CU has a vibrant music scene, and it’s not uncommon to see many talented women performing in bands or singing solo on multiple stages. However, not many girls can constantly play in an established band, whiling taking the time to start and build up another band without dropping the beat. Not many girls, that is, except for Vivian McConnell. The guitarist and vocalist from well-known CU band, Santah, started her own band, Grandkids, one and a half years. Ago. Now, Grandkids is a well-known band in the community, as well as Bloomington, Chicago and even Los Angeles.
With Santah signed and on-tour, and Grandkids on the verge of making a full-length album, Her Campus interviewer Renee Wunderlich and I sit down with McConnell, and pick her brain about songwriting, individual style and determination.
Renee Wunderlich: Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your passion?
Vivian McConnell: I would definitely say music. That’s the number one thing in my life right now. That’s what I want to be doing.
RW: So you’re a singer. But I hear you also play acoustic guitar. Did one start before the other?
VM: I feel like I’ve been singing my whole life, but I really started playing guitar in fourth grade, when I was ten. Then I started singing songs and learning songs online. And then I just started learning my own.
RW: With Grandkids, the band you started, is it sort of a collaboration of efforts when you’re writing songs? Is it your brainchild?
VM: It definitely shifted a lot. When Grandkids first started, I came to them with the songs I had, and I was like, ‘I want to start this band.’ But know, when we write, it’s definitely a group effort. We all write parts, and we all have ideas for form, for tempo, for dynamics … it’s really changed into a group process. But usually I come at them with a song, or at least an idea for a song.
RW: What’s your favorite song you guys are working on now?
VM: You know, I don’t know. We have some new ones that are really cool. We’re recording a full-length this winter. So I think we’re about ready. We definitely have a few more songs to write. All of my new songs don’t have names yet, so I can’t really say what my favorite song is.
RW: How do you go about naming a song? What’s the process that you go through?
VM: Actually, some of our song names start out as a joke, but then we realize, ‘hey, that sounds cool.’ But it depends. It could be a certain phrase that’s repeated a lot in the song, or maybe a chorus, or maybe even just one word. Sometimes it just pops out at us.
RW: What do people get out listening to your music?
VM: A lot of people tell me that they’re very moved by our music and our songs, which is really cool, because it’s really a lot of my and the band’s emotions coming out. People say that the songs make them happy, that the lyrics are really relatable, like, ‘oh, I’ve been there before.’ A lot of people tell me, ‘when I break up with my boyfriend, I’ve listened to that song, and it just makes so much sense.’
RW: How would you describe your personal style, not just through music, but you, Vivian?
VM: I’m just very happy. I’m one of the happiest people I know. And I do think it’s because I play music a lot, and I do get my stress out through playing. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll just pick up my guitar, and write a song, and it really releases a lot of negative energy. I’m really outgoing. I worry lot, but I think that’s natural. I care a lot about others; I’m always thinking about taking care of others.
RW: Who got you started in music?
VM: Definitely my parents. My dad and mom have really great music tastes. My dad has been playing since I was little. He’d play me to sleep with his guitar. I have so many memories of him strumming me Beatles songs. It’s funny— actually now that my brother and I have started performing, he’s gotten the inspiration and he performs around my hometown. It’s really awesome. My mom doesn’t play, but she respects.
RW: Tell me what it’s like to go on tour.
VM: It’s really exhausting, especially if your routing is bad. Sometimes, between shows, you have to drive eight hours, and sometimes that happens quite a lot, just depending on where you have shows. You sit in a van lot—that’s where I get a lot of my reading done—you unload, you eat fast food … it’s really an experience. I’ve met the most interesting people in the world. Out on tour, we stay in random houses. We don’t go in hotels, because we’re not at that stage yet in our touring.
RW: What do you want to leave people with?
VM: I took last semester and this semester to go on tour, which was a scary and bold move to do. But I say if you have the opportunity to do something that not everybody is doing, and not everybody has the chance to do, you do it, because, well, I think that if I haven’t taken those semesters off, I would have been regretting it.
Tolu Taiwo: Okay. Just for fun, we’re going to throw out some questions for you to answer in rapid fire. Favorite place to buy concert clothes?
VM: Thrift store.
TT: What’s the one movie you can quote the most of?
TT: Favorite guitarist?
VM: I’d maybe say… Nels Kline, from the band Wilco.
RW: Favorite color?
VM: Sea foam green.
RW: Long or short hair on guys.
TT: Favorite music festival?
VM: South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. I’ve only being once, but I had so much fun. It was warm, and Spring Break, and we were on tour. I saw some really cool bands.
TT: What’s one album that changed your life?
VM: Fleet foxes, self titled.
TT: And finally—because it’s freezing—mittens or gloves?
VM: Mittens. Mittens for sure.