Justine Painter, the mastermind of Wayward Waves is from Prescott, Arizona and, while new to the game, shows great promise in the musical field. Wayward Waves, In part, a direct tribute to her late father who was a writer and had used “Wayward Watson” as a pseudonym at times. Let’s read the interview below and let Justine explain her music as well as what the future holds for her.
Thanks for sitting down with us. Tell everyone a little bit about yourself.
Hey! So my name is Justine Painter, and well, I’m a beginner at all this, even a bit shy about being interviewed as a musician per se. But here I am. Everyone is a beginner at some point. I admit I have little formal music training, and I’m probably not the only one amongst us beginners who is self-taught! I have past experience in dance choreography, creating ways to move the body as basically another expressive “instrument” <laughs>! In a sense, I was playing instruments back then without knowing it, because I think I really GOT the music. Now as I’m older, dancing is much more difficult for my body, although I do still dance around the kitchen! So my passion for music has taken a new direction. I have played around with instruments with excitement, but never really took the time to harness my experimenting, until… I found the digital audio workstation. Oh boy. I also currently specialize in Photoshop art, so that’s been convenient for my song cover art. Wayward Waves is my artist name, which stuck in honor of my late father, who, as a writer, sometimes used the name Wayward Watson as his trade name.
One thing that I like to know about musicians is… When did you have that defining moment in life that you knew that music is what you wanted as your life?
It was when I first discovered the D.A.W. in 2021. Since I was a teenager, I had always wanted to play an instrument or two (Guitar? Synthesizer? Harp?), but through my adulthood, I have had all-consuming left-brain careers that made such a purchase (let alone the learning) impractical. For the past five years or so, I finally have found some time to revive some artistic pursuits. So when I downloaded a free-version D.A.W., I realized immediately that I could do it some justice. It dawned on me that music has been there all along, beckoning me. I have always listened intently to instrumental complexities, being able to admire or critique combinations, fantasizing that maybe somehow someday I could compose something myself. When I found the D.A.W., I said, “this is it!”, and bought the premium version and a shitload of soundpools. I’m not really up to speed on all the creative tools yet, but what I’ve done so far might be worthy of some listeners.
What motivates you, not just in music but, your daily life as well?
First of all, in music, it’s to give listeners the same emotional and physical effect that some musicians have had on me – those goosebumps on the neck, sadness, longing, elation, inspiration, energy, playfulness, etc. The right music is a kind of magical healthy drug, and I aspire to someday stand out in making that kind of difference. In the rest of my life, I’m motivated to take care of my husband and dogs and a high maintenance yard and a sunroom full of plants. I am also rewarded by my Photoshop art, surpassing even my own standards with what I can create. I also go to the gym regularly to stay fit for energy, longevity, and mental clarity. What keeps me going? The desire to fulfill my potential, to make a difference in the world before I die.
When you start a new song… Where do you draw inspiration from? What does your creative process look like?
After experimenting endlessly with random melodies and styles, I usually end up picking ONE brief sound or simple melody that I can imagine embellishing. I then create a messy combination with maybe 10 to 15 excessive overlapping – but congruent – sounds to represent the approximate middle of the song, and then I start pulling them apart to taper and stagger them toward the beginning and end of the song. Variations reveal themselves from there, as I try to keep the style consistent with the direction of the original mess, and also try to avoid too much repetition. Then fine-tuning takes me forever, adding or replacing any pads, bass, drums, arps, effects and transitions. My ultimate goal is to stand out with at least four features in my songs: 1) Make awesome anticipative transitions, 2) layer complementary melodies and effects to add interesting drama and dimension, 3) Create at least one rewarding pinnacle or climax in the sounds, and 4) Create a solid and mesmerizing beginning and ending (first and last impression). I have yet to truly master these, but I’m working feverishly trying to. So far, it’s been taking me about three weeks to complete a song, while making room for other life responsibilities.
Keeping in mind that everyone obviously wants to be themselves… If you could swap yourself with another musician, who (alive or dead) would it be?
Hmmm. Depends on the reason for the swap. So assuming it’s purely talent, my immediate thought is Asura (Charles Farewell), based on at least two of his songs that sweep me away with the most amazing climactic sounds, among other creative effects. There are many other incredible musicians, but this artist currently stands out as my greatest inspiration. I suppose if I wanted to be the richest musician, it might be someone else. But I think Mr. Farewell does just fine.
Have you ever performed live? If so, do you prefer performing live or studio life?
I’m still content with studio life. I’m kind of a recluse anyway. I might start playing instruments next year and who knows. But I will always prefer a controlled sound. I want my music to be heard optimally such as with headphones, but I can’t manage the world and the various poor speakers out there. Like my mom listening on her computer speakers! I cringe at how my songs sound on bad speakers. A live environment would make me crazy, not to mention nervous. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, and very self-conscious.
Personally, I think that there is too much social media out there to keep up with. I understand why it’s necessary but, too much in my opinion. What are your feelings on social media and trying to circumnavigate through all of it?
Honestly, I’m new to social media. I could always see the propensity to get drowned in it, and my little world was busy enough. But it’s important to network and to keep up with replies, to respect people. Fans even require that these days, that they feel heard for the most part. But you also have to start with something that even catches their attention in the first place. With social media, I’m seeing my little world start to expand, while touching strangers over the curve in the Earth. No wonder it’s addicting, as long as you don’t get sucked into the negative aspects (such as fabricated rumors)! I’ve been trying to get out there in social media, but I’ve got a ways to go. Regardless, the world is starting to notice me, one person at a time! I’m actually conflicted for time to keep up between messages of gratitude, and creating more music for people. I’m just not fast enough at either currently. Before my music and social media, I had a whole litany of responsibilities already, that are now getting shoved aside. Gotta work on my time management issues.
How do you find that you deal with the inevitable writers block that comes with music production?
So far for me, the block comes when I am unraveling a messy blend of previously-chosen congruent instruments. My initial experiments to make them work can often be awful, and I can get discouraged to the point of wanting to abandon the original concept. But this seems to happen with all my songs so far, and I’ve learned to just keep experimenting until I finally meet my high standards. My song ‘Inventing Yourself’ is an example of one that almost got abandoned. It got complex fast, and I agonized over so many failures there. But I kept pushing to make it work, and learned a lot in the process. Another block for me comes from the fact that I’ve got what may be TOO MANY soundpools or thousands of instrumental bites, although I will forever believe you can never have enough (sales departments love me). But finding my chosen base sound for a song can get pretty cumbersome, as I have to sort and sort and sort… until something pops out above the rest. But what do you do when you have dozens and dozens of favorites? I guess save ‘em for future songs. I must choose.
Do you mix and master yourself or do you work with an engineer / producer?
I do it all myself so far. Still too new for extra help. But I would like to learn more about optimizing the sound quality output. The default in my D.A.W. is probably moderately acceptable, but I’d like to master the clarity further, so that maybe my music could sound satisfactory even on bad speakers. I’ve got a set of bad speakers in my house that I use as a test, and sure enough, they don’t quite translate all the instruments correctly, muffles them, or poorly disrupts the volume of some. Perhaps this can’t be helped but I’m sure a professional producer has some extra tools at their disposal, like maybe a parametric equalizer? Gotta figure that out, since I have access to one.
Do you prefer to be underground or is the mainstream something that you strive for?
Hmmm. Not quite sure yet. I want to stand out with a profound signature-like sound that combines a sort of psychedelic ambient or new age with world influences (middle eastern in particular), all which will often culminate to a very majestic soundtrack feel. Electronic Trance and House will also play in, but I have yet to really speed up the tempo. I don’t see myself following mainstream typical pop sounds, and although I might initially sound like many other ambient-stye artists, ultimately, I want to create a unique epic sound. This might mean I am leaning “underground”, but of course I also want to be popular…. amongst, um, millions of discerning listeners!
Who, Musically, are some of your bigger influences?
Asura, Astronaut Ape, Solar Fields, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Depeche Mode, Enigma, Suduaya… to name a few.
How long have you been making music and, what do you like and dislike about your specific genre?
Although I started experimenting almost a year ago, I’ve only been actively making songs since January of this year (5 months)! Just a baby musician, but I might have the ear for some effective sound combinations. Over the course of my life, I’ve been most emotionally stirred by the artists and genre descriptions I just mentioned, as they aligned profoundly with who I am and how I perceive life. It’s hard to say what I might dislike about that, although I am very selective about what appeals to me. Perhaps my only concern is about how the genre ‘ambient’ is perceived. I suspect this genre title is considered wide reaching, and interpreted – even by musicians inadvertently – to swallow up new age, downtempo, chillout, and several electronic subcategories. By itself, the ‘ambient’ genre might be lost in translation and might have lost its original perceived enchantment. Listeners cannot readily choose a moving target for their favorite genre, I supect. The many songs claiming this genre vary too widely. So a breakout subcategory is what I will identify with, probably something like “psybient”, or even my own named sub-genre. Who knows?! Let’s see…. ‘Way-bient’? ‘Psy-ward’? ‘Chill-waves’? ‘Justine-Tempo’? <laughs> Hey, but as an artist, you’re often brainstorming a lot of crazy shit before something finally makes you sit up straight in your chair.
Do you have a specific song that, when you hear it, just inspires you every time?
There are quite a few, but two come to mind that always pass the goosebump test, mostly for their latter halves, and both by Asura (Charles Farewell): An Talamh and Crossroads Limiter. The second part of these two songs is so incredible that I often get tears in my eyes.
You’re bound to run into some haters these days, the world overall, sometimes feels to be negative. How do you keep your frame of mind and remain positive?
In the past, I was a seasoned screener for my popular boss. I had to deal with the inevitable critics quite often. I ended up realizing their issues were more about themselves, even though I would also listen to some good points. I learned not to take their attacks personally (mostly, though I’m human), and to give them brief but kind responses. They are always potential customers (if not existing), but you can’t let yourself get dragged down into a hole with them. So far with my music, I’ve not seen any critics, but I’m sure they will arise. I can handle it gracefully, and even listen if the critique makes sense. I’ll keep moving forward with my vision, undeterred.
I want to thank you for chatting with us. Is there anything you would like to add personally? Shout-outs?
During this fragile beginning of mine, a few times I questioned whether I really had what it takes to make something of this venture. That self-doubt we all have. After all, virtually no one had heard my music yet. Then a few more experienced musicians noticed my music and commented with sincere and caring observation. They said I was really good! This was a boost to my confidence, just enough for me to further believe in my direction. I want to thank Carlos Fandango https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt6-c7q1aosrmlhhmK8Hszw
and Dave Hilborne of Nova Cascade https://www.facebook.com/NovaCascade in particular, for their enthusiastic support and mentoring. Having a multitude of fans may be the goal, but there is nothing like attracting fellow musicians – and music reviewers like you, Tom – who understand more deeply what you’re going through – to cheer you on and guide you through the learning process. And who better than a fellow musician or reviewer to hopefully get testimonials from? I will humbly strive to return the love as much as I can. Thanks so much for having me, X!
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