Ethan got a chance to talk to Gwendolyn Fitz is a singer-songwriter living in New York City. Although a classically trained musician in flute and voice, Gwendolyn loved to write song lyrics and picked up the ukulele to start a career in songwriting. With a love of both jazz and pop, Gwendolyn likes to fuse the two together using the ukulele.
Aside from songwriting, Gwendolyn is also the founder of the Brooklyn Ukulele Festival, a podcaster, teacher, and Youtuber. She’s an all-around good egg whose enthusiasm for music is contagious.
When did you get a deep interest (both creative and academic) in songwriting as a practice?
I pursued a degree in music performance-with my instruments being the flute and voice. I didn’t write a single song in college, but I knew I wanted to pursue a career in songwriting. I began learning the ukulele and started writing songs about 5 years ago.
What’s the best song ever written, according to you?
There are a lot of songs over the years that have taken my breath away the first time I listened to them. The one I remain envious I didn’t write is “I Walk a Little Faster” written by Cy Coleman in 1958. Fiona Apple did a remake of the song for a tribute album. The music is stunningly gorgeous, but the lyrics can either be taken as a struggle for finding love, or a struggle with what one is aiming to achieve, but still remaining hopeful. It’s a beautiful song to me.
What is the place of the songwriter in this new, modern and technologically oriented world of short attention spans, clickbait, and streaming services?
Songwriters will keep doing what we’ve always done, but perhaps with a little bit more thought into how we grab people’s attention. We’re fortunate with the ability to make some really cool stuff with the technology we have available, but there is a lot of noise and a lot happening really quickly. Songwriters should keep making the music they want to make, but their marketing strategy will need to be built from the perspective of the consumer.
If you could imagine something that the songwriting world, the modern songwriter, really needs, what would it be?
Community. The modern songwriter needs to learn how to build community. We live in the wonderful era of music where we don’t have to struggle to be signed to a label. We are the label. With that comes the responsibility of getting people to listen to and support our music. I watch so many artists fail at this because they constantly post or spam people with “listen to my music.” They get so caught up with follower count that they forget the purpose of music is to connect with people. It’s those connections that build your community who will support you by listening to your music, coming to your shows, and funding your art.
What do you hope to bring to the world with your particular brand of music and being and moving in the world. What does Gwendolyn Fitz bring to the world that may have been missing?
I like to think of myself as being the “Charlie Chaplin” of music. I love to make people laugh. There is always playfulness in my music and ukulele musicals. There are so many negative things happening in the world, and especially with all the twists and turns of 2020, I made the decision my music and shows I create will always be a place people can go to escape. As far as what may have been missing from the world, I mean, do you know anyone else running around NYC in an avocado costume? haha!
How have you found collaborating to be during this lockdown? Has it been easy for you, hard, manageable? What tools have you been using to collaborate with others?
I’ve enjoyed collaborating a lot during the lockdown. It’s been amazing coming up with show ideas and finding like-minded people to join me from the other side of the world to put on incredible events from ukulele festivals to fun little musical parties. I’ve used a streaming platform called Be.Live to put on events and shows. It’s a broadcasting service that enables you to stream directly to YouTube or Facebook and allows more than one person to be onscreen at a time.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in music and wants to get competent in at least one instrument so that they can start writing songs?
I would say along with learning your instrument, make sure you’re also learning music theory. You can’t truly understand how to craft a song until you have a good understanding of how chord progressions work. When you start learning your favorite songs on your instrument, it’s important that you study them. Figure out why they’re your favorite song-is it the music, the lyrics, a feeling it gives you, etc. You can take this information and incorporate it into your own songwriting.
You can keep up with Gwendolyn’s personal work, on these platforms:
With our app, Tonic, collaboration and feedback are super easy, and all in one platform. Ever wonder how to collaborate long distance on a song, without long email chains and missing mixes? We’ve created a simple solution for you, a real-time remote music collaboration app. Beta-testing is happening now, come help us out.