FEM Demo – July 2000
By Alex Teitz
FEMMUSIC first found Vanessa Handrick at Broadbandtalentnet.com. Her demo CD was so captivating that not talking to her would have been a crime. For those and many other reasons FEMMUSIC chooses her as our first FEMDemo artist.
Vanessa Handrick has had her music featured on the TV show Dawson’s Creek and was a finalist in Discmakers New York Independent Music World Series. She has also been a featured artist in the Digital Club Festival in New York.
For more information on Vanessa, contact her at: [email protected]
FEMMUSIC: Describe your songwriting technique.
VH: I usually start with a stream of consciousness kind of idea in a songwriting journal that I keep. Once I have an idea for a song and know what exactly I want to write about then I pick up the guitar and start to work with the chord progression, work with the melody. Then usually go through and pick out some key words, key ideas, key sentences from the journal I put together. Kind of piece it together that way. It just kind of starts to fall into place after a while.
FEMMUSIC: How long does it take you to put together songs?
VH: It depends…It depends on how passionate I am on what I’m writing about. If it’s something I feel like I need to get out it then it usually goes a bit quicker, but sometimes it feels like it’s time to write a new song and those take a little bit longer to put together. Once I have a skeleton of the structure, the chord progression and melody, all the lyrics and everything put together then the first thing I do is go to a studio I that I work at in Nashville with the guy who produces everything that I do and we put together a basic demo and work out the parts. Then I take that demo to my band and then it becomes the full live performance version of it. Very complex ordeal for three and a half minutes.
FEMMUSIC: Bringing it to the studio before bringing it to the band is a change. Could you tell me about that?
VH: Mostly because the guy that I work with who produces everything, we also write a lot together. So, generally, I’ll put together like, sort of the skeleton of the song and then he and I work out the parts and the different kind of hooky lines that the musicians are going to put together. He plays all the instruments so we just kind of get in there and do it, a two man thing and come out with a rough demo to deliver to the band and then they work on it and that’s kind of when we put the whole thing together and play it, live. So that’s how that works.
FEMMUSIC: Why did you decide to become a professional musician?
VH: Actually, my initial background since I was about seven years old was musical theater because there aren’t a lot of seven years olds playing in bands per se, so that was the only kind of vehicle I had at the time.
So I was actually living in New York as a child and did some off-Broadway shows and things like that. That’s kind of where I started doing musicals and shows and things like that. I did that pretty much through high school and for a couple years after that and then ended up at a college in Nashville that has a music business program and started writing and working with a band and doing some recording there.
I guess that was probably six years ago. So that’s when I started to write and work with my own band and my own music and put my own show together as opposed to doing other people’s things.
FEMMUSIC: Who have been your biggest musical influences?
VH: That’s tough. (laugh) Hard question to answer. It always is. I feel like I should ahead and just come up with a list of people that I should just go ahead and say. There hasn’t really been anybody who hasn’t been a musical influence because I try to listen to everything I can and either listen to it and say, “Boy I really admire that and I’d love to try to incorporate something like that or go in that direction.” or I listen to it and go, “Uh. I’m glad I don’t do anything like that. I don’t want to incorporate that into what I do.” So I try to learn from everything that I listen to.
I also have a split personality when it comes to music because there’s a part of me that’s a normal person that loves to turn on the radio and listen to cheesy pop tunes and I don’t always have the utmost musical respect for them, but I enjoy listening to them and can appreciate it in the sense that it is enjoyable but certainly not the pinnacle of musical genius by any chance. So I kind of go back and forth into everything that I listen to. So I have yet to give you one band or person. (laughing) I’m avoiding the question I guess.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about the song, “Horrible Me.”
VH: “Horrible Me” is your typical song that I wrote after I was really horrible to my boyfriend at the time. It was one of these things that, “I can’t believe that I was that horrible to that person that I care so much about.” Unfortunately I wrote that song several years ago and I should probably write it once a month, every time. That’s really the basis of the song.
The songs starts out, “It’s been a long three days/Hasn’t really changed from day to day…” and I think we’d gone three days without speaking and it was like, “I was really awful to you and you have every right to not be speaking to me.” I guess it was kind of an apology ,in a way, to say I’m sorry for being so horrible. That’s the writing part of it.
It was initially a song, just acoustic guitar and me singing was a complete different song and production-wise Grey was really able to add some things in it, I think, that make the song what it is. He’s very talented at doing that. He’s very good at it.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about the song, “Sentimental.”
VH: “Sentimental”, Grey the guy who produced the demo, who, we work together. He and I wrote “Sentimental” together and it was one of the songs we kind of incorporated on initially together as opposed to me kind of writing and then taking it to him and us putting the finishing production touches on it.
It’s a song that’s always gotten a lot of response because it’s a song, I think, that everybody can identify with in the “love” department. It’s actually had several evolutions. It had a different chorus initially, and that didn’t work when we recorded it once. We went back and we changed the chorus and this last one was the one that really, really stuck and worked and has been very well received. This song I always enjoying playing and everybody always seems to really enjoy it.
I there’s a couple of parts on the demo the percussion particularly and a couple of the guitar parts that are just very unique that bring the song to a full, whole song.
FEMMUSIC: What would you like to see changed most about the music industry?
VH: Most about the music industry….(thinking) I guess I’d like to see, as soon as one initial fad comes out, like right now it’s boy bands and young pop stars, and EVERYONE jumps on that bandwagon and then that’s gone. I guess in a year and half from now there will be another fad and everyone will jump on that and that will be over. It would be nice to see a little bit of commitment from the music industry of saying, “Okay. Everyone, this boy band thing seems to work so let’s do that. We have a couple of those. What else seems to work? Okay. That works. Let’s do some of that.” Instead of everything kind of gravitating to this one thing and then it being gone. There doesn’t always seem to be a lot of variety of what’s available to the masses. Which I think is a shame because then I think things get stale very quickly. As usual you have a lot of people copying what’s already out there and the originality tends to get lost.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?
VH: It’s funny that you ask me that because my mother is a businesswoman. She owns her own business and she is very much aware and concerned with being a woman in business. She works very hard to overcome the obstacles per se of being a woman in business. She asked me, just recently actually, she asked me almost the same question. She said, “Do you ever feel discriminated against?” and it was like, “No.” because she always brought me up as a woman…She was part of the whole Women’s Lib movement and so she always taught me that being a woman is absolutely no different than being a man and that should never stand in my way of doing anything. Of course that’s the way I’m thinking. That’s not necessarily the way everyone else is thinking. She asked me that and I said, “No. I don’t feel that way at all.”
I’ve had several meetings and things with different people in the industry who have really just not been real interested in doing different things with me and not giving me, of course, the attention I think I deserve. I’ve gotten a weird feeling from it. Then I go and look at their history, and the acts that they’ve signed or that they’ve worked with or the things that they’ve done and there are no women on that list. I feel like that there are probably a lot of men and maybe women too, and it may just be a personal preference, I don’t know, that I think there is….I think women tend to be discriminated against in music just like any other business.
Sure, I can say that I’ve been discriminated against. Yeah. Definitely.
FEMMUSIC: Your answer sounds like an agreement but not so much so.
VH: I guess it was a realization to me that that actually happened. Not here this moment but just recently because my mother’s always been very aware and concerned with it. I was just brought up to never have, what some people might call, or what I might call a defeatist attitude about it.
I think you tend to attract things to you that you are thinking about and that kind of energy that you are putting out and I feel like I’ve never really thought about being discriminated against so therefore I won’t be discriminated against.
Of course as you get older, and a bit more jaded, and you have more experiences you realize that’s just not the case. I try to continue to have the attitude that it shouldn’t make a difference if I’m a woman. It might to some people but I think if I was to walk around with type of attitude then of course I’m going to be discriminated against.
FEMMUSIC: What are your plans for the future?
VH: Well, I’m finishing up a full length album right now. I’m actually going to combine the EP demo that you have with four or five new tracks, put all that together, with a new graphics package, and working on my website right now, and which I know I’m a little behind the times to be putting a website together. So that’s really what I’m working on right now is putting that together and I’ll sell the CD off of the website, and so on and so forth, and do the normal thing.
I also have a song that’s being worked into a new independent film that, I obviously don’t know when it’s coming out but I’m continuing to work to try to have more songs on TV shows, and in movies and things like that. Obviously hoping to get a record deal at some point in the near future.
Posted in FEM Demo Tagged with: Vanessa Handrick