|Look further down the post for a free download of Renée Wahl's single "One More to Go"|
This is something Renée Wahl seems to have realized instinctively from an early age. As an Alternative country artist, Wahl has followed a non-traditional path to a career in music, and yet no one who has known her over the years would ever question her destination. Wahl enrolled in the musical theater program at Staten Island’s Wagner College only to find college life mundane. Finding her way to Philadelphia, Wahl became a regular on the local Indie music scene. After a stint in the US Air Force, where Wahl served first as a flight specialist and later as a physicist and educator, she returned to music. Eventually making her way to Nashville, Wahl’s affable personal style helped her network with some of the brightest lights on Music Row. This combined with her natural talents as a singer and a songwriter have Wahl poised on the verge of widespread name recognition.
Renée Wahl writes intelligent, literate songs from the heart. Working both on her own and with Roger Prescott (Trainwreck Ghost, The Texacala Jones Band), Wahl displays a talent for creating and inhabiting characters and moments in the fashion of Lyle Lovett and Townes Van Zandt. Combine this with a voice that finds the soft parts of your soul and insinuates itself there and it’s easy to understand why Wahl has been compared to Maria McKee (Lone Justice). Wahl acknowledges being a bit of a tomboy, loving to take things apart to see how they work. She invariably practices the same art in her songwriting, dissecting people, places and moments and recreating them in song in ways that bring new light and understanding.
Wahl was inspired early on by such asymmetric songwriters as Neko Case and Chris Isaak. Writing from deep emotional waters, Wahl’s songs bespeak a stark intellect. Wahl paints portraits with words, bringing to life her own experiences and those of people she’s known or observed. Wahl’s eye and ear perceive with the refined understanding of an artist, and her musical media are many. Wahl is equally comfortable writing in the realms of rock, country, Americana, Motown, and even 1950’s pop, and her songs are infectious. It’s clear that Renée Wahl enjoys making music, and whether on stage or in the studio, it’s impossible not to pick up on that energy and enthusiasm.
Wahl might be one of the most approachable people in show business, comporting herself with a mix of quiet confidence and humility that speaks of character and a thoughtfulness that’s notable in a self-absorbed, pop-obsessed musical culture. Wahl aims to entertain while speaking the truth. Listening to her debut album Cumberland Moonshine, listeners will find themselves drawn into finely detailed story songs with a universal air. Songs of heartbreak, redemption and love lost and found dot the landscape of Cumberland Moonshine, and Renée Wahl voices each as if nothing else matters in the world.
Cumberland Moonshine establishes Wahl as a serious player in Nashville. The album’s tangible musical moments make it easy for listeners to connect with the artist. And while Wahl may be coy at times about the inspiration for her songs, she shares heartache and happiness in her music as easily as an old friend sitting down over a coffee or a beer. It doesn’t hurt that Wahl is backed by one of the best supporting casts in Nashville. Cumberland Moonshine features performances from Bryan Owings on drums (Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Buddy And Julie Miller); guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart); Pat Bergerson (Shelby Lynne, Wynonna Judd, Lyle Lovett, Suzy Boggus) on guitar and harmonica; Fats Kaplin (Mark Knopfler, Garth Brooks, Waylon Jennings); Charles Treadway on organ (The Dynamites); GRAMMY winner Charlie Chadwick and Roger Prescott.
Renée Wahl is the girl next door. An extremely intelligent, talented and beautiful girl next door with a voice that melts hearts like butter and a personality that lights up the largest or most intimate of venues. Wahl writes with the insightful eye of a raconteur, creating moments in music that touch your heart, with a mischievous energy that is unforgettable. If it’s true that the cream always rises to the top, then a day will come when Renée Wahl sits atop the country music world. While many are cast by publicists, press and fans as rising stars, there’s no doubt that Renée Wahl is the real deal.
How do you describe your music to people, Renée?
It's this modern/retro Alt Country/Rockabilly feel along the lines of Chris Isaak, Neko Case and Lone Justice
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
Well, I always loved to sing, so my parents thought they'd send me for lessons. They were advised to have me learn an instrument first, so I started taking piano lessons at age 6 and started vocal lessons the next year. I played and sang all through high school (and even played the guitar, violin and saxophone). While I was taking lessons, I [was] composing piano pieces to enter into competitions and did really well with that, but I hadn't thought about writing lyrical songs until much, much later. When I went to college I studied vocal performance but then did a complete turnaround and studied physics instead. I always continued to perform, but then I started writing music much like I do now.
Hmmmm, I know some people who know me would probably say sleep...seriously, other than playing music, I love spending time with my dogs (Tre and Molly), cats (Velveteen and Kain) and horses (Sasha and Jupiter). I spend my free time volunteering with a group called DART (Disaster Animal Response Team). It's pretty much like emergency management for animals during natural or man-made disasters.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Most definitely it's learning to know what things I can and should handle myself and what I should let someone else handle. As an independent artist, most everything a record label would do is done by the artist. For the most part you do everything from writing and performing music to acting as manager, booking agent, music director, publicist, promoter, travel coordinator...the list goes on and on. It's great experience though since it's given me a much better perspective and understanding of what goes into making a career in music. I have a ton of respect for those that make things happen behind the scenes.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I always said I'd be a singer or a veterinarian (somewhere buried in a box is my pre-school graduation program with that same answer in it!)
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
First, my parents were always very supportive of me as a musician. They went above and beyond with helping me find opportunities and outlets to develop my skills and perform. I also always seemed to be surrounded by communities that were either musically inclined or really supportive of the arts. Even when I was in the Air Force, my coworkers and supervisors were some of my biggest fans and expressed their belief in me and what I do. I would also say the scientific community has a strong tie to music. I get a lot of confused looks when I tell people I went from studying music to physics, but science is a very creative outlet as well.
What other artists out there do you love?
Wow, it's really hard to narrow the list down. My favorites include Chris Isaak, the Beatles, the Ramones, Dwight Yoakam, Jeffrey Gaines, the Cure, Neil Diamond, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson, Dolly Parton, Angelo Badalamenti, Neko Case, Reverend Horton Heat, Southern Culture on the Skids, Skeeter Davis, Crystal Gayle, Chuck Berry, Sara Borges, Kate Bush...way too many more to mention
What does your future hold?
I definitely see me and Jared (drums) doing a radio tour this spring and starting a tour early summer. I'm already working on my next album and looking forward to recording that later this year. I'm actually glad I can't see the future because not knowing and taking risks (calculated, of course) makes things that much more fun!