Shayna Adler Taps Into Tolkien for ‘Wander’

California-native and folk singer-songwriter Shayna Adler emerges with dynamically crafted Americana to enchant a broad audience and introduce a legend.

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Her new concept album encapsulates the sage wisdom of J. R. R. Tolkien that “not all who wander are lost.” Wander follows a woman’s fantastical journey, piecing nine cross-genre tracks into a cohesive collection.

“I really thought about every song being its own little world, having unique scenery,” Adler explains. “If you pulled my vocals from the track, there is a picture you can still see––the acoustic songs could be a movie themselves.”

She started work on Wander almost three years ago. As a trained audio engineer, she was precious in her approach to producing this personal project. Each song sounds entirely different yet ties together to an intimate yet theatrical story. Each piece is backed by a different band and overdubbed with an aptly dynamic technique. Song-by-song, it slowly evolves in a few pivotal places.

The lead single, “Stagecoach Sally,” marks the darkest point in this plot. It’s the only Western sounding track, but Adler wields the outlaw undertones to lyrically detail an endless haunted desert where Sally is facing off with a “bad guy.” In the context of the record, this villain is not filling a stereotype. Instead, he represents an internal struggle and the demons living within the protagonist.

The music video infuses the soundscape with a familiar visual. Filled with a cast of close friends, the project was a highlight of the entire process. Adler, an admitted “nerd,” proudly shared that her Renaissance-fair-going friends even brought their own costumes to the set, keeping costs minimal.

Adler balances the epic ideals of a John Wayne movie to deliver a shared experience to the listener. The storytelling device varies thematically throughout, but the guiding principles remain. She enlivens a harrowing tale of a woman finding her way in the world. The fantastical tie-ins create a subconscious sense of belonging that allows the listener to align then interact with the story.

“I had a few songs written for this record. When I was looking over those lyrics, it became clear that this was going to be this exciting journey,” Adler explains. “So I wrote in other songs to fill in the missing chapters, the ‘where does she go now?'”

The young artist approaches songwriting similarly to other written forms. She admittedly hosts several unpublished novels on her laptop and recalls when her worlds of passion collided.

“I’ve always been very into writing,” she explains. “When I realized that the same kind of characters and worlds I can build in a book could be built in a song, it was angels singing, gold light, like all the lightbulbs went off. I just started writing songs all the time.”

Prior to this enlightenment, Adler was stuck in the perpetual rotary of entry-level jobs, archetypal to the modern-day mid-twenties. Defying the societal notions of what is and is not a “real job,” she enrolled in an audio engineering program. Within this experience, she discovered a home for her passions and hobbies.

“For the awkward, geeky kid like me, who’s never fit in her life, to walk into a building and feel like I finally found my species, changed everything,” she says. “My fears as a woman and musician have slipped away because once you find your spot in the world, it’s just comforting.”

This sense of belonging led her to this moment in her music career. The realization that music was the only thing that would make her happy helped her conquer insecurities that blocked her trajectory. Wander is Adler’s formal introduction as an artist. With a full-length album under her belt, she has a significant backlog of new ideas to put in motion.

“In hindsight, I see how everything I’m doing is working together,” says the artist. “More than anything, I hope this album reaches those who need it.”

Listen to Wander, Shayna Adler’s bold entrance to her artist career, below.

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