Sanibel artist reflects on family, songwriting, her island home
Islander Wendy Webb releases her newest music CD in January, and has just performed at the BIG ARTS Strauss Theater in November.
Webb effortlessly weaves poetic lyrics and elements of folk, pop, jazz, and blues into a style all her own. Her music echoes the classic troubadour songwriters she grew up with, such as Carole King, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell, but also reflects the Southwest Florida area she now calls home.
Sharing the writing and the stage is part of the magic for Webb. Self-taught on the piano and guitar, the Iowa native has performed in Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, Paris, and even Havana. Webb has lived in Pine Island and in Sanibel since 2004. Long associated with BIG ARTS, the “November Moon” concert at BIG ARTS represented her fourth consecutive season performing at the cultural and educational center.
The Islander asked Wendy Webb to reflect on her work, family history, thoughts on Sanibel.
Islander: What was your family like? Was music important?
Webb: My parents were East coast people who moved to Iowa and started a family. When my Mother and Father met, she was studying voice and language at Smith College and he was a Captain in the Merchant Marine. I’m the middle of five kids and music was always a major part of our lives. I grew up listening to opera, musicals, classical, pop, jazz and stories from my Father’s early life at sea. When folk music became the rage, my mother bought me a Joan Baez record and I got swept up in the singer/songwriters of the time and taught myself to play piano and guitar. It feels like poetry, music, and the sea coming together on Sanibel. It’s a great place to write songs.
Islander: Do tunes/lyrics pop into your head? And how do you track them?
Webb: Composing music or writing lyrics happen when I’m alone in a room with the door closed. That space becomes sacred. I have to have time to linger at the piano and see what happens. Music usually comes first and that sparks a lyric but I have done it the other way around when my Nashville friend Charles John Quarto sends me a lyric. These days I use my iPhone to quickly record what I’m working on so I won’t forget the mood or feel of a new melody. Songwriting is strange and magical and I’m always amazed when it happens. I really love it.
Islander: What’s the sensation on stage? Do you imagine that you’re singing to one person…for yourself?
Webb: Being on stage is fabulous because in that moment I get to share what I do in private with an audience, and that real-time communication is a great feeling. At home I can sing for myself, but in concert I sing for everyone there and hope the my songs move them and bring some joy.
Islander: Share your thoughts on performing in Sanibel?
Webb: When I first moved here I performed in the BIG ARTS Phillips Gallery, then later, in Shein Hall following a talk from the author Randy Wayne White. For the last four years BIG ARTS has invited me to play a concert at the Strauss Theater. It’s a wonderful intimate space for music. BIG ARTS and the island community have been very supportive of my music and I’m very grateful for that.