Wendy Woo – Gonna Wear Red (WooMusic 2002)
By Elizabeth Nitz
Wendy Woo has gone through a lot in the past year and her therapy has been to write music about each event. Songs like “Why,” written after her mother passed away, and “Breathe,” about getting through a hard day, offer a very personal look into her life. Her signature blend of folk, rock, jazz and blues is at its most intimate, mature and exciting on her new release, Gonna Wear Red. She plays both a punchy acoustic and an aggressive electric guitar. Her smooth voice has equal adaptability, going from sweet soprano to rich alto.
“Most of Yesterday,” about a relationship at its end, starts with a slow, sad acoustic melody. Keyboards, bass, and drums are added in layers, building to a defiant tone with lyrics like, “I could leave the towels on the floor; I could let the cat sleep in your drawer.” In the same emotional vein, “Before It Gets Better” rocks out with confident electric guitar, organ and a biting bass line.
Diverting from the deeper emotions in the previous songs, “Surprise Me” is a light, spirited rock song inviting adventure. Wendy displays her technical proficiency in “Down and Dirty,” an acoustic Southern-sounding folk tune. She closes the album with “Man Made Lines,” a favorite at her live shows. She lets her voice soar and harmonies entwine while guitar, drums, and bass are muted in the background.
For more information visit www.wendywoo.com
Posted in Album Reviews Tagged with: Gonna Wear Red, Wendy Woo
Gothic Theater – March 9, 2000
By Alex Teitz
It was a rare acoustic night at the Gothic Theater. It was also very intimate. The audience was about two to three hundred in the seven hundred plus capacity Gothic. In addition, the theater itself was cold. Many audience members were huddled in their coats. If the cold were not enough, the headliner arrived at a half hour to showtime after a twelve hour drive from Salt Lake City.
It was in this atmosphere that Wendy Woo took to the stage to begin the night in a rare solo acoustic performance. Woo, normally known with her band, seemed surreally alone on the barren stage. Wearing a suitjacket, and a red scarf Woo dived right into
“Doctor, Doctor.” She followed this with “This Ain’t Nobody’s Business” a Billie Holiday cover. New to the set was “Man Made Lines” about mankind’s shaping of the world. This song is filled with images of storms, and sunlight that evoke landscapes easily discernible to anyone in Colorado. Woo’s set ended with two of her catchiest songs “Down N’ Dirty” and “Sundrops.” Both showcase Woo’s vocal talents. Visit http://www.wendywoo.com for information about where Wendy will play next.
After a short soundcheck, Malone’s guitarist took to the stage to perform his own solo acoustic set. The set had a David Wilcox feel to it as the songs were introspective and simply based. The set was as strong as Woo’s and included songs “No Such Thing”, “Back to Me”, and “Great Indoors.” David Labrere is touring with Michelle Malone for her entire tour and should be watched. He will tour solo soon enough with the material he has.
Malone was very relaxed with bass player, and guitarist on naked stage. Her set included many songs from her new CD Home Grown including “Havasu Falls”, “Avalon”, “Floating Down a Dream” and “Strength for Two.” Her speed was broken early when she broke a string after “Havasu Falls” and had to admit to being a little, “gaga silly loopy.” The set also included many songs from Malone’s previous works, and showed her skill with both guitar and harmonica.
Michelle Malone is a straightforward musician. She plays a set for the music. She has almost a casual disregard for anything that slows her down. An example would be after finishing a harmonica song, she tore the harmonica off, and jumped right into the next song. This dedication to the music was evident in this performance as well as FEMMUSIC’s interview. Watch for Michelle Malone as she continues her tour, and visit http://www.michellemalone.com
Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: Michelle Malone, Wendy Woo
Wendy Woo has been an emerging force in Boulder for many years. A founding member of the Women From Mars she has influenced many artists. She recently won a spot at the Colorado stop of the Lilith Fair. We recently had a chance to catch up with her. Here’s what she had to say:
FEMMUSIC: When did you start playing music?
WW: I’ve always sung music. I’ve always sung and played in choirs, but when I got out of high school I really wanted to have something to accompany myself singing so I invested in a little guitar, and went traveling around the country to kinda see the world when I was 18. That’s when I got really into songwriting. I just started writing songs, and playing in songwriting circles and did that for about a year and loved it. Then I realized I wanted to get more serious about my instruments. So I enrolled in a music school at the University of New Mexico, and studied classical guitar. There for a year, and then another two and a half years at the University of Colorado. I also studied jazz and jazz theory as well as percussion, and music theory and composing. So I got really into writing parts out and working with different players and stuff. I did that, and started playing out about six years ago. Started doing coffeeshops and solo realizing I wanted to have a little bit more fun with it and play with a band. So I started hiring out band members. Put out a CD two years ago, and then about six months ago I landed a permanent band. A group of three great guys to be a four piece band. For the first time in my whole music career I actually had something solid. And in the last six months we’ve done great. We’re working on our new CD, it’ll be out the end of August. For the first I’ve actually had four consistent people to work with so that’s been a pleasure.
FEMMUSIC: What artists have influenced you the most?
WW: A lot of my friends. A lot of the people I hang out with have been huge influences. Paul Armstrong, the producer of the album. He’s so into latin and jazz it’s really given what was once folk music a more upbeat thing. Bigger names, one of my first inspirations as a child was Suzanne Vega. Lyrically. Another big influence lyrically is Paul Simon. Musically I’ve gotten into a lot of the groove bands. Satana, Miles Davis, Natalie Mewrchant, Bonnie Raitt. Stuff like that. A lot of the influence I get from just the people I hang out with. That’s a huge part of it.
FEMMUSIC: Where do you get the ideas for your songs? Writing process?
WW: From everything. From stories my friends tell me, to things I see, pictures I paint with words, phrases I hear people say, challenging moments. Usually not personal. Usually things from the world around me.
FEMMUSIC: What have been your biggest obstacle as an emerging woman artist?
WW: Keeping a band together. Keeping people interested in playing. It was financially difficult for the first couple of years ’cause I was always paying out of my own pocket. And people don’t want to back up just a singer-songwriter. Then when people start enjoying your music more, and you add influences of the other players. That’s when it gets more exciting for them! When they can actually make a statement. So I’d say that’s the biggest obstacle. Keeping a group together. That’s why it’s nice to be a solo artist too. So when the band wants to bag out at least the band isn’t breaking up. You can still go. I’m really psyched to have a group of people to work with. I’m very fortunate. A lot of the Women From Mars are doing what I was doing three, four years ago suffering keeping people together. Everytime you play out it costs you two hundred, three hundred dollars. It’s very difficult.
FEMMUSIC: You’re working on your second CD. What has been your biggest challenge in doing it?
WW: Raising the money. Just doing it. (Laugh) Not procrastinating. Bringing the songs and the music up to par to where everyone likes it.
FEMMUSIC: How does the Denver/Boulder music scene treat emerging artists?
WW: I think it’s great! I think it’s been really good. I think people are real friendly and supportive. I’ve seen a lot of people go check music out. There’s a lot of group concerts where there’s four to six artists in a night from a big name person to people who it’s their first gig. So it’s an opportunity for people to break into a performing situation where there’s a crowd there. They don’t have to play to no one, you know? The following of six people. So I think it’s been really open arms for me, and for the people I work with.
FEMMUSIC: What are your personal goals for the next five years?
WW: For the next five years, I’d like to get the CD out. I’d really like to tour. We’ve toured Colorado, but now I want to do a West Coast tour especially now that I have a band. I’m hoping to get some corporate sponsorship. Be able to go on the road without financially suffering. VISA®‘s been a huge…I always tell people I’m signed by VISA®. Money’s coming in but it just takes a while. I’m hoping to go on the road and get some sponsorship, and keep it off the credit card. Just become more nationally known as opposed to just locally or regionally. I’d like to sell a bunch of CDs, and make more, and keep writing. I’d like to improve as a musician and as a guitar player, as a soloist. Good goals for five years.
FEMMUSIC: You were recently choosen for the Lilith Fair. How has that changed your life?
WW: Well it’s exciting. The publicity is great. The recognition is really nice. To be able to go to my very first Lilith Fair and actually perform there is a dream come true. I’m very excited about that. I think the competition was difficult and hard on people. It put an edge on the performance, but I thought there was nothing but support there. I think the women were great.
What an excellent show (emphatic)! Thrity of the top female acts in Denver/Boulder all in one night. How can you beat that? So the audition itself was very exciting. And things have been great. I keep getting letters, and I got a couple of really nice prizes. The thing about winning the Lilith Fair and the Dueling Divas I feel like they have presented me things to go an extra step. Like they gave me a digital camera. How useful is that in marketing myself? A chunk of money. That’s so useful in getting ahead. A chance to perform with huge name people, a website. I got a website out of it. I feel like it’s someone helping, helping me, giving me the things I need to help myself get further. I mean, what a great gift. It’s someone in the universe offering to help me, get further.
FEMMUSIC: You were one of the founders, and a driving force behind Women From Mars. Explain what your goals were with it intially? How have those goals changed?
WW: My intial goals were to have a chance to perform with my friends. To have the following of six groups come together and have a nice crowd. You had this real whole. You had this group of performers, and this audience and it became this really nice entity. From there it went to a CD, and now it’s a great chance for women to come together and not be afraid of the music business. Not be afraid of the male dominated music world. But to have each other helping each other along. Jude, Junis Ponds, is so helpful. Has been an incredible inspiration for me. She’s been very supportive, very, very supportive. She’s just a dream to work with. There’s a group of women that are not only musicians but they’re also very good administrators. Very good at putting on a show. Very good businesspeople, and they’re a pleasure to work with. Junis Ponds and the other Women From Mars are really good. Sally Taylor is an incredible person for doing it herself. You’ve got to a lot of people out there who don’t know what they’re doing and are hoping some label will pick them up because they don’t know how to do it themselves. Well, Women From Mars are doing it for themselves. It’s really nice support. You need it so you don’t feel like you’re alone.
FEMMUSIC: What role do you see Women From Mars playing for emerging women artists like the Maya Dorn, the Wendy DeRosa?
WW: What does it have to offer them?
WW: Again it offers them a opportunity to perform in front of a large group of people. Just gives them support. When you’re first performing the hardest thing is just getting over being nervous. Getting over all that. So if you have an opportunity to play a fifteen or twenty minute slot instead of having to prepare a four hour slot. Just think how much stronger, more powerful you’ll be.
It shows them how to get started. “Oh, I have to put posters up.” You’ve got people doing things. Learning how to get themselves forward. I teach a music business course in the Fall at Naropa University in Boulder. A lot of that is what I’m talking to you about today. Just helping yourself, doing it yourself. And it’s been great. Marca Cassity and Wendy DeRosa both came out of that class. It’s so great to walk around town to see their posters, see their names and pictures in the paper. It’s really exciting.
FEMMUSIC: Where do you see WFM in five years?
WW: I’d love to see it be a national touring act. Have another CD out. Be pooling from local talent as well as national talent. Get bigger names. I’d like to see it become a nice festival somthing that could kind of follow in Lilith’s footsteps. The Women From Mars really wasn’t developed to copy Lilith. It was chance for us to come together. It just happened to emerge at the same time. Lilith is on a national level, and Women From Mars is more of regional or local level.
We want to start adding men in.
FEMMUSIC: You do?
WW: Yeah, why not? ‘Cause I think we’re giving them a hard time not giving ’em a chance. Maybe we’ll have a Women From Mars Presents People From Earth. I want to start doing showcase gigs, and involving everyone. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens.
FEMMUSIC: What opportunities does WFM, the Lilith Fair, and similar projects nationwide create for music and the music industry?
WW: I don’t know. I could only say creating more support and helping female musicians alongs, and people who love music as well.
FEMMUSIC: You recently won the Virgina Slims Dueling Divas contest. What are you doing with money ($5000) from that?
WW: I’m donating a $1000 dollars from it to the Women From Mars benefits because the Women From Mars were nice enough to let me put the first show on. So I’m donating a $1000 of it to the Multiple Sclerosis Scoiety and Breast Cancer Scoiety. There’s also a great women’s clinic in Boulder that’s been helping me out for twenty years and a lot of women out with counseling. I wanted to give some of that to them as well. It’s great for me. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been able to donate money to a cause. Usually I can donate a performace. I can donate a show. I can donate a CD. This is the first time I actaully have something monetary to share. It makes me feel really good because some of my dearest friends are suffering from MS, cancer. So it’s great for me.
And I’m giving a cut to the band. They were really bummed that they weren’t getting $1000 each. Well I didn’t tell them because I didn’t want to jinx myself on winning. I didn’t want to be, “If we win this is how the money gets split.” I didn’t talk about it. I’m exactly that short of putting my CD out. When I said the hardest part was raising money, it was like here was the last of the money. So it’s really exciting. I had to put my first CD on a credit card so this I think I’ll actually be able to do the whole thing on my own. It’s really exciting. I feel very, very fortunate.
FEMMUSIC: With Women From Mars, proceeds go to the MS Society & the American Cancer Society for Breast Cancer Research. In your opinion, what responsibility does an artist owe to the community?
WW: As much as the community supports me as an artist, I’d like to return that back to the community. The community has been very, very supportive of me. You can’t make it without the community. You can’t make it without people coming to see you play, and pushing you along and helping you along. I feel like I owe the community because the community has given so much to me. Boulder has been really good to me. In terms of giving back, I love doing benefits because I can’t afford to give money but to be able to give a performance, something that I love to do, and that helps them raise money. Well that’s great. It’s a circle. The community always has given to me so I feel that there’s something I can do to give back to the community. Whether it’s play a show, organize a show, donate money that I got. How often does someone give you $5000?
FEMMUSIC: What advise would you give to an emerging woman artist just starting out?
WW: Get out there. Network. Meet as many people as you can. Make a business card. Play as many gigs as you can. The biggest thing is getting out there.
When I started to start making music seven years ago I got a job bartending at the Fox Theater. What an opportunity! Musicians everywhere. People always around me. I built bands, and I hired people. I’m constantly working at work.
The first thing I would tell people, another thing I tell people in my business class is network. Get out there.
Jude (Junis Ponds) said she was really shy until she started bartending. You can’t be shy. You have to say, “I am a musician, and I am here so come listen to me, come see me play.” Sometimes you feel like you’re being cheesy but you hope people are receptive to that.
FEMMUSIC: What else would you like to say to our readers about you, Women From Mars, Lilith Fair, and music in general?
WW: Just that it’s fun, and I’m pursuing my dream. If you can get a clear idea in your head of what you want, what your dream is, then it’s that much easier to go get it. So I’m chasing my dream.
…Write from the heart. Play music. Be open to people who are better than you and not as good as you; we’re all doing the same thing. Help each other along. And make music, and art. Art’s a great form too.
Posted in Interviews Tagged with: Wendy Woo