The Beat Converses: Louisa Wendorff

As you may know if you’re a loyal follower of our blog, we love music, and strive to make it with our words. Last month, we kicked off this spotlight feature with emerging songstress Caroline Glaser of The Voice. In keeping with a strong start, here’s Louisa Wendorff.

Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief: Thanks so much for chatting with me today! I know, of course, about your brilliant debut EP Arrow, but perhaps some of our viewers don’t (yet). Can you give us your best two-and-a-half-minute-description of the EP and its contents? What were your goals? Inspirations?

Louisa Wendorff, Musician: Arrow is a project that marks the first step of an actual career.  Each song is very different from the next, displaying the array of styles and passions I have.  The strings that tie them all together, however, bring a dream-like dance feel throughout the record.  “Arrow” is an alternative acoustic song that embodies the tension and anticipation of moving towards a destiny or passion that is pushing back.  Arrows are extremely significant to me for many reasons.  I was given a small arrow necklace from a friend who reminded me, “Always remember your true north.”  The biblical meaning of my name is “Famous Warrior,” and an arrow is a warriors’ weapon.  They are powerful yet delicate, and are an extension of the holder as they fly above battle, containing perspective, never stopping until they hit their target.  This is how I strive to live.

“Every Little Thing” is a love song with a waltz tempo, and is my personal favorite.  I wrote it after this boy tricked me into going on a double date with him, but apparently it worked because he’s now my boyfriend (haha). “Put My Foot Down” is my sunshine song about the uncanny visions and purposeful meaning of a dream.  It’s usually my opener when I play live, and I have this little stomp to it, one that’s always fun to do at shows.  “And Dance” is a fun dance song that mentions many different styles of dance from different cultures.  I grew up a competitive dancer and have always loved it, so incorporating dance into Arrow feels very authentic to who I am.

PL: I’ve noticed that a lot of your YouTube covers feature mash-ups of popular songs by other artists (for example, this one featuring songs by Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran, or this one featuring songs by Vance Joy, Bon Iver, and The Lumineers). What sparked your interest in this type of cover? How do you think mash-ups should be interpreted in relation to the original songs?

LW: I’ve never been very good at memorizing covers, which is an issue when people ask me to play something they all know.  So, I started having fun with learning covers by combining two songs I loved, by two completely different and talented artists.  They were received really well by my friends, so just for kicks, a friend/co-collaborator and I decided to make a video of one of them (Kiss Me//XO) and it happened to take off!  I see mash-ups as their own separate thing, a derivative work even.  I find that they allow me to be creative by arranging the songs together.  But don’t let the fluidity of them fool you: some mash-ups took me hours and days to get them to a point I was happy with.

PL: Three singers and a writer—risen from the dead, if necessary—just walked into the room, and you’re really happy about it. Who are they, and why are they so cool?!

LW: First, ELLA FITZGERALD ALL THE WAY! I may not be a jazz singer, but that woman has inspired me more than any other.  I fell in love with her as a third grader, and the more I learned about her, the more I wanted to be a singer.  Secondly, Ed Sheeran.  The ease and rawness to his voice is something I could listen to for hours, and his writing style is so creative and fun for me to study.  Lastly, Jessie J is such a baller. She knows how to kill it vocally, message wise, and in performance.  In regards to songwriters, If Max Martin were to walk in the room, I’d forget how to speak and function.  His consistency, desire to push boundaries, and the amount of hits he has under his belt is so completely inspiring.

PL: These days, I feel like a solid ongoing debate in the arts community (and, I’d say, the world) gets at whether the development of the worldwide web is in fact aiding emerging artists in creating and distributing their art. I see both sides of the debate in my own personal experience as a poet: there are definitely far more opportunities to share and learn about art (of all kinds), but it also seems more difficult to get recognized and ‘hit it big.’ So, I’m curious… what are your thoughts?

LW: I agree that there are much more opportunities and outlets for emerging artists and, because of that, the pool is so much larger.  However, my goal and focus has never been to “make it big.”  I’m pursuing music because I have a message I want to share, and I’m bringing it to the world with what I love most.  Yes, this industry is extremely hard to break into, and some say nearly impossible, but I feel called to go into music as an artist so I’m just going for it.  There’s no reason to compare and compete when every person’s story is so uniquely beautiful to who they are.

PL: Bam! Preach. I also asked this question last month to Caroline Glaser, but I’m wondering: How do you get inspired? I feel like my best poetic work responds to the emotion in music; I have to wonder if there’s some kind of emotional dialect of language that all artists are able to speak.

LW: I find inspiration almost anywhere: words, songs, conversations, movies, church, and mostly nature. I draw so many of my lyrics from places I’ve been and lived, whether it’s a sunset/sunrise, fire, mountain, ocean, forest, or just a little detail on the street. I love the little things like stopping to appreciate something as insignificant as a small yellow flower in a crack on the concrete.

PL: One last (obligatory) question: what in the world is next for Louisa?

LW: That is a question I would love to know the answer to! My life is full of twists and turns and unexpected surprises! But recently, my friend Blythe Thomas and I just put out a new video (which you can check out below!), and are headed to Hawaii next week! We’re going for a global missions conference where I am lucky enough to be singing.  We are also going to be filming my next music video for a song on my EP, “Put My Foot Down” in Honolulu. I’m completely ecstatic to say the least.

Peter LaBerge

Peter LaBerge founded The Adroit Journal in 2010, as a high school sophomore. His work appears in Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, Pleiades, and Tin House, among others. He is the recipient of a 2020 Pushcart Prize.

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