Whitney Myers might be known for her stint on NBC’s the Voice, but with a new album she’s reinventing herself as one of the west coast’s premier solo artists.
After disbanding from her longtime family band, Myers recorded her debut, Articles of Luminous Nature, filled with catchy hooks and candid lyrics, and intertwined with electronic and tribal rhythms. We caught up with Myers to talk about her new album, her experience on The Voice, and coming full circle to where her journey all began, San Francisco, with a show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall on May 28th.
Let’s talk about your latest album, Articles of Luminous Nature, the first since your band dismembered. How did your writing process change?
It changed a lot because previously I wrote most the songs with my family. I’ve been writing with them since I was eleven, which was a pretty definable comfort zone. When I turned solo it was really freeing but a bit frightening, since there was no one to bounce ideas off of. I finally got to work with a professional producer too, which was nice.
Where was it recorded?
It was recorded in a couple different places. Nowadays you can make quality albums without spending thousands of dollars in a studio. I cut a couple vocal tracks with the drummer on the album in his closet, and then the producer had a studio at his house and we did quite a few track there- mostly the electronic stuff.
How come you branched out from the band?
It was a band with my dad, which was really cool and I learned a lot about being with mature players. It taught me to respect music and be passionate in the way I pursued it, but I wanted to pursue my own things personally, and experiment with the electronic side of things.
It was really hard at first because I didn’t realize how much of a comfort zone I was in. I thought I could totally do it, but as soon as I did I missed them a lot. It’s been big as an individual to grow. I always say the best lessons usually come from being uncomfortable in life.
The album seems to be pretty personal- sometimes referring to the pressures of national exposure. The line, “I will never be shrouded in mystery, knuckles white to make sure you’re looking right,” from the song “Crazy Making” especially stood out. What was your inspiration for that song?
That particular songs is kind of about being surrounded by artsy people, which is a lot of times inspiring, but there’s also a lot of false behavior. No one’s faulted for that, but for me I think we’re all creating stuff and speaking the same language so there’s no need for competing. So that song is speaking to those people who are “overly” artsy without being artsy. There’s a certain someone who inspired that song, and it was my way of calling them out. The reality is we make art to connect with each other, and when you make yourself seem better than others you limit that connection with your art.
Most people may know you from singing on the second season of NBC’s the Voice. How did the idea of participating on this show come about?
That’s a non-typical story because I don’t even have a TV, not that I don’t watch it, but I didn’t have one when the show aired, so I went to my friends houses to watch the episodes. I was playing in a band and we were touring and the audition was in San Francisco. My friend’s band from Portland drove down and kept asking if I was going to the audition, so I just went down there to push myself and see how I was on the spot and take it as a growing experience, and it just took off as a whole chapter in my life. I went through the whole process and it was a crazy decision, but I’m glad I did it.
Dave Grohl made a statement- “When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or the Voice, they think ‘oh ok, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and then you sing your heart out for someone, and then they tell you it’s not fucking good enough. It’s destroying the next generation of musicians.” What are your thoughts on this?
I listened to that same speech at SXSW. I have mixed feelings about that whole thing, and it took me a long time to make peace with my decisions. It was great because it gave me publicity, and the music industry nowadays is all about hype. But I think he’s pretty much right. I thought I’d get on that show and huge amazing things would happen, but it wasn’t like that.
I wouldn’t say these shows are a great way to get famous, but it’s a great way to gain more fans. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to get a record deal. And if you think about it there’s like ten others shows like the Voice, if they gave everyone on those shows a record deal, a quarter of America would have them.
So he’s right in that they’ve made it a game. There’s two ways you can try to make it- you can do the hard way by booking and touring, which I’ve done before and after the Voice, or you can rely on these shows. The type of career I want has more longevity and musical connections, which might be the harder way, but no one can tell me how to make my music.
It seems like there’s a level of superficiality when it comes to the “musicians,” or contestants on the show?
The Voice is a little different than the other shows. Most the contestants were actually touring musicians. Some have toured with big names and were already making a living, just not enough of it. I would say the Voice is an exception. If you’re in the industry and you have special connections then you don’t have to stand in line and such. I didn’t get that treatment. And after the show is over they sort of drop you, so I’m glad I already had a foundation.
Who was your favorite judge?
I got to meet all of them, but I didn’t kick it with them for very long. They seemed nice. Blake (Shelton) was probably my favorite, not musically, but as a person he seemed the most genuine.
How excited are you to play in San Francisco, the city where you auditioned for the Voice?
So excited, I want to make San Francisco my second home. I tour all over the US but San Francisco is so close to me and I grew up going High School there. It’s always been an inspiring place, and in terms of music I’ve been getting great feedback. I know it sounds cliché, but I’m just excited to share my music with the city.
Where would you ideally like to be ten years from now?
I would like to have two Grammy’s and have scored a major motion picture, and be able to sell out big theater venues like the Fillmore all across the world. I think music is one of those things that the possibilities are limitless, so long as you have the drive and a good product.