During these turbulent times of seemingly endless natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and political and social unrest, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear the comforting sounds of Wanda Gronhovd. Throughout her songs she masterfully evokes the full spectrum of human emotion: love, loss, doubt, heartbreak, sorrow, hope, and strength. Combining elements of folk, pop, and soul she writes and performs music that is the perfect soundtrack for sitting at a coffee shop, enjoying a music festival, or just curling up on the couch with a glass of wine. If you’re a fan of Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, or Laura Marling then the music of Wanda Gronhovd will make your ears and heart happy.
Gifted with a warm, yet powerful voice, Wanda Gronhovd got the music bug early in life with the songs she heard at church in her hometown of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. After moving to Montreal in the ‘90s she began dabbling in songwriting and made her first performance at a house concert in 1997. However, she put music on the backburner to focus on family and a nursing career until she moved back home to Saskatchewan a few years ago. Now based out of Regina, Gronhovd got down to business and released her well-received debut album Awakening in 2014.
Striking while the iron was hot, Wanda Gronhovd kept writing and was determined to avoid the dreaded Difficult Second Album Syndrome. With the release of her new album Shifting Sands, it’s clear that she avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. Like her debut, Gronhovd’s newest album is deeply personal, but this time around she expanded her sound, opting for a more upbeat, folky, singer/songwriter sound with just a hint of country. This is the result of working with renowned producer Brad Prosko at B-Rad Productions (Jess Moskaluke, Blake Berglund, Chris Henderson, Jeffery Straker). Gronhovd’s primary instrument is the piano, but Prosko’s addition of acoustic guitars and banjo to the mix adds magnificent textures to her songs.
Discussing how recording Shifting Sands was different than her debut, she says, “This time was more rewarding. I knew more what I was doing. Brad (Prosko) understood what I wanted and I knew more what I wanted. My songs were fully formed and working with the musicians who Brad brought on was a dream. They brought their creativity and genius to the product.”
Consisting of eight songs, Shifting Sands is a confident follow-up that’s chock full of sonic gems. The album kicks off with the upbeat toe tapper “No Words,” followed by the introspective “I Could Not Speak For Myself” which details Gronhovd’s experience of feeling helpless when she was “sick with a respiratory illness and landed in the ICU.” According to Gronhovd, “Grief” is “the first fully formed song I wrote” and details a tumultuous time in her life: “I left my marriage and my life was falling apart while sharing custody of children and coming out.” Wrapping up the first half of the album is “Oh Sister” which documents “being present with people when they are dying.”
While the first half deals with some heavy and uncomfortable aspects of life, the lyrical tone dramatically shifts for the remaining tunes. “Shifting Sands,” “Thanks Past Me,” and “Uneven Footing” all deal with finding strength and empowerment after learning from and surviving the difficult times in life. Ultimately, it’s this sense of hope and optimism that lingers with the listener and makes Wanda Gronhovd’s latest album so rewarding.