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The Frettie Journal
A collection of interviews, updates, tips and resources for songwriters.

Spotlight: Meet January’s featured songwriter Wonder

All, Featured Songwriters by The Frettie Team on January 12, 2016

We’re excited to announce that Wonder is our featured songwriter for January. Wonder's been with Frettie for some time now and we're excited to have had the chance to learn about her process and see what she's been up to. Check our her interview and songwriting process below. As always, if you like it and find it valuable, please don't hesitate to share it with others!

Where do you call home?
The grand northwest and everywhere else.

Where did you grow up?
Boomeranging back and forth between Portland and Olympia, Washington so I gestated a healthy sense of perpetual displacement.

When did you write your first song?
I was five. It was about rainbows and butterflies. I liked pink. If the pumpkin spice latte had been a thing then, I would have repped that #PSL swag for days. #basicwhitefiveyearold

How did you get started in songwriting?
As a kid who struggled to make friends, once I learned to write I became my own best friend and entertainer by writing stories. When I turned into a teenager and discovered that boobs and hormones do not in fact better equip you to talk to people, the stories turned ino poems of angst and self-pity. Then, one day, the poems became songs. And now the songs are stories again. (And I have friends who are real and not imaginary, so sometimes I even write happy things).

Did you have any parents, siblings or was someone else in your family musical?
Everyone on my dad's side of the family has a penchant for singing. The rest of my relatives love and fear musical ability as an unattainable sorcery which is either to be revered or probably kept as a hobby.

Do you have an ideal setup?
I performed spontaneously in the dining car of a train to Portland on morning and never recovered. I'm a sucker for ninja gigs and just being asked to play on the spot. But house concerts come pretty close. There's magic there I haven't been able to find anywhere else. That atmosphere of intimacy is what I live for.

What book(s) or blogs are you currently reading?
I read "The Art of Asking" by Amanda Palmer pretty religiously. "How to be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran, and "On Writing" by Stephen King keep me company often as well. I recently picked up "Poetry as Insurgent Art" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti when I was in San Francisco at City Lights. It's a tiny, beautiful book.

Who are your top three favorite artists or songwriters?
That's a cruel question to ask someone who makes music. I worked on Carnival Cruise ships as a performer for the last year and a half, playing covers for four hours every day. It's a job that demands versatility and a huge repertoire. But if you want names, I'll give you names. The Band Joseph, Penny & Sparrow, and Harm (they're from Alaska. They're my friends. Go listen).

What is your songwriting process typicaly like (from start to finish)?
It varies, but usually the song starts putting itself together at a super inconvenient time when I'm far, far away from anything to write with or play on. Last night I started composing one in my head while driving home from Redmond at midnight. I burst in the door, brusquely informed my bandmate I would be ignoring him for the rest of the night, collected my guitar and notebook from my room, and holed up in the mostly-soundproof-but-tiny-and-also-freezing laundry room. An hour later, I had a brand new song finished and recorded onto my phone.

What album are you currently listening to?
The 1975's self-titled album. #allweseemtodoistalkaboutsex

What other creative outlets do you have besides songwriting?
I have a super secret morose poetry blog on tumblr that I nurse when I'm feeling extra pretentious. My Instagram is @WonderTruly, which is a public and smaller version of my blog but with pictures and less whining.

How do you stay inspired?
It's hard not to, honestly. I'm empathic to a fault, so I have the problem of trying to contain everything I'm feeling or sensing from the world around me. I immerse myself in art--sounds, colors, syntax--my creativity is a vital organ. I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't constantly running at the front-middle of my brain somewhere.

What's your biggest challenge as a songwriter?
What's challenging is not just being a songwriter. It's also being a human being, and trying really, really hard to be a good one. Like most (all) artists, and most (all) humans, I've got my messy bits. I entertain thoughts and say things that are brutal and ugly and mean. Sometimes I hurt people without ever saying sorry.

In my songwriting itself, I am constantly challenged weighing the honesty of my writing against the musicality and how digestible it is as a finished work. Ultimately I hope to never compromise on the integrity of my honesty to get something to sound a certain way.

How important is environment in your writing process?
Fairly important. I absolutely can't write if someone else is in the room with me, or if there's a TV on or other music playing.

What time of day do you prefer to write your music and where?
I can write just about anywhere, at any time. I've definitely woken up at 4am to no alarm to write a song before. We just got back from our first tour, where on our 20-hour drive day I co-wrote a song with my bandmate from the driver's seat while he juggled a ukulele and a notebook in his lap to transcribe my neurotic songwriting process.

What's your favorite memory as a songwriter or musician?
The classic response of playing someone a song you wrote for them, and seeing them be touched in a way no other gift or words could reach them. That's really special.

How do you maintain your professional growth?
My friends and colleagues know me as a social media ninja. I'm constantly updating my platforms. I make a point of staying plugged in to the regional music community, always challenging myself to do better, and be inspired by my musical peers. I treat my brand like what it is: work. It's a job. I put more energy and time into this daily than I do with any other job or project I have. And it shows. The response wasn't immediate, but after three years of building a social media presence, I have a fanbase that's robust, devoted, and constantly growing.

When it comes to lyrics: pen and paper, or computer?
I'm very tactile. Pen and paper, all the way.

What are some of your greatest accomplishments to date?
Finishing our first tour was a huge milestone. We played 23 shows in 29 days, playing down the west coast everywhere west of the Rockies. All our shows were donation-based, and most of them were house concerts hosted by my fans. More than one person mocked me to my face when I announced that I wasn't going to demand a guarantee for the shows, but we profited more from the house concerts than I ever have from a bar gig.

Also, on our second to last show of the #WonderWinterTour on New Year's Eve at the Beery House in Seattle, I got to play my music for Jason Webley, one of my heroes whose music changed my life. That was a big deal.

If you could provide any advice to up-and-coming songwriters, what would it be?
Be honest. Throw rhyme scheme to the wind. Don't worry about whether you're echoing what other people have said--as long as you're writing true to what's on your soul, it'll be authentic. Surround yourself in equal measure with friends who will fawn over your writing like it's the second New Testament, and also friends who are educated in music, better than you are at it, and who will give you some hard criticism. That's the only way we grow.

What online tools do you use today for songwriting?
Sometimes if I'm stuck and don't know what chord scheme I want to use, I'll open up Ultimate Guitar and find one of my favorite songs and pick through it on guitar until I get bored enough or inspired enough to play something new and different.

How has Frettie benefited you and the songwriting community?
When I first joined Frettie, I had only just moved to Seattle. I was playing at open mics, or "shows" where there was no guarantee and no bar percentage, so completely free labor. I was just breaking into the music scene and making friends. Frettie was a cyberspace parallel to that. It was awesome to get feedback from strangers on songs I'd just written, especially when most of the bars I played were either empty or semi-full of people who were there to ignore me.

What's next for you?
More touring! And finishing up the next couple albums that have been in gestation for the last two years.

Thanks for the time Wonder! One final question.. Besides Frettie, where can readers and songwriters find you?

You can find me on Frettie, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube and my Website!

We encourage everyone to give Wonder a shout out, say hi and check out the awesome music she's writing on Frettie!

Until next time!

- The Frettie Team!

P.S. Want to be a featured songwriter on Frettie? Hit us up in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Ray² Photography

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