Kickstarting a project; AHS grad raises funds online to record first EP
Published 5:30 am Monday, March 9, 2015
Savannah Wheeler was one of two seniors voted “most musical” by the Austin High School class of 2002.
Over a decade later, she’s still living up to that title and she recently sought help to make her musical dreams a reality.
Wheeler, a 30-year-old Austin native who now lives in Los Angeles, recently finished a successful campaign on kickstarter.com to help fund the recording of her first five-song EP “Into the Ground” under the name Annie’s Dream. The campaign ended Thursday, but she’d already surpassed her $6,000 goal Wednesday. As of press time, she’d raised $6,085 through the support of 99 backers.
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The money will go toward recording, mixing, backing musicians and mastering of “Into the Ground.” She’s currently looking to record at one of two studios in June, but she’s waiting to see the final Kickstarter total.
“It’s crazy how all these little things add up to so much,” she said.
After that, she’ll use her own money for promotion and for releasing and distribution.
Kickstarter is a bit different than other online fundraising sites because it’s all or nothing. Wheeler wouldn’t have gotten her funding if she hadn’t met her goal. Though that may sound intimidating, there are upsides.
By having a set goal, Wheeler was able to plan ahead for her recording and not have to wait to see how much she raises.
“You know exactly what you’re going to get and then you budget it out,” she said.
The project has been consuming, but Wheeler is motivated to get her music out there.
“Of course its a big project, it’s like a full-time job working on it,” she said.
Until now, Wheeler has only recorded demos for Annie’s Dream, but she hopes the EP will one day lead to recording a full album.
On her Kickstarter page, Wheeler wrote that the songs helped her cope with heartbreak, and she’s excited to share her original music.
“Writing these songs helped me through many painful nights,” she wrote.
Wheeler, who has a degree in psychology, has worked with people facing different challenges. Music has always helped her cope, and she hopes her efforts to make music inspire people to do something similar.
From Minnesota to LA
Wheeler moved to LA about seven years ago to join the band Boys and Girls. She later played with Light FM and a few other groups before deciding to go out on her own to have more time to write and perform her own songs.
“I wanted to create more,” she said.
Before moving to Los Angeles, Wheeler lived in Minneapolis for a little more than three years, where she also played in bands. After moving, she hosted music events, and that’s where she met the members of Light FM. She would start playing keyboards for the group and played on the 2011 album “Buzz Kill City.”
Wheeler and Light FM toured with the Smashing Pumpkins for three weeks in 2011, an experience she hopes to have again.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had,” she said.
“It was really nice to be completely focused on music,” she added. “I can’t wait to go on tour again.”
But after the tour, Wheeler left the group to focus on her own music.
“I needed just to do my own thing,” she said.
A dream of an idea
Last year, Wheeler was helping a friend downsize her book collection when she came across a nondescript book called “Annie’s Dream.” Though she didn’t keep the book, the name stuck with her. Later, she asked the friend about the book, but her friend didn’t remember ever owning it.
After often playing keyboard and singing backup vocals in several bands, Wheeler is enjoying taking the lead with Annie’s Dream.
“It’s fun to be kind of the leader in it,” she said.
Wheeler sings and plays guitar, and she also has a drummer and lead guitarist playing with her and she’s planning on coordinating a bass player. Wheeler plays several instruments herself: drums, keyboard and guitar.
Wheeler describes her music as folk, Americana and neo classical. She comes from a classical background and said Eric Whitacre is her favorite composer, as he creates dissonance and huge buildups. She also cited old country artists like Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Judy Collins, as well as musicians like Elliott Smith and Joan Baez as influences.
She’s still involved in other musical projects, including one as a guitarist and backing vocalist for the group Honey Child.
When she’s not following her musical dreams, Wheeler works as a server and teaches piano lessons.
Growing up in Austin, Wheeler was involved in “just anything that I could music wise.” She was in band, choir, orchestra, jazz band, Austinaires and more.
Her sister, Charissa, also lives in the Los Angeles area, but her mom, Nancy Blackwell; stepdad, Paul Berger and grandparents still live in Austin.