With a name like Oh Wonder, one has to ask if this London-based duo could ever have expected to transform from aspiring songwriters for other musicians to selling out shows across the globe. The answer is an affirmative no. Ask their fans, however, and it’s no surprise Oh Wonder continues to be one of the most talked about international bands on the rise.
Georgie spoke to Oh Wonder’s Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West about their rapid online success, close relationship and unconventional record debut.
G—You’ve been defined in a few different ways, but mainly as alt-pop. Is this how you would describe your sound?
Anthony West—Someone once described us as a musical comforter because our sound relates to what others are going through.
Josephine Vander Gucht—We don’t try and pigeonhole ourselves. We try to write relevant songs with catches and hooks, and meaningful lyrics.
G—Growing up, did music play an important role in your lives?
JVG—I didn’t come from a musical family, but we did spend a lot of time driving in the mountains, listening to music like Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell. And my parents always supported me and my music, whether it was sending me to violin lessons or coming to my school performances.
G—Your debut record started off in a rather unique way, with songs being released online periodically over the course of a year before the album was formed. Why did you decide to do it this way?
JVG—There wasn’t any grand plan. It was more of a personal endeavor to build up a portfolio, with the hopes of having 13 songs at the end. We never had any intentions of releasing an album or becoming a band. We just wanted to practice our craft. It turned out to be a great way for us to build momentum and a loyal fan base.
G—Do you think you will continue to release music that way, or do you see future album releases taking on a more traditional approach?
AW—We never really had a chance to write an album or think about the context of the tracks together – more as separate songs. We’ll be in New York writing our next album, and then plan to release it in a more traditional way.
G—Are there challenges when co-writing from a collaborative female and male perspective?
JVG—Not at all. We’ve shared similar outlooks on life, so this was just an extension of that. We really do respect one another, so we find we enhance one another’s songwriting abilities.
G—There is an evident closeness between the two of you. If you had to pick one song off your debut that sums up your relationship, which would it be?
AW—(laughs) It’s true, though. It sums up our music in a way, because we write for others, not just for us.
JVG—“Lose It” is a great one, too. Anthony is always encouraging me to be myself, and that’s what the song is about.
G—How did you decide to both co-lead on your songs?
AW—It was accidental, really. We started off as songwriters so when we would pitch ourselves to other artists, I’d sing lower male and she’s sing higher female. People liked our sound.
G—Aside from writing collaboratively, how else do you think you’ve grown as a band since the album’s release?
JVG—The live aspect has been a radical change for us. It’s a whole new territory to perform around the world. We’ve been to some amazing places that I think have helped us grow both physically and emotionally. It takes a lot of getting used to though. These few months have really taught us a lot about ourselves and what matters.
G—You were initially interested in writing songs for other artists. With the success of Oh Wonder, is that something you are still interested in exploring?
AW—Absolutely. We’ve done a few sessions over the past six months, and are trying to find a balance between it all. It’s a totally different art form to write for others versus yourself.
G—Previously, you wrote and produced all of your songs in your London apartment. Do you think you’ll write while on tour, or do you prefer writing at home?
AW—It’s hard to write on the road. I don’t know how people do it. That’s why writing in New York is so important to us. It’s such an inspirational place.
G—With such a fast online following, you didn’t have a chance to perform your songs together live until recently. What’s changed now that you’ve have been touring internationally and selling out shows?
JVG—I think, if anything, we’ve grown and become a lot more ambitious. International shows – and the power of the internet – have made us realize that music has amazing force to reach and impact people.
G—What was it like performing live for the first time?
JVG—Terrifying! The show had sold out the month before, but nobody knew if we were good live – not even us! It was a relief to know we were.
G—How does it feel knowing your shows are selling out within minutes of tickets being released?
AW—Really weird! Vancouver was one of quickest selling shows we’ve had. Tickets were sold out within minutes. We couldn’t wrap our heads around it. it’s still really bizarre for us, but we definitely value it every single day.
Starley’s path to platinum status has been filled with starts and stops. After years spent trying to launch her career in her hometown of Sydney, Australia, and later in London and the United States, the popstar hopeful grew depressed. Her anxieties heightened. She was ready to quit. But before she decided to shift her focus onto her next passion – fitness – she made one final attempt at music. Telling herself that God works in mysterious ways but to remain faithful in his process, Starley penned the personal salve, “Call on Me”. The song caught the attention of Australia’s Central Station Records. Since then, everything changed for Starley. Central Station’s subsidiary, Tinted Records, released “Call on Me” as her debut single last July. Epic Records re-released the track later in October. To date, the song has peaked at number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its remixed version by Aussie producer Ryan Riback has garnered over 338 million Spotify streams. Starley is currently touring North America for the first time supporting British electronic group Clean Bandit. Georgie got some time with the budding singer to talk about her mainstream ascent, dealing with mental health, and the importance of fitness
Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch first met in the 11th grade, when they started performing together in a jazz quartet known as the Flown Tones. Although the band later disbanded, Rehbein and Dausch stuck together, and the pair went on to experiment with folk, reggae and electronica sound combinations. Eventually, this led to the formation of Milky Chance and the 2014 release of their debut album, Sadnessecary, which later went on to become a multi-platinum success. Now, three and a half years later, Milky Chance is ready to embark on a new adventure with the release of Blossom. The album’s first single, “Cocoon”, continues to climb the charts as the Blossom Tour makes its way across North America. Lead vocalist Rehbein spoke to Georgie about touring, writing and how being close friends with Dausch has benefited the band. G—It’s been about 3 ½ years since the release of Sadnecessary. How has your approach changed between your first and second albums? Clemens Rehbein—I wouldn’t say it’s changed in the way I write songs, but rather how we’ve developed as musicians. The songs are made of the same foundation, but they’re influenced by our experiences on the road and playing on stage. G—Was it
Jacob Sartorius’s path to fame has become an increasingly familiar story: teenaged internet sensation breaks out into mainstream pop stardom. But what sets the 14-year-old Virginian singer apart is his self-awareness and early career savvy. In 2014, Sartorius began uploading clips of himself singing and dancing to Vine. After amassing around 500,000 followers, he switched to musical.ly, where he began uploading videos of himself lip-synching to his own songs. Whereas Vine allowed him to show off his musical theatre background, musical.ly allowed him to show off even more of his lighthearted side. Musical.ly became a new way for him to promote his music and connect with his fans. Sartorius’s fan base has grown so large that he is currently touring internationally for the first time, across seven countries, in support of his debut EP, The Last Text. Georgie caught up with him by phone in London, England a day before he performed in front of 2,500 fans at the O2 Arena. In preparing for The Last Text World Tour, Sartorius has already started developing the work ethic necessary to endure major pop stardom. For 15 to 20 days leading up to the tour, he worked with his voice and movement coaches for up to ten