Published Oct 30, 2007In The Wonder Show, you really do get a wonder show. Forget all the weeping lap steels, solemn acoustic guitars and the rustic prairie dejection; true folk music takes the shape of a bright young woman and her accordion. A former Edmontonian, Wendy McNeill has a knack for exploding elementary melodies into a collage of gloomy stories, random thoughts and expressive musings. In her early music career, McNeill worked in a singer-songwriter club and was exposed to the many talented artists that passed through. She holds a special place in her heart for the creative twists of Leonard Cohen and the alt-country rituals of Woody Guthrie, but her real inspiration comes from a desire to sit us down at a candle-lit table and tell us a story. On the album, "Restless engages with the post-modern obsession of pain and personal infliction, as well as the banality of a culture void of emotion. "Carnation is hopeful, delicate and honest, her abrupt sing-speak style of vocals interweaving with long, trailing accordion hums. As an added little treat, McNeill includes "Common Little Bird (from 2004s Such A Common Bird) on the record, which is her signature tune about finding beauty in the ordinary. From beginning to end, The Wonder Show captures McNeills sassy, passionate and dedicated persona, and theres no doubt DIY artists out there are all staring at her right now, wishing they could have a little piece of her rock solid tenacity.
What made you move to Europe?
I wanted to be based here. I felt that my music would probably go over well here. I was told by many people that I should be in a bigger centre, a bigger population centre because my music doesnt necessarily appeal to a large piece of the pie. Ive also been here before and I felt comfortable with the feel of the place, so I thought it might work.
Has living in Europe changed your folk sound or the way you approach your music?
I dont think [Europe] has changed that much of what I do. I was sort of fixated on some European characters before, like back when I was little in the prairies, so if anything its allowed me to play live more. Im more comfortable with that.
Do you ever find your music feeling displaced from that familiar prairie folk sound Edmonton seems to cultivate?
Its funny, because I go away but when I come back [to Edmonton] I feel completely at home again. I dont seem to miss it too much as long as I keep myself busy with interesting and exciting things. Its when theres a lull in the everyday intriguing events that I miss it, but I havent had a lot of time for that over the last little while.
Rachelle Van Zanten, formerly of the Painting Daisies, toured Europe in order to make herself known there before coming back to Canada. Do you share the same sentiment?
I really love some of the opportunities that Im getting out here. Im just going to go where Im wanted. I dont feel like Im on a mission where I say, "Okay, Im going to do this for two years and then go back to Canada and do that for two years. I just feel very lucky for every opportunity that presents itself. Like right now, Im looking out over these old mountains and an old castle. The promoters are treating me to this fantastic Swiss/German meal. Its like a little piece of heaven. I recently got to go to Brazil and play with people that Ive been admiring for ages, like Joanna Newsom. Im just soaking it up.
Why did you decide to include "Such A Common Bird on The Wonder Show?
When I first signed with the Swedish record label, they really wanted me to put the song on. I thought there wouldnt be any conflict because Id be releasing it in Europe. I didnt think Id release it in Canada.
What influenced your unique vocal style? I find you "sing-speak your words?
Its probably because I never made it past my first vocal lesson. I had enrolled in vocal lessons in Edmonton. I think it was two classes before they needed me to sing this one song and I couldnt do it properly. So I guess I just had to sing the way that I could. (Six Shooter)