Former folk singer turns feisty frontwoman in latest musical project
By Kristi Alexandra
Her transformation from meek folk singer to rock goddess may seem like an overnight change to some, but it was quite a natural progression contends Savannah Leigh Wellman — now fronting her own rock and roll outfit as SAVVIE.
“What I listen to is rock and roll, and I wanted to get rid of the idea that I couldn’t or that I should just stick to the quieter, prettier music,” Wellman reveals over coffee near Vancouver’s MusicBC headquarters.
By day, she works on local music initiatives such as the Peak Performance Project at the office. By night, she’s the carnal chanteuse howling through a set of songs from her band’s debut album, Night Eyes.
The 11-track record, full of distortion and sex-inspired lyrics, was released earlier in 2015 on Wellman’s own label, Tiny Kingdoms.
“I just feel like if I like rock and roll then that’s what I should play, and that’s what I should write, and I just need to own it and do it,” she says, admitting she briefly agonized over the switch from her identity as Redbird, a lilting, soft-hearted singer-songwriter.
“You kind of put all these limitations on yourself, like I’m this girl with a nice voice and I don’t have this rugged, whiskey Janis Joplin voice that I think you’re supposed to have to write this kind of music. Then I was like, ‘You know what? You’re the only one telling yourself that so get over it and just do what you want to do.’”
Her persona as SAVVIE is not so much a reinvention but a rebirth of her own creativity — something she admits she broke away from after graduating from a professional music program.
“I came out of [school] with all my jazz training,” Wellman reveals, “you kind of have to unlearn that kind of thing and get back to what really matters. You stop thinking about music with your head and start thinking about it from your guts again, which I think is crucial.”
Another critical aspect to penning an ambitiously edgy album? New life experiences, she says.
“The obvious answer is that, for the first half of my twenties, I was in one long-term relationship, and so you know, your experiences are more limited, shall we say,” she confesses with a sheepish laugh.
“The following years I spent being single and exploring the world. It’s that and just my own confidence and appreciation for that kind of music that’s kind of more upfront. It doesn’t have to be coy.”
Decidedly, Wellman’s music is anything but coy. With lyrics like “I could be the one to break you in,” and “How can you choose love over lust,” paired with her raucously seductive stage presence, SAVVIE is a powerhouse on record and onstage.
But does she consider her foray into grit and guts a feminist move?
“Why can’t I be the leader of a sexy rock and roll band just because I’m a chick?” She asks rhetorically.
“In the content of my songs, I’m absolutely trying to be a strong female, a sexually confident woman…It’s not a character, it’s not like I’m putting it on. That’s definitely me but maybe it’s more me at the bar after a few more drinks moreso than coffee at lunchtime. But it’s definitely a part of me that wanted to get out there.”
SAVVIE plays The Biltmore Cabaret on October 2. Visit her website Savviemusic.com to listen to Night Eyes, and lookout for a vinyl release.