It’s official – Australia has fallen in love with US songstress Wynter Gordon. We gifted her her first global mainstream No.1 single with ‘Dirty Talk’ and it seems we’ve also been rather fond of her second tune ‘Til Death’. She’s been in the country over the past week for her second ever live TV performance and a swag of interviews. We were among the lucky ones to bag a chat with the feisty singer who tells us that despite plenty of dark times in her younger years, she never doubted her ability to rise above and succeed.
“There was never a doubt, not coming into it at least,” she says with refreshing honesty. “It was not happening fast enough, but I’ve been doing this since I was 15 and I’m 25 now. Sweat, blood and tears have gone into this business.
“There’s always a glimmer of light. I feel like I’ve been one of the lucky ones because I constantly get work writing for other people. I feel like I could put a greatest hits album out now. ‘With The Music I Die’ is my first album obviously, but with all the stuff I’ve written, I could put out a greatest hits. I’ve worked with so many people.”
Songwriting is what gave Wynter her first big break. She’s worked with the likes of Flo Rida and David Guetta and has also penned tracks on Jennifer Lopez’ new LP ‘Love?’. But it was perhaps ironically the title track for Mary J Blige’s 2005 album ‘The Breakthrough’ that provided hers.
“She was my first,” Wynter says. “The album was huge. She sold more than five million copies, which was the most she’d sold in a long time and it was very much a case of ‘praise the Lord!!’
“I was very surprised that she chose that song. That was luck. That was the angels smiling down upon me. But I thought that I had to try harder and to be honest, I have yet to celebrate any moment after everything I’ve done.”
We can tell from very early on in our chat that the singer is incredibly self-critical and that she’s always striving for perfection. But more on that later, because Wynter also reveals that she’s also been working on new material alongside some of our local chart stars.
“I just did something with Marvin Priest, we’re just shooting a video next week. I worked with Guy Sebastian – we’re going to do some music together.
“There’s this girl group from Korea,” she continues excitedly. “K-Pop is becoming really big in the US. I just started worked with the Wonder Girls camp, met with them and we did our first song just two weeks ago. I don’t go as hard with the writing anymore just because I’ve been busy with touring my own music, but when it happens, I’m always up for it.”
Speaking of her own music, it’s been doing particularly well across the globe. Her debut single ‘Dirty Talk’ hit No.1 on the US dance/club chart, the top ten in Ireland and top 30 in the UK. Here in Australia however, we couldn’t get enough of it – sending it all the way to No.1 on the ARIA singles chart and delivering Wynter a triple platinum sales accreditation.
We ask her how she reacted when she first heard she’d hit No.1 down under and her response wasn’t quite what we were expecting.
“I was surprised,” she said. “I was saying, ‘Really? They play it on daytimes!? With children in the car!?’ I have a ten year old niece and a six month old nephew and because I’m a woman first and foremost, I believe there’s a time and a place. As adults, we do what we do and we can have as much fun as we want, but I was surprised that kids were listening to it.
“I actually just did a huge arena and the lights were off and I didn’t know who the audience was. Then the lights came on and it was all seven year olds. I was so mortified. Thank God I didn’t do a full routine. I was grinding the floor and everything,” she laughs.
What does she think it was about ‘Dirty Talk’ that connected with audiences around the world the way it did?
“In the US, they were afraid to put it on the radio because of the lyrics, but I could sing that song in every club. I sang it at Coachella in front of 20, 30 thousand people and they all knew it. I think that the hook has such a classic ‘80s melody – that’s what I love – I love ‘80s, ‘90s pop. A lot of music these days doesn’t have the melody – the pop melodies back then were just so different.
“I feel like a lot of artists fall into the category where the song is not for them. It’s a song they’re singing but it’s not their song. That’s why I think Rihanna’s winning, I think Katy Perry’s winning, because they sing music that fits them. And it’s not this one song that you could pass around to everybody.”
But despite all the success across the globe, she does admit that us Aussies were the first to really gave her a chance.
“When I’m home, I have lots of fans. My shows get packed out. But in America, they don’t play as many styles of music as they do here – they’re not as open to new things. I just think that you guys embraced me. I don’t know. I’m happy about it, I know that and I’m grateful. I just think you guys are more open to new things and new people and giving them a chance,” she says.
While dance music wasn’t always her chosen genre, Wynter swam to that side of the music pool after a visit to Europe, where she discovered different sounds and music from the likes of MGMT and Empire Of The Sun. But she reveals that it wasn’t her new-found love of the Empire Of The Sun material that brought about Nick Littlemore’s co-writing credit on the LP.
“I had no idea I was working with him,” she says. “I’d heard the song and loved the music, but I had no idea he was the guy who was in the group. I would just show up on their doorstep and say ‘hey, we’re going to be working to do some music today’. He was so crazy when he opened the door.”
Nick and producer Peter Mayes aren’t the only Australians who feature on Wynter’s new album. Melbourne’s NERVO have also contributed a track to the new LP.
“When I heard ‘Drunk On Your Love’,” she says, “I was adamant – that has to go on my album. I love those girls.”
As mentioned earlier, chatting to the 25 year old, she’s incredibly self-critical, always seeking for improvement wherever possible, whether that be in her songwriting, or her live performances. She dismisses only her second ever TV performance (on Dancing With The Stars last weekend) as “okay”, saying “I didn’t do what I know I can do” and seems intent on personal betterment and moreover, global domination.
“I want to be able to be on every radio station. Not every radio station – forget radio. I want to be on everybody’s iPods,” she says. “I want to use music to open doors and do things for other people. I believe that the only thing worth doing in this life is doing stuff for others. Music, singing – all that’s for nothing if I’m not helping somebody.
“My own personal Grammy. Mary J Blige won Best Album (for ‘The Breakthrough’), so everybody gets one from that, but I want to have a Grammy for my own music. If I die today, everybody would remember me as “that girl who sang ‘Dirty Talk’”, so hopefully I get past that because I wouldn’t want that on my obituary,” she says.
There’s plenty more to ‘With The Music I Die’ than just ‘Dirty Talk’. We’ve already gifted her a second top 20 hit with its follow-up ‘Til Death’ and there’s more where they came from. Wynter summarises the album thusly;
“A lot of the young kids today don’t know the ‘90s goodness. It’s heart-felt, good music. Classic melodies, it’s fun and it’s ‘music’ again. It’s good pop.”
Fun? Good pop? Looks like ours and Australia’s love affair with Ms Gordon is going to last a fair while longer yet.
Wynter’s album ‘With The Music I Die’ is available physically and digitally now.
Wynter’s singles ‘Dirty Talk’ and ‘Til Death’ are also available digitally.