William Vandermade is a solo musician from Sydney who performs under the stage name Vander.
He traveled to LA to record what would become his debut EP, Venus, with multi-platinum music producer, A&R executive, songwriter and lawyer, Jeff Blue, who discovered and signed Linkin Park, Macy Gray and The Last Goodnight. He also signed Limp Bizkit and KoRn and has written singles for Hoobastank, Syndicate and more. Vander’s recently released single, “Back To The Sun” has received regular airplay in both Australia and the UK.
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Learn more about Vander in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2016? What were some of the highlights for you and your music? What are you most excited about for 2017?
I would describe 2016 as a year of opportunity for me. For most of my creative life, until last year, getting my career off the ground had been a real uphill struggle. Trying to meet people in the industry, getting myself and my music out there. It was all really trying and testing, with heaps of ups and downs. But I pushed through because I believe not only in my music but in the message that I want to share with people; one of finding hope, courage, strength and inspiration. I knew that I could really help and benefit people if they ever had the chance to listen to my music. It’s what kept me going up to this point.
However, 2016 was the year that I finally felt that there was a breakthrough. I met people in the industry, real big names who I’m currently working with in getting the music out there, and for the first time in my career, I feel optimistic about the projection. The sky is the limit. That’s where I feel I am right now in 2017, on the verge of something great!
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your first musical memory?
I didn’t always want to be a musician but I had always been creative. When I was a child and an early teenager, I was really passionate about art. I wanted to be an animator until music barged into my life. The first time I felt inspired to play piano was when I first heard the song, ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay. I remember being completely captivated by the magic of the song. I had never heard anything like it before. I tried learning it, and learning it, and then I never really stopped after that.
The singing and songwriting came later on when I first heard ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ by U2. My Mum used to play a cassette of their first greatest hits album, and as I started listening and learning more about the band, I was amazed by how this band, and especially their singer carried over messages of politics, faith and God through their songs, as if they believe that their songs could change the world. That was the first time I truly got to appreciate how powerful music is to the human race, and how it can in fact change the world. Since then, I knew that being able to contribute to the world by sharing the message of hope was something I wanted to do with my life. I felt from then on, I knew my life’s calling.
What was it like coming to LA to record your debut EP, “Venus”? Did anything surprise you about the process? What was the most challenging part about it all?
The most unusual thing about being in the studio in LA was the fact that it didn’t feel unusual at all. I had so much experience already in studios in Australia, that it felt like I was at home, which was good because since we had only five days to write and record three songs, there wasn’t time to settle down into the environment.
What really affected me was the fact of being in LA, almost literally on the other side of the planet. It was the first time I had ever been overseas. I won’t ever forget the fact that I felt so much culture-shock. Before I went over for the first time, I thought it would be very similar in terms of culture between Sydney and LA, and that was definitely not the case; the people, the optimism, the positive energy, the expanse of the city. I would always describe Sydney to everyone that I met in LA as a city with only three main roads and a couple of blocks, which is not entirely untrue. Compared to LA, Sydney is not very wide but is built incredibly high. I would compare to Sydney to downtown LA in terms of size and atmosphere. So to see the full expanse of LA was truly an amazing experience!
Have you thought about leaving Australia and moving to the states full-time?
What I’ve noticed is that I fall in love with LA a little bit more each time I go there. Even though it is so far away from Sydney, it truly feels like my second home at this point. What I love the most about LA is that the city is so optimistic. You truly believe that you can make it. You can do whatever it is that you want to do. Anything is possible. Never in my life have I felt that achieving my dream was so possible. It’s definitely a haven for creative and artistic people. I know if I do come over for a third time, I won’t want to come home!
What was the inspiration for your current single, “Back To The Sun”?
The lyrics for the song actually came out of a bad relationship. There was someone that I was good friends with and we started to get more intimate. However, she started distancing herself out of fear of getting her heart broken again, and that’s what the song ultimately became about: fear of relationship, fear of opening your heart to possible hurt, especially if you’ve been hurt in the past already.
The music itself had been moulded over the last six years. It had been recorded three times in it’s near decade-long life, starting as a demo in an 80’s revival style, to a synth-pop track, finally ending up as a modern alternative track, which will be the version released on my upcoming EP. It’s interesting because each version represents a different stage in my life. The demo represented my life in university studying music in Sydney. The first professional recording represented my first time in LA and the second represents my second time recently. I’m extremely proud of what it became. It was truly watching a child become an adult.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I think following from the previous question, Coldplay and U2 will never seize to inspire me, even with their older material. Their music lit the initial spark of inspiration for me so they’ll always have a special place with me. Other acts that inspire me share an ambition to create stadium-sounding music. Acts like The Killers and Thirty Seconds To Mars. I’ve always been attracted to large personalities and large ambition. If you think about it, it says a lot about the acts that write music for stadiums, because they anticipate that at some point, they will perform their music in one!
I would love to get a band together with The Edge (U2) on guitar, Guy Berryman (Coldplay) on Bass and Shannon Leto (Thirty Seconds To Mars) on drums. I’d then have Bono as backing vocals, because it would be a laugh to see him get used to not being the front-man!
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I recently recorded the new EP in Los Angeles, during the week that was bookmarked by Martin Luther King day and the inauguration of President Trump. You could really feel the tension in the atmosphere of the place. The people had a little less of the optimism and vibrance than you’d usually feel whilst you were there. That week was crucial in influencing the direction of the new EP. It gave me the message that I want to share with those who listen to it, which is to be part of the change that we need right now. Stand up and contribute to the world around you without fear, only love and an open heart. The world needs you to. It needs us all to.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself and your music?
I have been performing and writing music for almost fourteen years, and it really has been a journey with a lot of struggle. I struggled for years to become the performer I wanted to be, the songwriter I wanted to be. I struggled to find the message I wanted to share with the world. I struggled to find myself and my identity as an artist. And that’s all with the struggle of taking a chance on music over having a real job. But I’ve persevered and finally, for the first time in my musical life, I feel like I’m where I want to be as a performer and a songwriter. I know that after fourteen years, I’m ready to show the world what I have. It’s time.