She was born on May 13, 1977 in Almelo, Netherlands and from an early age showed a great interest in music, winning several competitions. She signed a recording contract in 1994 and released her debut album four years later. To date, she has released eleven studio albums as a soloist.
However, she came to Europe-wide recognition in 2014 when she took part in that year's Eurovision Song Contest as part of country music act The Common Linnets with Dutch singer Waylon. Their entry "Calm After The Storm", co-written by future group member Jake Etheridge, proved a huge success as it finished as runner-up, the country's best result since their last win in 1975. The song became a huge hit throughout Europe and soon after they released their eponymous studio album.
Following the success of their debut album, Waylon decided to leave the band but Ilse had already found a replacement in Jake Etheridge and asked him to fly to the Netherlands to record some songs before offering him a position as the lead male vocalist.
She plays talent show judge Ilse de Witt in the final season of Nashville and stated in an interview that she got the role after contacting the showrunners and telling them how she started her career in Nashville.