Right at Home With Wendy Colonna…New Albums…Old Friends…Real Stories!
Most people figure out at some point in their later lives that when you give up trying to be something you are not and just succumb to who you are, the universe starts to fall into line and opportunities open up. Like I said, most people figure this out LATER in life, so it is rare to find a young talent who has already arrived at this. That is what we found when we had lunch with Wendy Colonna.
Wendy is from Lake Charles and went to Barbe. She was one of the founding members of a youth-organized music collective called “Pourquois Pas.” This group emerged in the late 90’s and was formed to give local youth a venue to develop their music. Because it was primarily a “garage-punk” venue, Wendy, who describes her music then as a “hippie ****,” did not start to play “out” there but was heavily involved in developing and sustaining the effort.
It wasn’t until her days at Northwestern University that she discovered her own passion and connection with the Americana Music community and the joys of storytelling through music. This is when she started playing with Hannah Vincent, one of Wendy’s early collaborations and inspirations. The two returned to Lake Charles to cut a demo, wrote enough songs for a full album, played several gigs per week, and, just by happenstance, wound up opening at a music festival in Conway, AR for Jeff Buckley. This was an inspirational turning point for her and one more example of the ways in which her path has opened up from just being who she is.
Wendy then moved to Austin in 1999 to pursue a full-time career in music. She describes the Austin music scene as “a great community of people who all know and support each other.” It was in Austin that Wendy got to know Marcia Ball (another SWLA native). They had never played together until sharing the stage at Lake Charles’ own Musicale this past weekend. Wendy speaks fondly of the work Marcia has done and the presence she continues to be in the Austin Music Community.
Our conversation about Marcia gravitated toward another story of musical serendipity with Delbert McClinton, who is a huge part of the Americana Music Community and one of Wendy’s inspirations. She tells us a story of how she found a circa 1973 double album recording of Delbert and Glenn Clark in a record shop while touring in Europe. Unfortunately, she lost the rare recording and had lamented the loss for years. During a recent hectic tour and while writing songs for her upcoming album Nectar, those records were on her mind constantly.
Needing a break from touring and writing, Wendy signed up for an Americana Music Conference in Nashville and was surprised to find out that Delbert and Glenn were going to be playing together at the conference for the release of their first record together in 40 years. Wendy went to the show and, through a friend of Delbert McClinton’s wife, (coincidentally named Wendy), got to visit with Delbert and share her story about how she missed the records and what they meant to her. Item one of providential spookiness…
Later that day, she wound up connecting with a promoter who was giving a talk on radio placement and after sharing her love of the Delbert and Glenn albums, the promoter gave her a copy of the albums he had been hiding away. Item number two of providential spookiness in the life of Wendy Colonna.
What this all leads up to is this: Wendy knows herself and is at peace with herself. The music she writes is real. Not that it is all non-fiction. She always mixes fact with fiction in her music, but it’s always tied to something real that people can connect with. She talks about here song “Coffee Today” off of her 2005 album Right Where I Belong.
As Wendy says, “it’s not ornate and it’s super vague and it’s just about missing someone for coffee, but you feel like you can smell it and taste it and you’re feeling that longing and sense of sadness. You don’t know why that character is missing that person, so it leaves everyone with his/her own personal relationship with that song. So, it’s a song that comes from your own experience, but everyone can take something away from it…”
Many of her songs have smells and feelings and vibes specific to SWLA. We folks who have actually swum in the Calcasieu River can appreciate her lyrics like “on the banks of the muddy Calcasieu …eeewww.” And, when you share experiences as you travel with people from this area, you make that connection. All you have to do is look at them and mention swimming or skiing in the Calcasieu river and they instantly smile and say, “What the hell were we thinking…swimming in there?!?” Then you share a laugh.
We always like to ask people about things they look forward to when they come home. For Wendy, it’s gumbo from the Seafood Palace on Enterprise Boulevard. But, for this trip, she’s just happy to enjoy just being at home. The smells and the feeling of waking up and having a lazy morning with her family is what life is all about, and, as we see it, it’s a big part of the reason Wendy’s music speaks to us.
[box type=”info”]Wendy’s new album, Nectar, is available now online. But, we suggest…err…demand…that you come out to her CD release party this Friday at Luna Live and pickup a copy yourself.[/box]