve listened to like Frank Ocean and Mac Demarco, with the writing process like most of the tracks coming on this album, I start with all the instrumentation then added vocal.”
Most of the tracks on the EP, George had written a year or two prior. When he was 16 and first began producing music, he had a small set up in his bedroom where he recorded everything – vocal, guitar, keys and some bass.
“It’s not really produced in my bedroom anymore like it once was when I first started, the early Soundcloud stuff like ‘You Are Nothing That I Can’t Get Over’, ‘My Own Way’ and ‘Little Palace’, they were all me, done from my bedroom. With the EP I started working with my producer Tom Henry, he helped refine what I was doing in those earlier demos.
“Nowadays I work in a proper studio space which I really use to write. I’ve always been more of a songwriter than a producer but as time has gone on, I produce every day now and it’s something I’m working on. My producer and I are close and he’s my homie. He respects I am a musician and not a pop artist. He plays keys in the live shows, so our musical bond is deep as fuck.”
But George says he still has a space in his house which he works in. “Being able to catch any idea at any time is just priceless I think that any time access just makes for rawer ideas. Working with other people can be good but I love writing by myself on some personal feeling shit.”
George has created all the artwork for his tracks, he said, “it is something I just really dig. As I said, I get that synaesthesia thing so it’s really something I feel obliged to do – to put the colour I imagine as the background in the artwork. It’s seriously satisfying.”
George is at the younger end of the spectrum when it comes to successful artists in music about now, but he doesn’t really think about that much. “All I know is it’s a lot more fun than school. I try not to think about [being young and making music] too much. I just live my small life and write music about it, not that interested in the industry. I really make music for myself, it’s just something I like doing. It’s cool people dig it but I don’t really care what people think too much.”
George started from pretty DIY roots, “I would say DIY music is the new age of music making. When I was at college used to make beats in frees in the music block, and then we all got the software at home. I think it’s awesome and it means kids can put semi professional sounding demos on Soundcloud and get themselves out there. There are artists about doing it, Cosmo Pyke is doing it – he is killin’ it.”
In terms of advice, “Just work on what you do, if you see it as practice you’ll never succeed. Just have fun and write stuff you want to hear. I’ve always written music as a fan of music. I think everyone’s music is different and you should do what you want to do and see what happens. It’s not about making it, it’s about feeling the music and doing something that matters to you.”
And to leave you with a little tease, George finished with “I’ve got a big old album coming soon, there’s a couple features on it. Hold tight x.”
Words by Eliza Frost