SPOTLIGHT SERIES | Lana Winterhalt on Equity, Opportunity, and Finding Joy in the Mundane

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Lana Winterhalt (Photo by Ally Gonzalo @jhapes)

Welcome to Spotlight Series, a monthly feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba. Come back every month for a new interview!

By Cierra Bettens

For Winnipeg-based indie-pop artist Lana Winterhalt, being a musician isn’t just about looking inwards; it’s about amplifying others. With a wealth of knowledge in the realms of songwriting, music production and promotion, she’s a grassroots force to be reckoned with. 

Winterhalt’s songwriting process is guided by a core tension between good and bad, along with an attempt to find depth hidden in the mundane. She finds poetics in nostalgia, strength in being vulnerable and comfort in the in-between stages of life. 

“I'm always exploring the polar opposites of life, and then how we try to stay in the middle of that,” Winterhalt says.

Listening to Winterhalt’s Summer Magic EP reveals these tensions; “Summer Magic” and “Cruisin’ Round With You” burst with sunshine synth, and infectious joy, while “Movie Star” expertly captures feelings of longing and loss. 

“Through my lyrics recently, I've been exploring these tiny little things that people have told me or little thoughts that I've been thinking,” she says. “There's so much to uncover.” 

The past few years have ripened a host of opportunities for Winterhalt. Last summer, she crossed paths with Kim Temple, the head of High Priestess Publishing, at Manitoba Music’s Canadian Songwriting Challenge. After forming an instant bond with Temple, the connection led to a prestigious songwriting contract between Winterhalt and High Priestess. 

In early 2021, Winterhalt was accepted into the Women in the Studio National Accelerator Program, an initiative kickstarted by Music Publishers Canada that aims to equip women and gender non-conforming musicians with technical, business and networking skills. Having begun the program in March, Winterhalt has since honed a host of skills on the production side. 

"The goal is just to keep increasing our skills as women and non-gender conforming people in the production world,” she says. 

Crucially, she says the Women in the Studio National Accelerator Program has fostered a tight-knit community of emerging women and gender non-conforming music producers—something that had been difficult to create due to a lack of representation in the industry. 

"I think it's so empowering that they're actually giving you the physical tools to be able to decide if this is something you want to do as a career,” she says. “It's been a huge door opener and has led to some really cool connections.” 

For Winterhalt, a core part of her musicianship is building bridges for others who wish to make their mark. With this vision in mind, Winterhalt co-created Good + Plenty WPG, a promotional and event planning agency that amplifies the work of musicians who are traditionally underrepresented in music circles. 

"We're really passionate about shaping up the live music sector and making sure that there are opportunities for everyone,” Winterhalt says. 

With bigger labels increasingly seeking Canadian talent, Winterhalt sees the potential for more equity issues to emerge. While she says the grassroots indie scene provides an avenue for musicians to “march to the beat of their own drum”, the commercial industry often perpetuates stereotypes and demands unrealistic expectations. 

“People need to be held accountable for not just having front-facing diversity, but actually working to set up their structures in ways that are a lot more equitable,” she says.

Going forward, Winterhalt says she’s excited to embark on more production projects and share her wealth of skills with other women and gender non-conforming musicians. 

“I think artists need to be really confident in who they are, what they do and what their goals are,” she says.

Cierra Bettens is a prairie writer, editor and student based in Treaty 1. She edits the arts and culture section of The Uniter.

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