Studio Closeup #14

Today’s studio update is another look into the past. As usual, I have several new pieces in various stages of completion but still not ready to be called “done”.

So today upon the recent discovery that I have some of the artwork that was lost in the 2018's flood but still exists on film, today’s offering combines a story of music AND visual art.

Many of you may or may not know that I was in a band. Full of animators. The band’s name was Sweet Jelly. In the 10 years we were together we recorded an album, played a stage at Summerfest and wrote over 70 songs together. The scratch track for “Wanda The Great” was recorded October 6, 2000 which is what we consider the beginning of Sweet Jelly's songwriting process and start of the band and this is what Aaron Johnson and I captured that night. The name for the band came later and is another story all together.

I've included the original scratch track version and the final album version here of “Wanda The Great” to experience the journey of where it came from and where it went.

When I wrote the lyrics for this tune, I definitely was inspired by Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” and the story she weaves. And I’ve always loved the circus. I remember realizing at the time of writing this tune we had just moved right into the circus capital of the world while reading the plaque in downtown Mazomanie, WI:

“The Ringling brothers — Alf, Al, Charles, John and Otto — performed their first vaudeville- style show in Mazomanie in 1882 and two years later had a traveling circus with a wagon and a rented horse.

By 1900, the brothers had one of the largest traveling shows in the country and began buying other circuses, including, in, 1907, the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The Ringlings moved the winter quarters from Baraboo to Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1918 and then in 1924 to Sarasota, Florida. Irvin Feld, a music and entertainment promoter, purchased the circus in 1967.”

(Article source)

Had no idea about ANY of this before moving here. But I did always have a thing for the circus! At the beginning of the final album version of Wanda The Great, there’s a circus record playing. That is my circus record as a kid recorded for the song and yes I still have it. I’ve been told many times it came from a circus train toy that my uncle gave me when I was a toddler. The train itself made noise too that apparently drove my parents nuts as that’s the only toy I played with for quite a while. And I’ve always woken up super early or never slept at all so I’m sure that was super fun for them.

Back to Wanda. Besides having every animal imaginable under one tent and tons of color, circuses are also kinda creepy which is another reason why I like them. Enter Wanda. What if a crazy old bird from the old time circus days came up and talked to me while I’m somewhere in public having a snack? (pre-COVID-19) Twenty eight year old Carol says, yeah, let’s write about this. And “Wanda The Great” was born.

Today’s post is of the diptych I painted in tandem with writing the lyrics to this song. It’s cool to see the piece again even though it brings up a lot of feelings I’d rather not deal with, but I realize that’s been a lifelong issue with me so here I am sharing.

Please enjoy this bittersweet look into the past. And keep well everyone.

"Wanda The Great" original scratch track 10-6-2000


Art for the song "Wanda The Great" 2001