Freya Ridings was still nursing the emotional wounds of a breakup when she sat down at her parents’ piano in her North London home to compose what eventually became her breakout hit “Lost Without You.”
“I was in an isolated place. When you lose a connection to someone where you put your heart, mind and soul into it, you feel very sort of lost literally,” says Ridings, 25. “It was the first song I’d ever written from beginning to finish almost from a deeply subconsciously place. There’s something about that unfilteredness where I wasn’t trying to do anything that I actually thought would connect with people. I was just expressing an isolation that I was in after heartbreak.”
By the time Ridings shared the song with her U.S. label team at Good Solider/Capitol Records, however, it became clear “Lost Without You” would soon find an audience well beyond Ridings’ living room. To date, the song has been synched 16 times for TV and film, including high-profile placements in ABC’s “American Idol” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” Freeform’s “Shadowhunters” and The CW’s “Legacies,” each prompting spikes in Shazams ranging from 10,000 to nearly 40,000. Back in her native U.K., the song soared to the top 10 on the Official Charts Company’s Singles chart on the strength of a use on popular reality series “Love Island.”
A cover of the song from Tuesday night’s “America’s Got Talent” is currently among the top 20 trending videos on YouTube, even prompting judge Simon Cowell to declare contestant Kodi Lee’s performance “one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever, ever heard.”
Like her labelmate Lewis Capaldi, Ridings’ music seems to be striking a chord with music supervisors and fans alike looking for the powerful combination of evocative lyrics and stripped-down production that made Adele, Sam Smith and Ridings’ fall U.S. tour partner Hozier such global success stories.
“She writes emotionally moving lyrics and she has an innate talent and specificity to her sound that you don’t often find,” says Jenny Swiatowy, VP-head of creative sync licensing at Capitol Music Group. “The rich tone of her voice just demands your attention. It can be akin to a Florence and the Machine-type voice; it has that power to it. And combined with her lyrics it just packs that one-two punch you need to elevate a scene that might already be moving and create that TV magic that we always hope for when we have a great song or placement.”
The song has been experiencing its biggest U.S. Shazam activity in nearly six months after its prominent use in the current and final season of Starz’s “Power,” which featured a nearly four-minute placement of the song during a key funeral scene mourning one of the series’ main characters, Angela Valdes (Lela Loren). Jen Ross, the show’s music supervisor at Grand Plan Entertainment, first heard the song after Swiatowy shared it with her months prior to Ridings’ self-titled debut being released in July, and never considered another song once she paired “Lost Without You” with the scene.
“It was a tall task to find a song that fit both the complexity and tonal weight of the scene,” Ross says. “You have characters and audience members who loved [Angela] her for her good side, and another side of the spectrum who questioned her for her intentions. And between that love and hate, you have to give this character a proper send-off, and this song really did that. We start the scene with a wide shot of the casket being pulled out and carried over to the gravesite, and you hear the opening lyrics ‘Standing on the platform, watching you go, it’s like no other pain I’ll ever know’ and it creates this emotional moment that gives some closure to the scene.”
For Ridings, the groundswell of attention from “Lost Without You”’s licensing activity has taken her from playing to intimate crowds of 200 to over 30,000 at European festivals this past summer, with large U.S. sheds and theaters with Hozier soon to follow next month. “It’s almost a decade’s worth of work paying off in one song,” she says.
The fact that the single’s piano-and-vocals arrangement runs counter to the current trend of pop songs with multiple features, seven co-writes and low-rattling beats is not, well, “Lost” on Ridings either. “Because I wrote it completely on my own and there was no thinking about what might work, it was letting go of what people might want from me,” she says. “For a long time, I was told ‘Your songs are too sad or without drums or about heartbreak and they aren’t going to connect to people.’ It’s become a force I couldn’t really control, and I’m so grateful that it’s happened.”
Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.