Heartbreak. Sorrow. Loss. Fear. Uncertainty. Love. Hope. Jubilation. Triumph. Yes, Wanda Gronhovd masterfully deals with the full spectrum of human emotions in the songs she writes. Combining elements of folk, pop, and soul, she creates music that is sure to tap your feet and, as the kids say, get you right in the feels. If Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Sarah McLachlan morphed into one person you might just end up with Wanda Gronhovd. With a beautiful, powerful voice, soaring melodies, and heartfelt lyrics, her songs demand repeated listens.
Born in Shaunavon, Gronhovd got the music bug early with the songs she heard at church. She explains, “I would say that music I heard in church was a big part of my early life in Saskatchewan.” After moving to Montreal for a few years, she sang in church choirs and dabbled in songwriting, eventually having her first performance at a house concert in 1997. However, she mostly kept music on the backburner in Montreal, focusing on her career as a registered nurse.
After moving back to Saskachewan, Gronhovd decided to devote more time to music and pursue it professionally. She says, “About four years ago I rented the band shell in Wascana Park and presented my songs to a group of friends and a few passersby. I was very nervous and it was the first time that I stepped beyond having friends listen to my songs in my living room. It went fairly well. It gave me more confidence to do a half hour set the next weekend at the 100th anniversary at my home town of Shaunavon.”
Currently based out of Regina, Gronhovd made a significant step in her musical emergence with the release of her soulful debut album Awakening in 2015. The album was produced by Ross Nykiforuk (The Northern Pikes, The Sheepdogs, The Deep Dark Woods, Donnie Parenteau) at Glennross Studios and is a fine showcase for her deeply personal, yet universal songwriting. When asked about the recording process, she gives high praise for Nykiforuk: “He often seemed to know intuitively how to make the songs sound like I wanted.” As for the songs themselves? She says, “It has felt like I must write the songs, otherwise I’m not sure that I could. I do hope that they will help others be more in touch with themselves as well.”
Awakening is a wonderfully cohesive album, beginning with the uplifting rush of ‘Hold On Tight,’ which Gronhovd describes as “a love song for my wife.” ‘Break Me Open’ and ‘Your Face’ are comforting meditations on mortality inspired by the sickness and deaths of loved ones. However, the centrepiece of the album is undeniably the autobiographical title track. ‘Awakening’ is a tour de force of a song that deals with the fears, implications, and, ultimately, the liberation of coming out. There is a feeling of contentment, relief, and triumph when Gronhovd repeatedly sings “My life forever changed.”
When asked about what it’s like to perform ‘Awakening,’ Gronhovd says, “When I introduce the song I frame it from the point of view that we all have things happen to us that are very unexpected.” It’s this knack for turning the deeply personal into something that anyone can relate to that ultimately wins people over to the music of Wanda Gronhovd.
April 2015. Interview in the Gull Lake Advance.