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Faye Wellman: Tvrquoise & Being a Modern Musician

An interview with Los Angeles-based musician Faye Wellman, a Michigan native who graduated from Berklee College of Music and subsequently from a graduate program at Emerson College. During this period, Faye Wellman met guitarist Matt Hogan and the pair formed the dream pop project Tvrquoise and released her first single “Paralyzed Legs”. Faye Wellman expresses her desire to record a full-length album and how her career has been impacted since signing with Text Me Records, the brainchild of producer Patrick Brown. Text Me Records is also home to artists such as Toro y Moi, K. Flay, Seoul and Melatonin.

Faye Wellman has been making music since 2011. I first came across her cover of Little Dragon's "Ritual Union" on SoundCloud and immediately fell in love with her ethereal re-interpretation of the song. Since then, Wellman has been busy with her electro-dream pop project Tvrquoise, having recently released an independent EP and now working on a full-length album with Text Me Records. We spoke at length about the challenges of collaborating with strangers, trying to balance a day job with creative endeavors and the power of cross-country road trips.


OMG: So, tell me about yourself. 

Faye Wellman: Well, I grew up in Michigan and I always sang, I've been singing since I was three years old. I started out from a background that was musical theater and dance and all of that and then eventually, when I was in high school, I shifted my focus back to music, because I think the thing I vibe with the most and the thing that I’m good at is music.

OMG: And you wound up at Berklee.

Faye Wellman: Yeah I ended up applying there, even though I had teachers, like my private instructor in high school said, “I don’t know, it’s a really big stretch, you should just stay at a local school because of money and everything.” And I said, “No, I’m just gonna fucking do this.” And that’s kind of what lead me to Berklee,

OMG: And you began collaborating with other musicians there?

Faye Wellman: It’s interesting how Tvrquoise got started. So Matt, who I've made some of the music with, was actually my flower connect. We lived in the same building and I was always hanging out in the basement at my good friend's apartment. Matt lived next door to them and I remember hearing some of the music that he was making and I was like “Woah, this is stuff is really cool like, we should make some songs together.” And he was like “Yeah…” so we met up and worked on “Paralyzed Legs” and “Liar and the Fighter”, which is the second song on the EP. From there, we went our separate ways because it was the end of Berklee, so Matt ended up going out to LA and I moved to Brooklyn, to Bushwick really briefly. Basically, I was just like, 'What the fuck am I doing here? This isn’t right for me.' So I ended up coming out to California and when I was getting ready to come out, I said to Matt, “Hey, I know you’re just working on these two songs but would you wanna do a full EP?” And he was like, “Yeah actually, that’d be great.” So I was living up in San Francisco, he was living in LA and I would come down throughout the summer and we’d just work on stuff. It was kind of like that for the next year, I moved back to Boston for grad school, he was in LA and we were just sending stuff over the Internet. It was a very slow progression but finally, after three years, we released this EP.

OMG: Sounds like a hectic process.

Faye Wellman: It’s definitely been a learning experience. I feel so lucky to have some great people help me out with this. The whole EP was this really interesting process of different people’s fingers getting into it and becoming this great thing. When I was living in San Francisco, I met Montrey Whittaker, co-founder of EarMilk and he really took a liking to the music. And it's kind of Montrey’s thing to kind of like, shoot the shit and share music videos, one music video after the next. And one night, he showed me some work of a friend that was SF-based, a visual artist named Conor Grebel and I saw his work and just fell in love with it. So I asked him, "Do you think that he would ever do a video for us? We have no budget but maybe it’s worth contacting him."
So Montrey connected us and from there, we ended up working with Conor and his team, they basically donated their time for the Paralyzed Legs video which was amazing and then from there, he did all the rest of our visuals for the EP.

OMG: Yeah, it’s a beautiful music video. Whenever I watch it, I’m like, 'what is that?' and trying to figure out how he made it.

Faye Wellman: Yeah, that’s all of Conor’s work, you’re always just like, ‘what the fuck is he— how did he do that?’ That’s the work that he does, which is always super interesting and inspiring, he’s been a huge inspiration for me.

OMG: That’s awesome. Do you have any plans to make more music videos?

Faye Wellman: Well, right now there are visualizers for each song that Conor made. As far as videos like "Paralyzed Legs", I probably won’t because I'm writing an album right now, so that's definitely the focus. Hopefully it will be out in early 2018, that’s the goal. We'll see.

OMG: I'm curious what your writing process is like.

Faye Wellman: The writing process for each song has been really different. Like, "Paralyzed Legs" started with me and my friend messing around with Ableton in his dorm room back in Michigan and that’s how we got that first iteration of that. The lyrics I had written when I was just sitting outside of Berklee after practicing; I was sitting outside of the 150 building and I saw this person walking down the street with these leg braces and I was like, I feel like this person, like I identify with them symbolically, in some way. For the upcoming album, we've been over at New Monkey here in LA, Elliott Smith’s studio, which is really cool because it has all his old gear. I went into the studio with four other writers and producers and just jammed out and from there, ended up making some different mixes. Other times, I'll just be jamming out in my room, like laying on a pile of laundry on my bed, just singing and coming up with shit and that’s been another way I've been writing, too. So honestly, it's been all over the board. I don’t really have a set way anymore, which is kind of good because I used to only write by myself just because of my own self-consciousness and wanting to be in a comfortable space when doing something so revealing and intimate. But writing this album has definitely been a way to get over that and to progress as a songwriter and artist.

OMG: So the first tune that you wrote that's published is "Paralyzed Legs", right?

Faye Wellman: Yeah, yeah that’s the one.

OMG: Which I love and I’ve already told you. Which song on the EP is your favorite?

Faye Wellman: "Paralyzed Legs" is my favorite just because of what it symbolizes in my development as an artist and what the song is about. It was the first song that helped people understand what my musical vision was and the kind of music I wanted to make and sometimes I’m like, ‘Am I ever gonna write anything that means as much to me? I don’t know.’ It’s also funny because lyrically, it’s so minimal, so it's interesting and the structure is kind of strange but that’s probably one reason I like it.

OMG: What were some challenges you encountered during the process of making the EP?

Faye Wellman: Well, I have been trying to do stuff like this since 2011, so it’s been a huge process working with different people, seeing what works, seeing what doesn’t, seeing what is true to me and being able to put out a piece of work that you’re proud of and that feels right. I think the hardest thing is being a creative person and not really belonging to a society that allows you to just focus on your creative work. Because it’s like, if we were able to just focus on the music, it would happen a lot faster and more seamlessly. But of course, you know, hopefully one day I’ll be able to make a living off music, that’s the goal. I worked as an account manager for a year and a half in an office and literally like, four months ago, I was like, ‘Fuck this, I’m leaving. This is so awful for me, this is so not what I want to be, I do not want to spend every day of my life sitting at a desk in an office with someone controlling my life.’ 

OMG: Who are some of your favorite artists that you like to listen to?

Faye Wellman: It’s interesting because I feel like it’s always something kind of different but I’ll always have my go-tos, but like right now, I’m obsessed with the SZA album, I’m obsessed. I’ve never said this to this person but I’m always super inspired by Anna Wise. I’m trying to think now of the things I listened to on my road trip, like those are my favorites. The album Bloom by Beach House, Local Natives, what’s that album? Gorilla Manor by Local Natives, Merriweather Post-Pavilion by Animal Collective, oh Fleet Foxes & Helplessness Blues, that album.

OMG: If you could play with anybody, alive or dead, who you would pick?

Faye Wellman: Well it’d be really cool to jam with Hundred Waters, I would really love that and I would love to jam out with Annie Clark from St. Vincent. I feel like I could learn a lot from her. Oh, definitely someone I’d want to jam with is M83. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is one of my favorite albums. That reminds me of like, being really depressed in New York City and lost in my life. But it’s a great album.

OMG: And where did the project name come from, Tvrquoise?

Faye Wellman: At one point, I just decided to drive across the country by myself and learn about the West, this whole region of America that I really haven’t seen. It was nerve-wracking to go off, I wanted to do this drive and kind of prove something to myself and also get over some mental hurdles as well and being in a car, ten hours a day, alone definitely makes you deal with some shit, and it’s also super inspiring. At one point, I stopped in Colorado to visit a friend and I was in Boulder, I’d just done a hike and I wandered into this Tibetan store and there were these really amazing prayer beads that was this kind of like, green-ish Tibetan turquoise. And the woman told me more about the stone, like it’s supposed to help open your throat chakra and make you release through your voice and also protect you through travels and I just thought, 'Wow, this really resonates with me right now.' So I bought the prayer beads, I unfortunately have no idea what happened to them, so that’s sad. Went on with my journey, made it to San Francisco and a few days later, some friends came to visit and one of them asked what I was gonna name the band. And I hadn't really thought about a project name and the first thing that popped into my head was turquoise because of this experience I had just had. Anyway, they ended up leaving super early the next morning and I woke up and one of them had left this pair of turquoise earrings in the bathroom on the counter and I weirdly was like, ‘I feel like this is a sign.’ I don’t wanna get too hippie dippy about it but, I don’t know, I feel it.

OMG: Road trips will do that to you.

Faye Wellman: Yeah, it’s such a great experience. Like every friend that I have that feels lost or stuck in their life, I’m like, 'Just go on a road trip by yourself, just drive for like hours and immerse yourself in these uncomfortable situations and there will be great things that come of it.' I don’t know, that was at least my experience. It just opens you up to new things and it’s super inspiring.

OMG: Totally. Speaking of inspiring, this is so corny and I kind of hate that I am even asking you… but what inspires you?

Faye Wellman: Traveling to new places, making myself drive alone for hours on end, like torturing myself mildly, what inspires me? Unfortunately, shitty boys. My mom has told me I really need to write some happy songs. And I’m like, ‘Yeah but I can’t. I don’t know, I’m just not there yet.’


Find more of Tvrquoise on Instagram, Bandcamp and on their website. Read our follow-up interview with Faye Wellman here.