Vendulka Wichta has had some experience battling it out for the top spot in a music contest.
The 20-year-old singer-songwriter won first place at Whistler’s New Music Search at the Crystal Lounge last Thursday (Oct. 26). But long before she accepted her $1,000 prize, she was a contestant on both Australia’s Got Talent and X Factor Australia.
“It was a while ago,” said Wichta, who drops her surname for the stage. “I was glad I did it because I learned a lot. I realized it’s not the path I want to take. It’s not where I see myself artistically. I like to have creative control.”
A quick Google search turns up a clip of Wichta performing “Blackbird” on X Factor for a stunned panel of judges with a voice far beyond her then-14-years. While she battled her way to the top 24 acts in her category — earning a trip to New York and the opportunity to meet the singer Kesha — ultimately the experience taught her more about what she didn’t want than stoking a competitive fire.
“At no point is my aim to go into a city and do the whole record label sort of thing,” she said. “I just want to make art that connects with people and means something to me.”
That ability to connect with the crowd was one of the reasons she earned first place last Thursday. During her 20-minute slot, Witcha played a haunting cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” as well as a playful rendition of Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I Did It Again” (“That one is my favourite because people don’t realize it’s Britney until halfway through,” she said) as well as two original songs. The first, played on ukulele, drew unlikely inspiration from last summer’s forest fires while the second tackled the timely topic of the prevalence of sexual harassment, stemming from an incident where a man harassed her on a bus ride home to Emerald.
“I was feeling pretty nervous (about the competition),” she said. “I did a bunch of research online and saw who I was up against (and) they were all awesome. It’s pretty exciting as a (relative) newcomer to Whistler. I’ve been trying to get my name out there with music for the last few months and it helps me get my foot in the door, which is what I was hoping for more than anything. I figured it would be good exposure for people who book for local places — and winning was a bonus.”
While she’s unsure of her future musical pursuits, Witcha said her new hometown has provided an abundance of inspiration.
“I would say (Whistler has) let me, in a way, figure out who I am,” she said. “The kind of stories I want to tell — just meeting people who are much more worldly in their views has been a big thing for me. I grew up in a tiny town. People go to school, they might take a gap year then get a job, work for the rest of their lives, have a family. There’s nothing outside of that. No one pushes the boundaries at all. I knew it was never really for me… Coming here, I met so many people who share the same view. We’re not here to just work. We’re not here to have things. It’s to have experiences.”
To hear some of her work visit Vendulka.com.au.
(Editor’s note: the author of this article was also a judge at Whistler’s New Music Search.)