Words and Interview by Nic Angeles | Photo by Shervin Lainez
If you listen closely, you might find yourself surprised by the familiarity of her voice. We’ve seen and heard Angela Winter-Defoe before the recent release of her debut album, and this isn’t the first time that we’ve been captivated by her talent.
Years and years ago, she made the rounds on a Philippine radio tour for the song “Bakit Ba Ganyan” at age 13. More recently, in 2016, she joined The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus as they took their Don’t You Fake It 10 Year Anniversary Tour to the Philippines for three shows, performing some songs as guest vocalist with her husband, frontman Ronnie Winter. You could say that it was a homecoming of sorts for the proud Fil-Am indie pop artist.
Album artwork for "Too Soon To Cry" by the amazing artist Brandon Bolmer! The piece is entitled "Lunar Solitude". Go NOW…
“Well, I’ve always practiced getting better at making music by creating my own for the past 14 years,” says Defoe, who was already singing and making up her own melodies before she could talk at age 3. The Southern California-born songstress and producer grew up on the music of Patsy Cline, Conne Frances, The Beach Boys, the Beatles, and more. Her parents, recognizing the potential she had at a very young age, helped hone her talent through voice lessons, piano lessons, and letting her join and win singing competitions. It wasn’t until she was 20 when she started learning how to record on her own.
“I love when a song takes over and has a life of its own. Pretty much after I find a tone, and a few chords and a cool rhythmic sound, the song comes alive. At that point it lets me know what it needs next, I just have to shut up and listen,”
“I love when a song takes over and has a life of its own. Pretty much after I find a tone, and a few chords and a cool rhythmic sound, the song comes alive. At that point it lets me know what it needs next, I just have to shut up and listen” Defoe tells PULP with a laugh and with excitement as she talks about her favorite thing about music production. “I let the song breathe. If I try to force feed an electric guitar or strings on a song that doesn’t want it, it’s disastrous and it loses its sparkle.”
Defoe was 23 when she moved to Los Angeles to study at the Musician’s Institute for Music Engineering. This, along with plenty of projects she’s worked on in the years that followed, allowed her to master her craft. Some of these projects include The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ 2014 album 4 (she and Ronnie then created A and R Productions), the score for director Dylan Reynolds’ horror/slasher film, 420 Massacre. Last year, she also co-produced the latest RJA album, The Awakening, with Ronnie.
One might see all these as projects that have gotten in the way of Defoe putting out her own music, but that wasn’t exactly the case. They were all wonderful opportunities for her. But more than timing, releasing your own music also takes a lot of bravery, strength, and willpower. “My husband was a big part of boosting my confidence and pushed me towards that direction. I fought it hard but in the end, I’m glad he won. My parents were also my biggest fans. I really don’t know why I couldn’t see it,” she says, opening up about how she never really had the confidence to release her music. “I never thought I was good enough but I love being behind the scenes creating. What I love even more is helping deserving artists to materialize their dream and give them an outstanding recording to run with.”
But time came when Defoe’s light couldn’t be quelled. Too Soon To Cry is the result of years of experience, years of overcoming the fear of sharing your work to the world, years of waiting for the right time. Most importantly, it’s a body of work that showcases an artist’s unstoppable growth. It took years in the making, with Defoe eventually getting around to unearthing old, unfinished songs from old hard drives and breathing new life into them. “It was wonderful,” Defoe says of finding old material to work with for her long-awaited album. “Seeing them come to life in the mixing mastering phase, I felt like a proud parent watching my kid graduating school! I was pretty sad when I thought my music would never see the light of day and I felt very conflicted.”
As a very sensitive person herself, Defoe released an album that perfectly depicts those moments in our lives when it could be difficult to hold in emotions. “Showing emotion seems to be a hard thing to do. [There is] that need to hide your face when you cry; when you watch a happy or sad movie and you get that ball in your throat and try to pull back those tears; or even if you get bad news from a friend or family member in a public place and you run to the bathroom to cry. Too Soon To Cry are those moments.”
“Every song on this album has its own tone and I specifically created moments in each song to invoke different moods. I definitely feel more like a mood and atmosphere creator than a music creator”
“Every song on this album has its own tone and I specifically created moments in each song to invoke different moods. I definitely feel more like a mood and atmosphere creator than a music creator,” exclaims Defoe, calling herself a mood creator. Listening to the album, each song does imbue a different mood, and as a whole, Too Soon To Cry makes for an even better listen when you pay attention to the details—from the way the story unfolds in “The Road To El Paso,” and the overall cinematic feel of “Black Metal Romance,”—it’s like each song provides for a different experience. Basically, the entire album feels theatrical—like it’s a score for a movie we’d want to see over and over again.
“I never made music to fit into a certain genre,” adds Defoe. “I never made music to please any specific audience. Basically, my only aim has always been to make music that I liked and music that moved me. I didn’t want to force it sounding “cool” or even musically correct. It just had to move me and make me smile. Because of that formula—all the songs had a similar thread and aesthetic that make them sound pretty cohesive, even if I didn’t try.”
The turning point for Defoe had been the birth of her son, Wolfgang, and now her music no longer sits in the back burner. He had to hear the music his mother made—the music that has kept her heart going. “I’ve been too ashamed for too long of showing my gifts. When I had my son, I understood in a deeper level why it is important to show your art. At that moment I refused to let my shy nature keep me from adding light into the world,” she shares. Family legacy also came into play, as she found it to be important to her deep down. Her artist name, Defoe, is her father’s last name. Through her music, his name could live on, even when he didn’t have any more males in the family to carry the name. She described him as a wonderful father to all his kids.
It may have been difficult to find the balance between music and family at first, but without a doubt, family always comes first for Defoe. “Making music can easily be moved around on the calendar, special baby milestones can’t be scheduled. To be able to balance my life, Ronnie is a very hands-on father, taking morning shifts and changing diapers. I’ll watch our son when Ronnie is making music for his next record or is on tour and he will watch our son if I’m recording. We also ask for help from our family, and his babysitter Letty.”
Now, what did it take for Too Soon To Cry to finally see the light of day? Perhaps it’s a combination of many things—that leap of faith, the perfect circumstances and timing, the right push, and a breadth of experience. But most importantly, the story of how Defoe’s debut album came to be is a life lesson in itself. “I’ve learned that sometimes a person is not only scared of taking risks and putting yourself out there, but sometimes they are even more scared of their own light. They can be scared of letting their light shine brightly.”
“I’ve learned that sometimes a person is not only scared of taking risks and putting yourself out there, but sometimes they are even more scared of their own light. They can be scared of letting their light shine brightly. I want to inspire others to not let their fears and insecurities hold them back from creating anything.”
“I want to inspire others to not let their fears and insecurities hold them back from creating anything. It makes me sad. I know, because I was there too. I’m happy to be free from the regret of not trying.” Now, Defoe is much happier for it.
The story of Too Soon To Cry is one that’s long-winding and emotional—good thing the album itself is all about showing emotion instead of hiding it. It is available on Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music
Don’t hold back and stream Defoe’s debut album below: