Selma Judith’s Window Into Meaningful Music

This 23-year-old Danish harpist, singer and songwriter's approach to music is genuine and diverse.

It seems 23-year-old Selma Judith from Frederiksberg in Copenhagen, Denmark is fascinated with all things creative. Having studied film at KBH and participated in “Teaterpiloterne” from The Royal Danish Theatre, her next aim is to study the harp at the Danish classical conservatory.

An avid classical music enthusiast, Selma also dabbles in her own music, having collaborated in and around the Danish music scene, rubbing shoulders with the likes of MØ and producer VERA. She played a wonderful feature set at HAVEN festival last month, and after becoming enchanted by a lovely one-minute video in which she cleverly covers a song by Kraftwerk, we had to know more.

How did you first realize your passion for music?

From a very young age, I have enjoyed singing. When I was fifteen years old, I was bummed out about the fact that I wasn’t able to play an instrument. I imagined it was too late for me to be any good at it since I was relatively old, but I started anyway and today I’m very thankful for that. Of course the instrument I started playing was the harp, as I was very into indie at that point in my life and enjoyed playing odd instruments.

What are your biggest musical inspirations?

Classical music. In general. And a lot. But also huge female musicians such as Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Joanna Newsom. My heart also beats for other genres! At the moment, I’m quite hung up about a legendary Danish pop/rock singer called Sanne Salomonsen. I like to imagine that she is my guardian angel. That would have been fantastic.

How did you first get into classical music?

My mom has always been quite the classical enthusiast, and she would always play Bach or Händel when she was trying to wake me up in a gentle manner. We also listened to a lot of classical music in the radio, and she was always able to guess which composer made which classical composition – that was a fun game.

So I guess you could say I grew up listening to different kinds of classical music. My best friend who lived above me played classical piano, and I always envied her for that, even though she kind of hated having to practice every day. But she was definitely an influence that, in the end, gave me the courage to start playing a classical instrument myself.

What about the harp speaks to you?

It’s a very old instrument; probably one of the first ones to be invented (except maybe the flute and the drum), so you see, it’s kind of primitive, actually. The sound is very open and unforced and I think that gives the instrument a very authentic sound and spirit. It’s a difficult instrument to learn how to play, and I guess I’ve always liked a challenge, as well. Also, I must admit that I have a hard time accepting my own voice’s “fragileness”. Playing the harp, which has the same amount of softness to it, makes it easier for me to accept my own musicality, and therefore it’s easier to challenge it as well – and hopefully evolve.

What has been your favorite or most meaningful musical project or collaboration to date?

I honestly think that all of the different projects I have done, or am doing, have a lot of meaning in their own way. I couldn’t pick a favorite if I tried!

Are you composing your own music for the harp?

Yes I have composed a lullaby for my niece, Judith, as well as short compositions for one of my mom’s documentaries. I would like to compose even more on the harp than I’m doing right now, but the deep respect I have for classical composers makes it a bit hard to leap into.

You played at the HAVEN festival recently – what was that like?

I really enjoyed that a lot. I was very overwhelmed by the audience’s reaction to the music, and I feel very grateful for the fact that some of them even bothered to encounter me after the concert to tell me how much they enjoyed it. It was a very nice debut concert. I played with my good friend Jens, who is a part of the Selma Judith Project right now, and he is just so talented. The concert with Aaron and Bryce Dessner was really inspiring, and it kind of left me speechless afterwards. They are both amazing at what they do, and the fact that they allowed me into their little musical world at the stage that day meant a great deal to me.

Do you have any plans to pursue more classical music avenues?

I do. I aspire to become talented enough at playing the harp to be able to attend the Danish Conservatory. As I practice these next – at least – three years to become just that, I’m also attempting to write and compose small classical pieces for short films and stuff like that. Just to play around with it a bit, and see how it goes.

We saw a beautiful one-minute video of yours from the HAVEN festival and it is so lovely. Can you give the background for this? How did it come to be?

I was asked to make a short instrumental cover of one of Kraftwerk’s songs and my boyfriend at the time cleverly suggested that I play a track called “Franz Schubert / Europe Endless – 3-D“. That’s what I’m playing in the video. I sang along by mistake in the beginning, but then it ended up being a part of the video.

How do you find the creativity to write? When do you feel most inspired?

I feel inspired very often; I guess most people do… But I’m definitely more efficient when I’m balanced and feel safe and calm. I think it’s a load of bullshit when people say they have to be almost at the edge of suicide to feel inspired or to be creative, but then again I shouldn’t talk for them. For me, every moment and every emotion, positive or destructive, is an inspiration. But when I’m feeling depressed or very frustrated I have a harder time navigating different aspects which makes it harder for me to really construct anything.

The music industry is infamously a field dominated by men. As someone who has dabbled in many different areas, what are your thoughts on this trend and do you see a shift?

Honestly I’m trying not to be too aware about what gender the musicians I’m playing with might be. But sure, the music industry, as most creative industries, is dominated by men. I would guess that in general more men are likely to feel that they have the right to be heard than women. It’s the same way in music. Music represents that same need to be heard and to be related to.

But actually, all the people I have played with so far, both men and women, have all been super excited about a bass player or a drum player if the musician is female. It’s trendy and the people I’ve played with all applaud it. Thats nice to see. It’s a good trend I must say.

Do you often collaborate with female artists? What is that experience like?

I would say, I collaborate just as much with female artists as male artists, actually – not that I ever intended to make it even. I have a hard time generalizing the genders. It always makes me feel like I’m being untruthful or inaccurate when I do. I do feel, though, a lot of the female artist I’ve met and collaborated with have a certain drive and dedication. They work hard with a knowledge about the fact that nothing is free and rarely handed to them. You have to earn it, you know, like really earn it.

What would be your advice to girls or women interested in pursuing music?

I think it might be what I mentioned before. Nothing is free, things are rarely handed to you, so don’t let the different forms of resistance you might experience stop you. It’s better to welcome resistance than to try denying it. Also, it’s never too late – and a dozen of other platitudes… Oh right! Don’t hold back, be too much, please be too much. Too much is just the right amount! You’ve earned your right.