20: You Need Community If You’re Going to Survive in the Music Industry with Wonder

Wonder
Singer-Songwriter
Website | SoundCloud | YouTube | Facebook | Instagram

Wonder is a singer-songwriter and she tours with her guitar, living out of her Prius and relying on the community she has built with other artists in different cities for places to sleep, survive and grow. We talked about why she has grown her music business slowly over time, the value of paying artists actual money for their performances, the courage it takes to leave jobs and relationships so you can take care of yourself and act on your dreams and the moments that we realize what those dreams are…like when you’re watching Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Katy Perry on TV and suddenly you’re crying uncontrollably.

Wonder is one of the most energetic, positive, comedy-full and value-giving artists I’ve met so far in my musical adventures. Being around her feels like instantly having friends and possibilities show up at your door. Wonder literally showed up at my door with color in her hair, immediately started playing with my cat and then sang me a song that blew my mind a little because her voice is like WOW my soul! when she hits the high notes. Her mission is to "tear down the partition between artists & audiences" and here we go with Wilde Musicians Podcast EPISODE 20: You Need Community If You’re Going to Survive in the Music Industry with Wonder

Wonder, I’m grateful to be a part of your community. Thank you for sitting your beautiful teal head in front of my bright yellow paintings for this interview and for taking one of my buttons. You’re a rainbow rockstar with a giant heart and I’m grateful for the opportunities you’ve brought into my life and now I’m excited to share our conversation with the world! LOVE CHA

BEST QUOTES

My mission is to tear down the partition between artists and audiences. I feel like that stage has gotten too high and too separated. One of the really easy ways of doing that is to just be 100% community reliant.” --Wonder

It just goes to show that so many people that you know, or you think you do know, they just contain fathoms, and it’s very cool when you get to discover the different layers of people.” --Wonder

Everytime I do a band show, and I rarely do those, because I want to make sure I can actually take care of my people...this is the culture I want to create. It’s so important to try and help each other make a living doing this stuff. So even if its not asked for, even if it’s not expected, this is the standard that I hold myself to, and to me, that’s worth taking it really slow.” --Wonder

Those are the people who stick out to me, the people who are like, “Here you go! Have this gift! Have this resource! And not given as a debt to be repaid.” --Wonder

Art is so limitless.” --Wonder

So, one of my favorite takeaways from growing up in a church environment, is the concept of mentorship. Which is: you should always be in the tension of having somebody who can mentor you, having somebody who’s further up that you, that you could receive advice from. And having people that are not as far as you are, that you can mentor. It just keeps you in both confidence and humility. I think that’s such a valuable take away I don’t really see in many industries or communities, but when it is put into place, people flourish.” --Wonder

I’m not going to waste my finite one body, doing things I don’t wanna do.” --Wonder

Wilde Musicians Podcast - Wonder - June 2019-2_WEB.jpg

QUESTIONS FROM OTHER MUSICIANS

“What traumatic experience changed you for the better?” [30:04]

Question from Lindsey White 

“I like to think that I have used all of my experiences or will use all of my experiences for my self betterment because I am obsessed with being better, and that is traumatic in it of itself, when you are like ah I did something great, and then, do you remember in the early 2000s when the ‘Taking the Hobbits to Isengaurd’ video was coming out and there was the Pirates of the Carribean one, and one of the beats, they had the hammer beats, and Orlando Bloom’s like, ‘That’s not good enough!’ That’s one of the beats that happens, ‘Clang, Clang! That’s not good enough! Clang, Clang! That’s not good enough!’ That’s sort of the internal monologue that happens in my brain. But, if I had to think of a specific traumatic experience, that’s really tough, just because I’ve tried really hard to separate myself from the sad girl trope now, and I absolutely do not subscribe to: we need hardship to be good people; I need my sadness to make good art. I believe you can be a good person without bad things happening to you. I think all the instances where I’ve been forced to stand up for myself and sort of, enforce boundaries, even though it hurts so bad if somebody doesn’t believe in you, or my last relationship was kind of a bummer, because I felt really proud of myself for knowing myself going into it, and laying down my boundaries, and then laying down my expectations and my needs, which I feel is really difficult for us as women, to do naturally, to be brave and loud about our needs. Then I found out that even harder than speaking your needs, is actually walking away when your needs aren’t met...The whole relationship was traumatic in the sense that I was trying really hard and I thought I was doing really well with my boundaries. My heart wasn’t in a space yet where I could detach and leave because I was invested, and I’d shown up for it and admitted to it, and then this person’s emotional availability changed...Every step of that was new and traumatic, and if it weren’t for experiencing someone vanishing emotionally on me, and going through the process...not having closure is very traumatic, but if it weren’t for that, I don’t think I would have been able to hang onto my current relationship with Jim in the way that I have…”


“Are you focused more on building your following locally, globally, or online?” [38:26]
Question from Spence Hood

“I don’t really focus on it, in those terms. I am so lucky to have a really loyal community in the Seattle area, to where I can just have a homecoming show and those people will show up for it...People come to my bar gigs, which is so awesome and fun, and just in little pockets. Every major city, and even little teeny tiny cities around the U.S., I have family, I have friends and I really, really value that. It;s encouraging and inspiring to have that building over time with every touchdown and every time I play somewhere and if there’s more people than there were last time. It’s always very exciting. But I try really, really hard to not view my audience as numbers. That's why I hate spotify so much. It was a really deliberate choice to push bandcamp sales the first week of the album release, and now it’s hurting, it hurts you, it hurts your brand if you aren’t pushing streams, because if you aren’t pushing stream then you aren’t getting noticed, and you don’t get put on playlists. It’s really important to me that this is still sustainable for me and for my collaborator as well so we can go and make the next thing...I am just focused on building and creating community, and creating connection, and whoever wants to be a part of that can come along, no matter where they at.”

Wilde Musicians Podcast - Wonder - June 2019-13_WEB.jpg

QUESTION FOR OTHER MUSICIANS

“Who is your greatest and most inspiring supporter?”

“Of course, as a community based and community created artist it’s difficult to pick just one, I don’t want to pick favorites, but of course my amazing boyfriend, partner Jim has done so much for me and my career. When we were first dating...I was in sort of a similar rut, and I trying really hard to grow roots in Seattle...it’s not good for me not being grounded. I was trying to do all these side hustles and it just was working and I was really miserable, and Jim was like, why don’t you just do another tour...He shot a cellphone video of me at the tulip fields, just me and my guitar, and it got amazing engagement and so many house concerts came from that one video...He’s a very anxious attachment type, and I vacillate between anxious and avoidant attachment types. So, for him to suggest for me to go on tour is to sort of buffet me away from him, was a huge self-sacrificing thing for him to do at the time, when we were both so unhealthy ourselves. If he hadn’t brought it up I would have never thought of it...Now, 3 years later, I have so much more life experience and my career has taken so many different turns. I’m really, really lucky that he’s been back in my life now when we’re both healthy people, and he’s able to be a really steadfast character in my career.”  --Wonder

Wilde Musicians Podcast - Wonder - June 2019-6_WEB.jpg

Wilde Musicians Podcast - Wonder - June 2019-15_WEB.jpg

FULL TRANSCRIPT

0-10 Minutes:

“My mission is to tear down the partition between artists and audiences. I feel like that stage has gotten too high and too separated. One of the really easy ways of doing that is to just be 100% community reliant.”

“Touring on a very low budget just means that you have to couch surf. Sometimes you get lucky and you know people in major cities and you get to sleep on their couches. Other times you gamble and hopefully get lucky on couchsurfing.net, I use that couch surfing app and hopefully you can meet cool people that you can lean on and create community that way.”

“This is my first tour after relocating to Arizona...I am touring with my debut, fully produced, EP called Clumsy Dancers. It’s available wherever you get your music which is so exciting! It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this and released it everywhere, and it’s the first project I’ve released which is a complete collaboration, and exactly realized my vision.”

“That’s why I love making electronic music, because I can literally imagine anything, and I can make it.” -- Cha 

“The extra ear of someone else coming in is so appreciated but...whenever I worked with people in the past, it was like, okay, I’m getting a lot of you in here, and not enough of me, and I appreciate that this is the direction you wanted to go with my music, its an awesome opportunity and I learned a lot, but I still really need to keep my stuff close to the chest.”

“I sort of just fell into this beautiful collaborative relationship that I have with Gavin Reign, my producer, where I had been working on a demo by myself in a room of the house that I was house sitting in. I let the think tank ono facebook know, ‘hey I’m looking for mixing feedback so I can be a better self producer, does anyone of my audio friends want to give me some feedback...he reached out to me and asked to hear it, so I sent it to him, and then he was like, ‘Do you mind if i play with this,’...I had no idea. I didn’t know if he was going to throw some stupid fruity loop beats on it or anything, becuase i just didnt know. It just goes to show that so many people that you know, or you think you do know, they just contain fathoms, and it’s very cool when you get to discover the different layers of people.”

10-20 Minutes:

“It was really cool to have somebody to feel my intuition for it, and we hadn’t even spoken.”

“A huge part of my brand is collaborating and enlisting other talents, and just being able to pay people is just a huge cornerstone of my brand, and that’s why ive taken it so slow. Everytime i do a band show, and I rarely do those, because I want to make sure I can actually take care of my people...this is the culture I want to create. It’s so important to try and help each other make a living doing this stuff. So even if its not asked for, even if it’s not expected, this is the standard that I hold myself to, and to me, that’s worth taking it really slow. That’s why is was such a big deal and such a milestone to be able to do this EP release.”

“I moved to Seattle and I was so excited to be plugged into a community that was thriving, and people were supporting each other, and artists could make a living, and then I got to Seattle and it was the exact opposite. It was, scratch my back and maybe I’ll think about someday scratching yours, but probably not. You gotta scratch mine like 5 times before I help you once. I thought that was some nonsense. So, Right away, as soon as I hit the ground running, if I had any resources to give to somebody who didn’t have the resources I had, I gave them and i was very free with the tools that I had.”

“So, no, there wasn’t a specific experience that I had that made me want to do it, it was just knowing that there wasn't already that existing ecosystem, showed that there was such a demand for it and need for it. If it doesn't exist there you have to push all that harder…”

“Those are the people who stick out to me, the people who are like, “Here you go! Have this gift! Have this resource! And not given as a debt to be repaid.”

“My heart’s in the right place, I want to be able to give so much, I have this to give, but I need to be conscious and aware of the social economy.”

“Fuck burnout culture.” 

“It’s about choosing the form of giving that also fuels you.” -- Cha

20-30 Minutes:

“There are definitely different ways to support each other. I wish everybody valued all the different ways. I wish everybody just respected each other, and nobody threw shade! I wish nobody sent copy and pasted messages on Facebook!”

“Now, when I have an event I want to promote, I’ll sit down for a couple of days at a time, and I’ll just start individual conversations. Start catching up with people and be like, this person is important to me, why is this person important to me? What’s going on in their life? And it’s omre time consuming, but it’s more intimate, and it is so rewarding.”

“I I had pushed harder, yeah, we could have done it wall to wall, but it would have been at the expense of my conscience... I’m really neurotic about the purity of my brand and about how I want to build a community build relationships with my music. Because I hold myself to that standard and because I really judiciously use social media tools that I have, it makes me relly frustrated wen I see other people abusing those tools. When people do that, it hurts all of us. WHne somebody starts a group chat of a thousand people for an event in New York City...why am I getting invited to this event in New York City from this person that I haven’t spoken with, maybe ever.”

“People in the arts scene and the arts community are so reluctant to recieve criticism. God forbid anybody tell them that they’re wrong or that they’re offending somebody. Just be open to being a human being and knowing that you can do the wrong thing, and then correct yourself. It’s not the end of the world.”

“Art is so limitless.”

30-40 Minutes: 

“I think just because I’ve experienced the joy of performing to people, and being built up by the community...I have experienced the gift of having people invest so much into me... I know a lot of people are able to do music just for them and sort of, shout it into the void, and I know it’s also really important to make art for yourself first, but the thing that is most sustainable for me, is that it does build relationships and it creates community. As much as these people let me know that I’m not alone, they let me know that I bring value to the table, and letting them know that they’re not alone. It’s like, wow! We get to be on the ground, the grassroots, with each other.”

“It’s (working on crew ships) a really good way to work your chops and figure out how to play for any demographic of the audience. If you can survive on crew ships you can survive anywhere.”

40-50 Minutes:

“There are groups in all the major cities that I’ve experienced. There’s even a Seattle couch surfing Facebook group, there’s Seattle music community groups, and also word of mouth. Let the music people you know that you have resources to share, and then they’ll let their friends know, and then you’ll just become the hub.”  --Wonder

50-60 Minutes:

“Building community is not hard. Having a damn conversation is not difficult. Giving a damn is so easy. Look up. Separate. It’s okay to complain, yes, vent and complain, absolutely we should air the reality and spread awareness for the realities and the challenges that we all have. But you have to look up and you have to acknowledge the privileges that you have, and the resources that you have, and not be an idiot about how you use them, and support each other. It’s not hard!”  --Wonder

“If you just have your eyes open, and you’re on the lookout for how you can be plugged into the community. Look out for buskers, religiously give to buskers, religiously buy people’s CDs, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a CD player, frame that shit.”  --Wonder

“If I can do it you can do it.”  --Wonder

“Arthur James is, in addition to his solo work, is in a band called Wild (if you don’t know this, shame on you, you should be following these episodes religiously, one by one, go watch episode 17: Arthur James) He’s well known as a guitar aficionado, he gives lessons, he teaches, people, he’s just a really sweet human being. Him, along with Lana McMullen, along with his beautiful, beautiful girlfriend, Anna Saint Lee...they’ve all started to be way more candid about the health struggles that they’re going with, and the body struggles. It’s so sad when you find out that the greatest, most capable and meaningful and moving musicians, have physical pain that keeps them from making music. It’s the most heartbreaking thing.”  --Wonder

“Try to cultivate a love and a gentleness with yourself to know that even if you do everything right, sometimes things just happen.”  --Wonder

“As someone who was suicidal as a teenager, I’m very aware of how fleeting life can be.”  --Wonder

60-70 Minutes:

Answering questions and asking her own question (see above in Musician Questions sections)


RECORDED: June 19, 2019 at Cha Wilde’s Studio

PodcastChaComment