Garrett Harris 6 a.m., Jan. 18
Sound description: Her music is quirky and cute and does not usually follow traditional structures (sort of like Normandie herself).
RIYL: Burt Bacharach, Hal David, the Beach Boys, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Todd Rundgren, Laura Nyro, Esquivel!, Cole Porter, Scott Joplin
- "Cardboard Selfies" · April 13, 2016
- Jam Session: "Painting the Birds" · July 30, 2011
- Musician Interviews: "Loves Birds" · Aug. 18, 2010
Inception: San Diego, 2005
Influences: Burt Bacharach, the Beach Boys, Ben Folds, Cole Porter, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, the Carpenters, Prince, Elis Regina, Esquivel!, surf music, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Sly and the Family Stone
Normandie Wilson is a self-taught pianist who worked as an accompanist in her small West Virginia town from middle school through high school.
“I grew up listening to 1960s music — Burt Bacharach, the Beach Boys, Motown — and watching birds with my grandma.”
She studied dance while attending Oberlin College, though she managed to learn a few skills that would come in handy for her future music career. “My dance-major mentor, Elesa Rosasco, said to me, ‘Everything takes longer than you think.’ At first I felt really defeated that she said that. Then I got into the real world and saw this is often true. It helped me gain a lot of patience and to remain calm when things are taking longer than I want them to, whether it’s getting traction in my career or getting a bagel for breakfast.”
After college, Wilson headed to New York City, where cold winters and bleary-eyed loneliness informed the songs she composed on an old Yamaha keyboard and her laptop. “I make DIY vintage 1960s pop music in the vein of Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick, and I also throw in a little bit of funk. I think if you placed Prince, Ben Folds, and the Carpenters in a blender, that might describe what I do. I also write a lot of instrumental pieces for unusual instruments, like the soundtracks done by Ennio Morricone.”
After moving to San Diego, “My first gig that I ever played, both as part of a band, and by myself, was at the Habitat House. It was such a great thing to play in that space surrounded by my friends and people who really cared about the music. It was such a soft landing spot compared to the shows I played in Los Angeles. People care down here! It’s so great.”
She delights in playing as many different instruments as possible, usually sticking with piano, percussion, and trumpet. Normandie says she hears songs in dreams and is sometimes able to wake up and catch them.
She released two independent EPs in 2007, which were later combined into one 2010 CD called Early Birds: Songs From 2007. In 2009, she released a joint record with fellow songwriter Sebastian Clark, Music for Smart People.
Wilson released her album The Flower Box in July 2010. She’d been living in L.A., a member of the indie-pop collective Red Pony Clock since 2006, though she moved back to San Diego in 2010. “I was coming down [to San Diego] for shows and recording and everything. I moved here for good after a European tour with my last CD, which I released with Sebastian Clark. Here in San Diego I’ve been putting my focus on recording some new indie-pop material.”
Her 2010 national tour was not without problems. “I’ve never had tomatoes thrown at me or anything. The things that bother me immensely are when people don’t have the details together...in Grand Junction, Colorado, I had two separate shows booked, and both a house venue and a coffee shop bailed on us, leaving us with nothing. We ended up driving from Omaha to Las Vegas in one day, which was not fun. Even if it’s a gig in a filthy house where one or two people show up, if I get to play, I won’t complain too much about it. If people cancel on me, that’s when I’ll get angry.”
Her album Summers Are For Lovers EP was released in summer 2011, with its first single “Just A Little Time.” Later that year, she released a vinyl seven-inch, “Saturday Night Girl” b/w “Paper & Pencil,” recorded and mixed in North Park by Roy Silverstein. The recordings feature David Feldman on bass, Matthew Lara on trumpet, David Menchaca on drums, and Lauren Plumlee on flute, with a hand screen-printed cover by Magnificent Beard in Dallas, Texas.
In January 2012, she started a national tour with the Golden Hour (from Lincoln, Nebraska), before recording with Casa de Lopez Recording. Her At the Heart of Staying in Love EP was released in late 2012.
As of 2013, Wilson maintained a part time residence in Paris, though she eventually returned to the U.S. Her song “Nobody Loves You Like I Do” appears on the 2-disc edition of the compilation series Powerpop Planet Volume 3, from Colorado based label Pop Geek Heaven. Released January 6, 2014, it also includes tracks from locals Neon Cough (“World of Tomorrow”), True Stories (“Hearts on Sleeve”), and Scott Mathiasen & the Shifty Eyed Dogs (“Oh Misery”).
Her band Blue Velvet played a Saturday night residency at the Caliph through August 2014, and her song “Copenhagen” appeared on an edition of the compilation/collaboration album series Between Two Waves, from the European net label Eardrums Pop.
The lounge/jazz singer and pianist also did a summer 2014 residency at the historic Lafayette Hotel, performing original music and jazz standards every Wednesday and Thursday in the lobby from 4pm through 6pm.
In addition to music, Wilson is a visual artist who is endeavoring to paint or draw every known living species of bird, a quest that can be followed at everysinglebird.com. She also works with the San Diego Audubon Society’s conservation committee.
In addition, she has created and displayed her own artwork for large scale installations painted on cardboard props. “I’ve always directed the visual aspects of my album art and carefully curated every visual element, from my makeup to my wigs to my costumes, to support the music. I’ve done this with every music video I’ve ever made and have recently made the move to more aggressively incorporating my own art into the videos.”
One example of her Pee Wee Herman–esque set dressing can be seen in the video for “Borrowed Time,” a 2016 collaboration with videographer Kay Piper featuring cardboard paintings similar to the Lafayette display.
In Autumn 2016, her music was heard on Amazon's streaming program Hand of God.