In Conversation with Bonnie Whitmore

Bonnie Whitmore and Her Band are an Austin-based rock group with blues and country influences and a strong feminist sensibility. Their new album, F*ck with Sad Girls, is due for release on October 28th (check out this divine sneak pre-listen, “She’s a Hurricane, ” here). The album addresses the widespread stigma against “imperfect” women in a world that pressures women to be superheroes and goddesses. The group broke new funding ground by creating a complimentary concept album, Coyotes: Life and After Life, available only to their supporters in the successful PledgeMusic campaign.

Ms. Whitmore recently took to time to talk to us about the new album and the joys of the musical life.

Describe your musical background. What role did music play in your childhood?
I grew up in a family band. Music is what essentially brought my mom and dad together. They both worked summer jobs at Six Flags Over Texas in the ’60’s, my dad as an accompanist and my mom as a singer and performer. I was five when I started on the violin, but when I was about eight years old my dad gave me a bass guitar and told me I was now part of the family band.

Music wasn’t so much something I found but rather was part of the family. I would go see my mother perform with orchestras and in operas or classical recitals. My dad had me playing in his band with my sister in bars and coffee shops since I was eight.

What or who in your musical training had the most? and best? influence on you, as a musician, a composer, and a human being?
My parents. Their influences have made me the musician, writer, and human that I am. A lot of music I was introduced to was by way of my parents’ interpretation of the songs. I essentially learned who Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, and many others were, but by way of my dad’s version. I remember learning one day that “When I’m 64,” which I’d sung all my life, was a Beatles song, and I lost my mind. The music that I was exposed to as a kid was eclectic and wide-ranging, and for that alone I feel blessed.

What was the most mesmerizing musical experience of your life?
That’s a terribly hard question to answer. Was it the live ACL taping with Hayes Carll or playing with a living legend like Jimmy Dale Gilmore? Or that time I met Willie Nelson? Or when I heard my song played on the radio for the first time? Or writing a song that James McMurtry deemed “good?” Or bantering with Jon Dee Graham during my first JDG and Friends Sunday night in the Continental Gallery? I’m mesmerized by many things daily, and that’s just the world I want to live in.

How did you decide to become a singer and bass player?
I can honestly say I didn’t decide either of those things, but I choose them everyday.

If you had to give your music a genre, what would you call it?
The Good One.

If your musical life were a movie, what kinds of scenes would make you laugh? Or cry?
My musical life is kind of a movie already. There’s a lot of Mel Brooks meets David Lynch. My home life is that of Golden Girls but with more alcohol and pool time, whereas my road life is a cross between Saving Private Ryan and Hogan’s Heros, with a little Buddhist wisdom thrown in. I try to laugh more then cry, but crying is good too. Most importantly I love living it.

What’s the story behind the song “She’s a Hurricane?”
“She’s a Hurricane” is about the two most important things, life and love. You can’t control them, and trying to is futile. The point is to be in the moment of that love and in your life. To get back up after your heart is broken, to scream out, “I EXIST,” and to hold your arms wide and say, “I am open.” No matter how much suffering you may have been through or seen, there’s always life and love in this world. That is what the song means to me.

What do you love best about F*ck With Sad Girls, so far?
I genuinely love this record. Creating it, all the people that participated and gave their talents, and having people react to it in such a positive way has been a wonderful thing to witness. I believe in this project and it feels good to see that I’m not alone in thinking that.

Tell us a little about your funding program. Why did you decide to give a complimentary album to pledge supporters?
The funding was necessary to put this record out in the right way. It takes a village to make and put out a record, and pre-selling is a good way to do it. The “complimentary album” was a way to gauge the waters of uncharted territory. The people willing to support me by pledging got to have a new side of Bonnie Whitmore they’d never heard before, and, because they were already fans, they appreciated it even if they didn’t “get it.”

Tell us about your current and upcoming projects.
My current project is called F*ck With Sad Girls. This is not just a compilation of 10 songs, but a desire to start a conversation about feminism, depression, body shaming, self awareness, honesty, and love. I think the goal for any project should be to put out the best and most honest music that you can and to never look back with regret. For this record especially I’m putting myself in a position to be more vulnerable and exposed, because in order to really start a conversation we have to willing to be open.

Do you have anything else to add?

Wanda also writes the blog The Mindful Bard:The Care and Feeding of the Creative Self.