Today sees the release of Winten's debut album Waving To My Girl, written while processing love and loss, insecurity and heartbreak.
Winten is a singer-songwriter based in Naarm. Ahead of the release, produced and mixed by Matt Redlich, we spoke to Winten about how the record got started, as well as the writing and recording process that ultimately led to its release.
Congratulations on the release of Waving To My Girl. How did work on the album begin?
Thank you! I didn’t really know that I was writing to record an album when most of these songs were created. I was just writing because it felt good in my body. The first songs off this record were written late 2019 after I’d freshly moved to Melbourne on my own, and then continued throughout 2020 with the pandemic allowing for so much time and space for ideas to form. I was dealing with a mixture of romantic and familial heartbreak, an isolated feeling of navigating a new city and a wavering sense of hope that I could sink into myself on a more connected level. When I realised I’d written about 30 songs that I felt confident about, I became really excited about the prospect of making my own album. I reached out to Matt Redlich who became my producer and very good friend, and we spent a lot of time bringing the songs to life.
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How do ideas for songs begin? Is it some chords and a melody, some lyrics or something else entirely?
Usually songs will start with guitar or piano playing and when something resonates, I’ll start mumble-singing a melody over the top. Generally I’ll flesh out either a verse or chorus this way and then put things down and come back to it a few days later with a fresh perspective. Most of the time I’ll keep the first melody that I sung as I think there’s something intuitive about the initial moments of inspiration, and also some of my best ideas are formed in these moments. Lyrically it can vary – sometimes lyrics will be born simultaneously with a vocal melody and other times I completely replace them after making a considered decision about what to write about.
What equipment was used to demo and record ideas?
Honestly, I don’t have any fancy equipment to record demos. When song ideas are forming, I need to capture them instantly otherwise they might slip away, so I just record them through voice memos on my phone and listen back later when I’m trying to flesh things out more evenly. My Maton acoustic guitar is always a major player here because I don’t need to plug it into anything and I can take it outside when the weather’s nice. I’ll also generally just write lyrics down in my journal, even if they’re horrible, underdeveloped versions of things.
How do you think being a filmmaker and photographer impacts your music? Are you a very visual creator?
It’s hard to say! I fell into music much earlier than I found photography, so if anything, I’d say that being a musician maybe impacts my photography and filmmaking work more heavily than the reverse. In saying that, I know I’m connecting to my music when I’m thinking about how I can incorporate visuals into its universe. Also, I definitely need to be in a visually beautiful place when I’m writing. Usually that’s my bedroom which is decorated with objects and art that feel special to me.
How do you define yourself? A songwriter or a filmmaker? A bit of both?
I’d say I’m a person who is interested and curious about emotion and connection through art. Those interests are constantly evolving and leading me to new places, but at the moment I’m exploring mostly through music and photography/filmmaking. I’m a musician, photographer, friend, sister, daughter, writer, creator, and hopefully as I grow older and wiser, I’ll be able to share more about the knowledge and understanding I’ve collected along the way.
We understand the album was written over approximately two years. How did the songs evolve over that time?
All of the songs on the record contained only acoustic guitar and vocals in their creation. I played a lot of them initially to my good friend Malachi, who also plays in my band and he then added all of the guitar lines and leading melodies heard in the recordings. Together, we fleshed out intentions for instrumentation and rehearsed weekly during lockdown in the hopes of recording as soon as we were able to do so. When we headed into the studio, we kept things quite similar to our original ideas and I contacted Darvid Thor and Leigh Fisher who added bass and drums to the songs. One thing I did find quite difficult from time to time was reconnecting with the subject matter of some of the songs due to the amount of time that had passed between writing and recording. In that sense, ‘Waving To My Girl’, ‘Showreel’ and ‘Freckled Like an Orchid’ were the easiest to record emotionally because I wrote them last, during the recording process.
How was it recorded once you hit the studio?
The songs were fully fleshed out in terms of structure, lyrics and most of the instrumentation prior to recording. Only two out of the eleven songs on the record (Waving To My Girl and Fireworks & Lemon Pie) were recorded live with a band, which I really enjoyed. We switched methods right towards the end of the recording process because we were running out of time to complete things. I think there’s a definite freedom and fluidness to both of these songs due to us all playing together in the recording. Initially I didn’t want to record live with a band because I hadn’t had any experience recording this way and worried that I wouldn’t be able to perform under pressure and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. All of the other songs were recorded instrument by instrument, in a layered way, which I also really enjoyed in terms of playing around with sounds and textures. My good friend Matt Redlich engineered, produced and mixed the whole record, while Steve Fallone out of Sterling Sound in New York mastered it. We unintentionally tracked it over four different locations (The Aviary Studios, Bellbird Studio, Woodstock Studio and Matt’s very own home setup) which provided a welcome stream of inspiration to the process.
Was there one piece of equipment that shaped Waving To My Girl?
My 1966 Guild Starfire was used throughout the whole album and I actually bought it specifically to record with. It has such a beautiful, warm tone and it’s super expressive to play. I’d never owned a guitar with a whammy bar before so I had a lot of fun with that! My producer, Matt (Redlich) bought a 1960 Fender Princeton amp during the same trip in which I bought my guitar, so we decided they were a perfect duo and that they always had to be recorded together. The combination is honestly unbeatable in my opinion. As well as these major stars, all of my vocals were recorded through a Neumann U47 microphone (made in the 70’s) and the majority of the songs on the album were mixed through a Vari Mu compressor. Matt and I share a love for analogue/vintage equipment due to the genuine and raw feeling of it all, so most of the gear used on the record is very old and idiosyncratic.
Thanks for your time! As a final note, are there any funny stories or anecdotes you’re happy to share about making the record?
There are a couple! First off, ‘Freckled Like an Orchid’ was sort of a happy accident. Matt and I were recording scratch takes of my vocal and guitar but ended up keeping them in the final recording because they had a really raw, relaxed quality to them. I’m usually really particular about my vocals so it feels really special to me that we kept these. ‘Holidays’ ended up being a particularly cursed song to record – the first time we tried to record it, I accidentally tuned my guitar a semitone lower than what it needed to be and Matt and I didn’t realise until we went to record bass for it about a week later. We had to do the whole thing again which sucked, haha. I also had major PMS when we live-tracked ‘Waving To My Girl’ and ‘Fireworks & Lemon Pie’ so those were some moody sessions. Listening to the end of ‘Waving To My Girl’ is pretty hilarious with this in mind.
Keep up with Winten here.