By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
It is a pleasure to welcome Wendy Starland to Jake’s Take!
This impeccable singer-songwriter has accumulated an impressive resume throughout her career.
VH1’s “Best Emerging Artist” recorded music with Snoop Dogg, Moby, Lil Wayne, the Wu Tang Clan and the Black Eyed Peas’ Apl.de.Ap, opened for Sheryl Crow and Jack White, sang background vocals for Michael Bolton and single-handedly discovered Lady Gaga!
Ms. Starland’s music has been featured on various music platforms such as television shows (E! News Live, The Hills and Jersey Shore) and video games (Rock Band 3), plus her song: “Can You Feel It,” could have been heard at various Colorado Avalanche, Denver Broncos and LA Kings games during the teams’ respective 2014-15 sporting seasons.
In addition to the athletic world, several distinguished brands in the fashion world including Bvlgari Designers, Donna Karan, Mobovino, Pink Pump and Theia have recognized Ms. Starland’s talents and featured Ms. Starland and their music in several multimedia ad campaigns. The campaigns aired on the four major television networks and were featured in multiple magazines such as Cosmo Girl, Elle Magazine and Teen Vogue.
Ms. Starland took time away from recording her upcoming rock album to have A Conversation with me. In this edition, she talked about overcoming the challenges that she faced in the music industry, what she looks for in an artist and the challenges of breaking through in the American music market.
Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in music? How did that passion evolve into a desire for a career in the recording industry?
Wendy Starland: I first got interested in music as a toddler by my childhood babysitter, Rosetta Atkins. She taught me how to sing by imitating the voices on the gospel radio station she listened to – both men and women’s voices. By the time I was six or seven-years-old, I had learned several techniques of how to use my voice and was able to choose the sound I wanted to distinguish myself, so I started writing songs on the piano.
Eventually as a teenager, I was pulled up on stage by James Brown’s saxophone player, Maceo Parker, during one of his concerts and scatted on his stage for 20 minutes. After I was done, Maceo’s bass player got down on one knee as if he were proposing, took a string off of his bass guitar and coiled it up around my ring finger. He hushed the crowd and said into the microphone, “Wendy, from this day forward you are married to music. You have a gift from God. You must devote your life to using this gift or else you will deprive the world of something so special.” I got the chills. It was written up in the newspapers the next day. I made the decision in that moment to focus my life around music forever.
JE: Could you describe your songwriting style to my readers?
WS: I would describe my style of songwriting as classic. I learned very early on and have stuck to the core principles of song structure regardless of which genre I’m writing in. Being a songwriter requires versatility while being an artist requires you to create a cohesive body of work. I truly enjoy both. My goal is to always contribute a part of myself to my music that will result in it sounding authentic, timeless, and real. I feel that this truly comes across in my new album, which is in the Rock genre.
My strength is in my ability to be versatile. Authentically. I’ve collaborated with artists that truly run the gamut: from members of the Wu Tang Clan and Capone, to Moby, Lady Gaga, and opening for artists such as Sheryl Crow, Jack White, and Chris Shiflett of the Foo Fighters, etc. I’m currently working on a song featuring Snoop Dogg, MC Ekko and JC. I was also released on a Universal compilation that included Norah Jones and Feist, so I’ve written and produced several songs in that genre as well. I have been exposed to most musical genres and have learned how to tackle them effectively.
Music is cyclical and as an artist and songwriter, you need to be able to predict what trend is coming next. That being said, ultimately, a great song will stand the test of time regardless of what trends are happening at the moment. A good song can be produced in several different genres. So, the golden rule would be to write a great, authentic song that is well produced and it will find its home. The audience can feel whether or not the artist is being genuine in their music. It’s up to the artist to have the courage to reveal their truth through their songs.
JE: You have worked with a diverse group of artists ranging from Moby, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga and Michael Bolton. What lessons did you learn from them that helped you grow as a music professional?
WS: I have learned various lessons from each situation, since each was completely different from one another. I have to say one of the lessons I learned is to always be prepared. Have several ideas that will work when collaborating with other artists. Always have clear lines of communication and be open to trying new ideas. Being open to new ideas is crucial to growing as an artist. If you always have the same creative habits, how will you ever excel to the next level? The answer is, you won’t. Taking those creative risks reaps the most incredible rewards.
JE: Let’s talk about your latest single: “Home.” What was the inspiration behind the song?
WS: “Home” is about finding your touchstone…your rock. We’re living in a time of so much clutter that has allowed everyone to express themselves at any moment. We have access into people’s lives like never before. It’s a lot to take in and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and swallowed up in it. “Home” is about remembering your roots and the feeling of safety that comes with it. No matter what you’re going through, there is no temporary feeling or circumstance that can take away the core of who you are. Home is a place from which you can draw strength. That was the inspiration behind the song.
Thierry Brouard directed the “Home” music video. It has aerial shots by Gary Reisman. I have licensed the song to a London-based label, MCR, and it will be released on a compilation album called That’s My Jam! 87.
Currently, I am being featured in the new campaign for the jewelry line Anna e Alex, which has been in magazines such as Vogue and ELLE Magazine. Soon, you will be able to receive a download of my new single “Home” with purchase at AnnaeAlex.com. I am doing a similar promotion with skin care/makeup line, Beauty Society. I use their products every day, so it just made sense to collaborate with them. A portion of the profits for “Home” will be donated to charity at BeautySociety.com.
JE: You will be releasing a rock album later this year. What are some of the similarities and differences between recording a rock album and a pop album?
WS: Recording my new Rock record has been incredible! We wanted to create a Stadium Rock sound, so we used live instruments on basically everything. Pop records typically use a lot of synths and programming, so that is the biggest difference in terms of the approach.
Ivo Moring produced my new album. He has had several Top 10 hits, including his song that was number one for 12 weeks and became the second most successful song in German chart history. He was also awarded “Hit Of The Year” in 2012, and has worked with Jordan Knight, The New Kids On The Block, Heather Nova, Sarah Brightman, Darren Hayes of Savage Garden and Sandra and Coolio.
In 2012 alone, his compositions were placed in 108 different radio charts. Needless to say, his talent is through the roof. He also happens to be an incredibly kind and humble person. I love the songs we’ve written together and believe that Rock music is coming back with a vengeance. There are a lot of new and exciting things on the horizon and the next chapter is going to be amazing.
JE: What have been some of the challenges that you faced in the music industry? How have you overcome them?
WS: Being in the music business requires having a very strong resolve. You must be completely committed to the craziness that will inevitably ensue when pursing a career in music. There is no one who is immune to this. Not even the biggest music icons. Everyone faces challenges from the fierce competition as well as the manipulative crooks that are rampant throughout the music business. I have certainly faced my fair share and will likely come across more. These experiences have been fuel for my music. Facing these challenges has forced me to recognize my own inner strength. Strength, I did not know I had. The people who come out on top in this business have persistence. It is key! Fall down seven times; stand up eight. It takes a lot of courage and an unwavering belief in yourself and your abilities.
JE: You are also a sought after songwriter-producer. What do you look for in an artist that determines if you work with them?
WS: There is a lot of incredible talent out there, however, talent alone is not enough. Being a great singer does not matter, if you are not singing great songs. Having great songs will not be obvious to record executives if they are not professionally produced. Consistently performing those songs extremely well is essential. Having an undeniable stage presence and never quit attitude are necessary requirements. Taking constructive criticism from others is required to get to the next level. Knowing how to market yourself and your press materials is key. These are the characteristics I look for before working with a new artist. These things don’t happen overnight. Every artist that becomes famous has a team, and needs to convince someone to believe in them enough to have others rally around them to achieve stardom. If I can be that person, then I am happy to do it.
JE: One of your many accomplishments that you have in your career was being honored by the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame for your Top 10 hit: “Dancing in the Sea.” How did that recognition help boost your credibility as a songwriter?
WS: I have been writing songs since I was a little girl and never dreamed that I would be included in such good company. I was blown away. It was an incredible honor that I will never forget. The opportunities that have followed have been nothing short of astounding. I am truly grateful.
JE: We have seen artists have massive success in the European music market, but have struggled to break through in the American music market. In your opinion, why is it difficult to break through in the American music industry?
WS: There is no question that the US market is the hardest to break into. I believe that the reason for this primarily has to do with the fact that the majority of the most powerful radio stations in the US are owned by Clear Channel. They are massive and have the ability to break artists worldwide. For the most part, they are dealing directly with the major labels in the US, with whom they have had long relationships. If you are an artist that is not being pushed by Clear Channel radio in the US, your chances of becoming a household name are slim.
In Europe, radio stations are owned by a variety of different entities, so there is less uniformity on radio programming and more opportunity for artists to get radio play and break overseas. However, the downside is that most labels in Europe (except in the UK), sign artists to worldwide deals yet only end up promoting them in their specific territory. That is why many artists who sign deals in the US and UK get the benefit of worldwide promotion and have a better shot at breaking globally.
Rock stations have been dwindling in the US, and I’d like to see that change. I worked on my new album with award-winning multi-platinum producer, Ivo Moring. The stadium rock sound we have created is not something I’ve heard before from any other female solo artist. I am excited to release my new album and hope to help bring back Rock to mainstream radio worldwide.
JE: How has social media helped you grow your online presence?
WS: Social media has been an incredible tool to connect to my fan base, and collaborate with people around the world. Some of my biggest breaks have come through people hearing my music on the Internet and then contacting me through social media. A perfect example of this is how I ended up on Moby’s Grammy nominated album: Last Night. His Musical Director contacted me on MySpace at the time and asked me to audition live. I finally saw that message two weeks later and was afraid I had missed the opportunity. Luckily, he gave me a shot to perform live with Moby and his band in their studio. After auditioning, Moby asked if we could write some songs together for his record. It’s amazing to realize how far and wide your music can spread…you never know who’s listening. In this case I am elated that Moby was!
JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring musicians who want to enter the music industry, what advice would you share with them?
WS: One, as a new artist you should ignore trends at all costs. It typically takes about eight months from the time the artist signs the record deal, to when the first single will be released. So if you follow a trend, by the time it is released it will sound like the same regurgitated music that the public has been hearing for the past eight months (at least.) I am not referring to genres or production that is considered to be timeless or “classic” sounding.
Two, if you want to be a songwriter and place a song with a popular artist, then it’s ok to follow the trends. This is mainly because many labels are afraid to take big risks on something that sounds too different than the status quo. Pressure is high and jobs are at stake. There is nothing wrong with having commercial music to pitch for those situations, as well as for ad campaigns.
Three, write great songs that sound amazing if sung and played on the piano or acoustic guitar. Always encourage sing-alongs! Four, be prolific! Say “Yes” to new collaborations because you never know where it could lead.
Finally, fill a void. People get bored with hearing the same genre of music over and over again. Observe the current musical landscape and predict what “mood” people will be in next. Ask yourself what would be the most natural transition or reaction to the current genre. Then create it!
To download Wendy’s new single, “Home,” visit iTunes!