By: Leslie Hadaway
Van Wild makes me the most content; like waking up on a warm Summer’s day, sitting on your front porch, a light breeze blowing in the quiet of the countryside, and a tall cold glass of Lemonade in your hand. You have your trusty radio playing, then you stop what you’re doing and listen, a the melodic sound whispers sweet melodic nothings in your ear.
I find that Van Wild’s music evokes happy memories, and brings back warm fuzzy feelings of a happy childhood. Sitting around the radio listening to the sounds of artists like Bonnie Raitt, The Judds, as well as recent artists like Adele and the late Amy Winehouse. I find myself tapping my foot and singing along.
Van Wild’s music is very deep and heartfelt, it’s like she’s right in your living room telling you a story of heartache and triumph all in one. You’re on an emotional roller-coaster, crying with her one minute and experiencing an incredible high the next. Van Wild makes you feel something, a great mark of a true, masterful artist, .
Their current album, Cherrytree, is definitely on my top 10 list of best female recorded albums of all time. Cherrytree and it’s single of the same name, has gusto, Van Wild’s vocal on that single reminds me of Adele, singing Rolling in the Deep off of her album 21.
I had the opportunity to chat with Yasmine Van Wilt this past week regarding her Van Wild project as well as some other things.
S16: Where are you from?
I’m half Canadian and half American, but I grew up predominantly in Florida. I spent my formative creative years studying, writing and performing in the U.K. Over the past few years, I’ve started spending more time in the New York and most recently Nashville. Nashville is the ideal city for a blues-folk-soul artist like me. Having begun work with Matt Gordon with 1092 Studios, Kurt Ozan from Jana Kramer’s band and Jack White drummer Daru Jones and bassist Dominic John Davis, I feel like I’ve found the right team to record my next EP and album and to perform with. I’m really pleased with the first two songs “Momma” and “No Riches No Glory” that we cut last month.
S16: Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly inspired by anyone in particular. I very much enjoy the writing of Twain, Kafka, Joyce, Morrison, Z N Hurston, Dickinson…and the music of The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Neil Young, The Band. Mick Jagger is my performance idol. He’s mesmerising!
I’m much more consciously inspired by historical narratives fascinating. The way that nations build their historical narratives and consequently their collective imaginaries, their identities, is bizarre and often terrifying. I seek to create connections between the way I experience my identity as a ‘North American’ and the major events that play out in the news and through mainstream mediatized commentary. I then create ‘new histories’ or ‘peoples’ histories’ that juxtapose these narratives with the established histories–typically in direct opposition. My aim is to start a kind of ‘conversation’ with my listener.
I don’t like to be overly prescriptive regarding what things are “about” because…well, when I release something, it’s an entity of its own, and my intent is therefore irrelevant…
So at the risk of being heavy-handed, the protagonist in “Momma” is a victim of domestic violence and victim shaming and blaming. I have experienced both; so the song is a personal narrative that addresses a wider societal problem.
In a somewhat similar vein, my play The Interrogation, which addresses sexual violence, domestic violence and torture. I had the opportunity to work with the brilliant director Dr Ioli Andreadi and the European Union to stage the play in Greece in 2013. A number of the audience members had experienced torture and witnessed varying forms of extreme violence during the dictatorship, so the experience of seeing the play was, for them, cathartic, they said.
I wrote the play hoping that this could happen. I’m very motivated to connect with communities, to challenge mainstream notions of identity through dialogue–creatively and directly. I really do believe that art has and can continue to change us for the better.
Capitalism is fundamentally exclusive: it aims to empower only those ‘in power’. It doesn’t create room for and it doesn’t champion the 99%. I find this fundamentally screwed up. I see citizenship the way that the ancient Greeks did; I believe it is my duty to question the power structures, to question the privilege of the elite, to question my own privilege as a white person. I don’t have any answers, and I’m sure I never will, but I have a hell of a lot of questions. This doesn’t mean that I do not love my countries, on the contrary!
S16: When do you find time to just sit and write?
Well, I’m lucky that writing is my job. So I have to make time, but honestly there’s really nothing I enjoy more; I become so completely absorbed in the process of writing that I have to set multiple alarms to make sure that I don’t spend the entire day doing it. On a typical day, I tend to limit my writing to 5 hours. Then I’ll spend 2 hours doing admin admin and social media, and the last 4 to 6 hours rehearsing.
That was a pretty long answer to a straight-forward question. Sorry!
S16: From where do you draw your creativity as a musician and as a writer?
You know, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m pretty sure my creativity is driven by fear and paranoia. I feel like I’m definitely going to have to live to be around 90 if I want to achieve my artistic and aesthetic goals. I mean, as it is, I have about 100 finished songs I need to record, 20 plays to stage, 3 screenplays to shoot, a half a gothic novel left to finish, a critical book that’s almost done (based on my Ph.D and which I’ll be writing with my dearest friend Dr Nesreen Hussein)…So I guess being creative is kind of a compulsion.
I was quite a misfit kid, and I experienced a lot of bullying. Playing music, reading…the arts…were outlets for me. I think creativity is essentially a kind of intellectual muscle; if a person wants to be creative, then she/he has to be disciplined. Every creative has to feed her/his brains. I’m not a scientist obviously, so what do I know, but I think that there really is no such thing as talent. We may have specific proclivities, but if we do not develop these proclivities, they languish…The desire and willingness to introduce new and challenging stimulus seems to me to be a trait I see in all of my creative friends. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to be creative. It requires extraordinary sacrifice. Creativity demands repetition, rehearsal, discipline, the ability and desire to risk-take. I’m not afraid of failure. I don’t care if I fail; as long as I progress artistically and learn from my aesthetic failures, I know I’m progressing. What I do fear is not taking every reasonable opportunity to raise my creative stakes, press new boundaries, learn new ways of seeing and being…I do a one woman show called Unplugged that is a basically a foo musical. It is 30% scripted. I change the play every night so that I can raise the stakes. I know my character so well after 4 years of performing as her that I can react to anything the audience does (eating, interrupting, leaving the room, crying, laughing, heckling, speaking to me–it’s all happened)…I have to stay really on top of current event because I have to know how my character will respond to these events. (She’s a singer-songwriter turned environmental activist who lost her husband in the Deepwater Horizon Disaster).
Look at Jack White…for example…He’s so damned good that playing on an awesome guitar is too easy; so he plays on shitty guitars so he can raise the stakes. Because he doesn’t want to coast on stage; because he cares so much about audiences that he wants them to feel the fresh immediacy of risk–that palpable fear and sensation that only come from the constant awareness that anything can go wrong at any moment on stage. I think any young artist should basically just consider his interviews like the art ‘bible’.
Van Wild will begin recording her next album with 1092 this Summer with a possible release in 2016. I have it on good authority that some tasty teasers will be released before then. I don’t know about you, but I definitely can’t wait to hear them. Until then, however, you can stream her current album, Cherrytree, at http://www.reverbnation.com.
Until next time, tune in, turn on, and rock out! As always don’t forget to share your before, during and after party pictures using #twitfromthepit