by Allegra Chiarella
Before sitting down for a conversation with Winnipeg’s Bailee Woods, aka housepanther, the only time I’d seen her perform was on an episode of Mom’s House, an online concert video series featuring local musicians. She performed a stripped down set with just a guitar, in sharp contrast to the synth-heavy tracks on her Bandcamp.Her infectiously honest, engaging personality was mirrored in her charming and achingly accurate songwriting, complete with all-too-relatable lines about deleting online dating profiles if the conversation goes too late and impulsively bleaching your hair over a friend’s bathroom sink.
Woods is a musician with years of experience in bands such as local indie outfit Spacebutt, and the former Electric Sweater Pouches. housepanther marks the beginning of her solo career, as the first project where she has been the main creative force.
T-minus two weeks from her Big Fun show on January 25th, I met Woods over Skype, both of us housebound with a bad case of the flu. Being sick clearly did nothing to affect her cheerful demeanor, however, and we dove right into a conversation about her project and upcoming album.
Allegra Chiarella: How did housepanther come about?
Bailee Woods: Well, I’d always kind of written songs growing up. After graduating high school, I was in Creative Communications for a year before deciding it’s not for me, and our second year project was supposed to be to make something and promote it, so I was like, “Okay, maybe I’ll finally make a project to get these songs I’ve written out.” So that’s how I started recording some of my own stuff. Then I dropped out and was like, okay, well I wrote this 30-page proposal for an album, may as well still do something with it.
AC: From my understanding, this is your first solo project. How have you found the transition from performing with bands to playing alone?
BW: With most of the bands I’ve been in, we’ll sort of just get together and jam as a collective and write the songs together, so it’s definitely been different just being in my bedroom writing a song on an acoustic guitar. It’s been weird, but kind of a fun challenge too – when I bring a song to somebody it’s like, “this is my diary.”
AC: Are there any significant influences that you draw from in your music?
BW: I listened to a lot of blink-182 growing up, and a lot of Nirvana – those were the first songs I learned growing up. A lot of power chords. I grew up listening to Elliott Smith too, I love all of his music. I guess I like simple music that is hooky, and can be both sad and happy in a way. I really like that kind of effortless sound that is still really emotionally captivating – it’s catchy, but it isn’t written just to be catchy.
AC: On your Bandcamp, you’ve described your music as “power pop for the anxious peeps of the world.” Can you speak to the emotional motivation behind your songwriting?
BW: A lot of why I started music and started writing songs is I struggle with my mental health a lot, so it’s definitely – as cheesy as it sounds – a really good outlet for that. It’s a great way to sort of turn my brain off and just write about things that are maybe hard to explain to other people, or find melodies that match what I’m feeling when I don’t know how to describe it in words.
I went through a weird on-again-off-again relationship that ended a while ago, which was tough, and with dropping out of college and everything, it was kind of just a weird time. I think the album focuses in a lot around changes, and just being uncomfortable in your own skin, and trying to move on from a bunch of things just not working out.
AC: When can we expect the album?
BW: It’ll be sometime in the next few months. I’ve just started planning the show, actually, which will be alongside another local band, but we’re waiting to release details on it. I’m currently three songs into recording of the 12 that’ll be on it, and my friend Nick Mann is mastering and just generally helping me get the project off the ground.
AC: Finally, I have to ask – where did the name ‘housepanther’ come from?
BW: I was thinking, I don’t really want to go by ‘Bailee Woods’ because if I have a backing band I feel wrong calling it my name, ‘cause it’s not just me, and in the end I wanted it to be pretty collaborative. At the time I’d just adopted this little black cat and was like, what’s another name for cat? And I decided on ‘housepanther.’
If you missed housepanther at Big Fun this year, you can hear her music online at baileewoods.bandcamp.com