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INTERVIEW: Van Wild

Hi Yasmine, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you so much for having me! I’ve been well, but it’s been an introspective period for me. This has been a strange month, from both a global, social perspective and a personal one. We’ve had so much tumult; I’m also grieving the recent passing of my father, turning to art to make sense of all that is occurring.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Bluebird”?

Bluebird is a response to both personal experience and societal tumult; I attempt to turn sexual and domestic violentce I have experience into empowering new narratives that re-assert women’s voices into important conversations. We have a maddening, chaotic, anti-humanist swell of fascism rising across the globe. I just want North Americans to remember that, with the exception of First Nations peoples and those who were persecuted through the slave trade, everyone is an immigrant.  Most people who live in North America descend from either religious or economic refugees. It is hard to imagine that all this insane xenophobic rhethoric against immigration is reaching such a fever pitch; some of the people leading this hate rhetoric are second generation, at most.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

The Trump campaign. I don’t want to be an obnoxious soap-boxing ranty-thing, but honestly, I think the parallels to the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the ascendancy of Trump are uncomfortably obvious.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Yes! I hope to be releasing an animated video for this; I have a performance video coming out. My next video will feature The Bellamy Brothers on our collaborative single “if You Want”. I’m PSYCHED!

The single comes off your new self-titled album – why naming the record after the band’s moniker?

The narrative that inspires this album, this alternative historical narrative, is complex. I think what I’m doing can be hard to grasp; I wanted to keep this simple, keep the focus on the music and the storytelling.

How was the recording and writing process?

I wrote the music over the course of about five years; the songs came from musicals and performance art pieces I’d constructed and performed. I went into the recording studio with my former label 5 years ago; this was quite a waiting game. I had numerous amazing producers on the record! And it features extraordinary musicians like Dominic John Davis, whom I so admire.

What was it like to work with Matt Gordon and how did that relationship develop?

Matt is a wonderful guy; Kurt Ozan, who plays on a few of the tracks recommended him. We had played an event sponsored by ReverbNation highlight what they saw as the best emerging Southern acts. I was lucky to be chosen. It all evolved from there; I sent Matt demos.. He really understood my objective; he intuitively sense the role of magical realism, that I wanted to convey that the characters were addressing some kind of psychic challenge, the sense of being haunted. The record is a pretty intense feminist piece; he embraced the girl-power vibe and helped me find the ideal players to bring the piece to life.

How much did he get to influence the album?

We talked a great deal about every aspect of production. We re-worked numerous parts. It was a joy to collaborate.

What led you to blend Country and Roots music together?

My voice lends itself to a mix of country and blues; I have always been drawn to the folk structure of narrative storytelling. I feel that the imperative of folk, to communicate a simple story to the people, the populi, is compelling and important. I find my greatest idols in the folk artists of the Civil Rights era. I grew up between Montreal and rural Florida; I play what is natural to my learned style: as a writer of feminist revisionist stories, and as a country-blues vocalist.

What historical and social observations get to inspire the lyrics on this record?

These songs draw on, as we discussed, domestic violence and immigration issues, but also looks at uniquely American crises like the BP Deepwater Horizon Disatser. “No Riches, No Glory” is told from the perspective of a woman who died in the explosion. “We Are Young, We Are Angry” is my response to the race crisis; I want to do my part, to support the Black Lives Matter movement. This is really a time when people like me need to sit back and listen; I wanted to do just one song to say: “I’m standing with you; we all need to make this change happen”.  I want to do what I can to support this movement. The next record will feature a lot of songs that address other issues, the coming home of soldiers, the need for mental health awareness. I am ambassador to Greenpeace and Change Direction, Michelle Obama’s mental health campaign. I think a lot of the violence erupting is coming from rage; rage is a mental health issue.

How has your creative writing studies have help you at the time of working on the lyrics and expressing yourself through the words?

As a PhD student and now as a Mellon Fellow Post-Doc, I have the freedom, time and space to challenge myself to do the research, to experiment with storytelling forms and narrative. I have a long way to go; I have a lot of work to do, but I relish the challenge. I am excited to force myself to find more and better ways to make conversations that are important for women accessible, honest, challenging, empowering and inclusive.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes! This autumn. I’m super excited.

What else is happening next in Van Wild’s world?

I am recording my next album, working on the performance art-music show, and working on music videos and collaboration with The Bellamy Brothers; they’re really kind. I’ve learned so much from being able to work with them.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, play guitar, music geek, movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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