SAVVIE: A woman empowered

by Yasmine Shemesh

Savannah Leigh Wellman is gushing about Bryan Adams. He is, hands down, her favourite artist of all time and a music obsession that began when she was a kid. “He was my first real concert experience, too, and I was totally spoiled and got to go backstage to meet him,” the Vancouver-based songstress giggles. “I was, like, 8 and my friend’s dad worked at the Fox [99.3 FM], or something like that. He got us backstage and I got to shake his [Adams’] hand while he was in his bathrobe. I was just starstruck. That was kind of the beginning of the end for me, I think.”

It was the beginning of something, but certainly not the end. After a young lifetime of pursuing a career in music (something she credits the Reckless singer for inspiring), Wellman is on the verge of making her debut as SAVVIE with the launch of her new album, Night Eyes. Previously the frontwoman for folk band Redbird, Wellman hasn’t released a record since the group’s last in 2011 but it hasn’t been for lack of inspiration. She’s been writing constantly in the time in between and reassessing her focus to something that’s a defining reflection of herself. This has culminated into the exploration of a bolder sound and while it’s a significant departure from the rootsy tone of her former project (a shift she initially faced criticism over that her honeyed voice wouldn’t suit grittier rock and roll), Wellman is nothing but ecstatic about this new chapter. Confident in herself and determined in her vision, she’s finally creating the kind of music she’s always dreamed of—and on her own terms.

“Over the years, I’ve really felt that what I wanted to put out there was something that was a little bit edgier, that was a little bit more heavy,” Wellman explains. “I think there [was] always that part of me that wanted to make music like that.” She doesn’t discount the softer sounds of her past, however, insisting that it was simply what spoke to her then. “You get inspired by all different kinds of things at different stages,” she continues. “But this album has definitely been a long time coming.”

Self-described by Wellman as “sex rock,” Night Eyes doesn’t shy away from being provocative. Not in an obvious or vulgar way, rather, it’s poised, subtly sexy and layered with varied levels of emotion. Her sultry vocals ache through introspective moments, like on slow burner “A Blur and a Haze,” while heady tracks such as “Gravity” and “Without You” are charged with swelling riffs and splashy percussion as they explore notions of emotional and physical yearning.

Night Eyes also marks Wellman’s first release on her label, Tiny Kingdom Records. “It does near that kind of empowerment that the album is about,” she says. “I’m taking control on the business side, too, and just having faith that I can do this all on my own. Hopefully it’s not always on my own forever, but in the meantime, I’m not gonna sit around and wait for other people to make things happen.”

Wellman’s savvy isn’t just a play on her name—it’s a large part of her identity. She’s a woman who knows what she wants and applies everything she’s learned along the way to achieve it, maintaining that the inevitable ups and downs of the music industry are experiences that fuel determination, not failure. As a result, Night Eyes is an insightful triumph that displays the power and prowess of her independence. And, best of all, it’s comin’ straight from the heart.

SAVVIE releases Night Eyes on February 10 and performs at the Hindenburg on February 12.

Published in print and online at www.beatroute.ca, February 2015

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