The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Wendie Colter has a long track record in the music business. A lifelong musician, she enjoyed her first taste of success with the band Box The Walls in the mid ’90s. After touring the national club circuit, topping charts and sharing the stage with some of the most well-known acts of the day, Colter broke away and released a critically acclaimed solo record entitled Payday.
The scope of Colter’s writing abilities is not only limited to pop or rock, and today she is a successful composer of music in every genre for TV and film. Her compositions are represented by some of L.A.’s top placement houses, and she writes and records independently in her home studio.
This week, we’re honored to feature the highly talented Wendie Colter. You can learn more about her at wendiecolter.com.
WiMN: How were you introduced to music as a child? What is your first music-related memory?
WC: My mother was a folk singer, so there was always music in the house – Dylan, The Beatles, blues, rock, jazz and classical. There was a big pegboard wall in the living room covered with musical instruments. I remember trying to reach a guitar that was hanging there because I wanted to figure out the bass line to “Sunshine Of Your Love” by plucking on the low E string. I was too small to reach, so I had to climb up onto the back of the couch to get at it. Mom saw me and decided it was time to teach me few chords.
WiMN: Tell us about your first band, Box The Walls. What are some of your greatest memories with this group?
WC: I started the band to get back to my folk and singer/songwriter roots, after playing new wave, post punk, art-rock and whatever else. I felt sort of lost musically and I wanted Box The Walls to be an honest, acoustic sound. I’ll never forget our first tour in the mid ‘90s. Our debut CD got a fantastic response on national Triple-A radio, so we were headlining large clubs and theaters right out of the gate.
So many great memories, but one show in Boise was really amazing – there was an over-capacity crowd, literally lines around the block, and the entire audience was dancing and singing along to every song, even the ballads! We got to play with some great bands, including The Cranberries and The Innocence Mission.
WiMN: How was the experience of going solo?
WC: Difficult. We were recording the second album when the label went under, I lost the rights to the recordings, and the band finally broke up. The good news is that I ended up working with the wonderful Rob Laufer (Fiona Apple, Frank Black), who produced Payday, an album I’m extremely proud of.
WiMN: How did you break into the field of composing for TV/film and commercials?
WC: I was working with a gal who was getting Payday tracks placed in television shows. When I got my first check for more money than I’d ever seen as a signed artist, I figured I should find out more about this music placement thing!
At the time I was also doing music supervision and a bit of composition for independent films, which landed me a job in 2001 as music supervisor at Killer Tracks/UMG, a major production music company. I was given the opportunity to compose for the catalogs, and eventually became a CD producer there as well. In 2006, I moved over to Megatrax as Director of Production. I recently left that position and am currently independent.
WiMN: What have been some of your favorite projects or biggest accomplishments working in this field?
WC: Hearing a piece of music I’ve written on television or in a film is still a thrill! I have music in spots for Verizon, BMW, Toshiba and Rubbermaid, in many television shows from Dog Whisperer to Desperate Housewives, and in films from The Night Listener to a docudrama about Heidi Fleiss! I’ve produced thousands of tracks and projects for various music catalogs, including a song catalog of indie artists.
WiMN: What is one piece of advice you’d offer to a writer who is pursuing a career in composing for TV/film?
WC: Invest in your home studio.
WiMN: Is another album in the works?
WC: Yes – it’s been in the works for about ten years – ha! Now that I have a bit more time available, I hope to have it done in 2014. Fingers are crossed!
WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been challenges?
WC: If I could boil that big subject down to one thought, I’d say being taken seriously – as a musician, a producer, a composer or an artist – is the main issue women have to contend with in this male-dominated field. At times I’ve had to just assert myself in order to make opportunities happen.
WiMN: Anything else you’d like to share?
WC: I’d like to encourage more women to become composers and producers. I used to think you had to be a total tech geek to be good at it, which was intimidating to me for a long time – but that’s not true. You just have to love music.