Getting to Know Sheila Wonders

Paul Whyte

I’ve talked to a lot of people about their music over the years with the Reader and being out and about. It seems that I’ve highlighted some unexpected local musicians here and there. There’s certainly plenty of faces and talent that's in our community that go out and play. This week I’m randomly covering a musician by the name of Shelia Wonders.

Reader: How long have you lived in the Twin Ports and why do you hang around here?

SW: I lived here about as long as I’ve known you. It’s going on six years. I came for the music and I stay because it’s a beautiful place to live. It’s the lake effect mostly.

Reader: So, where were you six years ago and what brought you here? I mean, music, and I’ll get to that, but where were you at?

SW: I was finishing up a semester at Central Lakes College (Brainerd, MN). I had taken so many music classes and six credits shy of graduating. I had already been there three years! When I started getting recognized everywhere I knew it was time to leave.

Reader: Is there something wrong with being recognized?

SW: No, it just came to a point where I wanted to reach a broader audience. Duluth was a logical choice.

Reader: In your six years in Duluth what have you been up to?

SW: Lots of lots of crash and burn. I started on the open stage and keep coming back to it. Every time I’m away for awhile I go to Beaner’s and it’s like I just came from the homecoming game. It’s never a Wednesday I don’t meet up with a long time friend. That’s when it’s most comfortable to be recognized. And I have strategies in place that allow me to make a swift exit if someone tries to monopolize my time.

Reader: Musically, how do you figure yourself? I mean, you’re a songwriter and have done open mics, but you’ve also played in bands, discuss.

SW: Sure. Gold Star Junkies is a project I’m extremely proud of. For those of your readers that don’t know we were a product of how Rock n’ Roll Kamikaze is supposed to work. Three out of four of the members went on to form the Junkies. It seemed like for awhile that we were the poster children for it. It looked good in print but the interest faded. We made a CD and printed 200 copies. I’m the only one that still has copies! I started giving some away or trading with some of our friends. I even sold some. But, for all of us it was more for posterity than anything else.

Reader: When did you get your start as a musician?

SW: I would say it was around age 17. I started taking guitar lessons in high school. I remember being singled out by our teacher. “There’s only one of you! One of the new students that takes this seriously!”. I was so embarrassed. All eyes fell on me and I just wanted to hide.

Reader: So, you felt pressured into performance? A lot of people hone their talent by themselves.

SW: Never ever. I was a natural. I was getting solos in choir and cast in the school play. I was drawn to it like a magnet. Applause are extremely addicting.
But the second part of the question...
I started singing and making up songs as a toddler. I started memorizing lyrics for as long as I can remember.

Reader: What are some of your influences?

SW: All the Steve’s. Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks, Steven Tyler, Steve Perry. Anyone with the name Steve. Those were my informal voice teachers. Lyrically, Elvis Costello is my number one.

Reader: If you could choose between having to listen to Steven Tyler or Stevie Nicks for an hour every night, who would pick?

SW: Tyler, no question. As far as song writers go, my number one is Sonny Bono.

Reader: Is there a particular Sonny Bono song that stands out for you?

SW: Needles and Pins. He had a co-writer for that particular song. Anyone who can collaborate and have such a polished well written song is number one in my book.

Reader: Yeah, but there’s a little controversy with Jackie Del Shannon on the song’s start.

SW: I take that with a grain of salt. It does happen. But, he wrote a string of number one songs so I got no qualms about the long past congressman. May he rest in peace.

Reader: Who would win in a fight between Cher and Cyndi Lauper?

SW: Cyndi would win a dance battle. But I think Cher would win a fight. However, us smallish people sometimes have an advantage. Tough call.

Reader: Would you rather play to a small room with maybe ten people or on a stage playing for hundreds?

SW: I have done both. No matter what it’s the same set so I really have no preference.

Reader: So what have you been doing lately as far a music?

SW: Musically. I’m enjoying working with Derek Cherrington on our new project. His lyrics are so easy to sing. I believe every last note or I would never cover anyone’s work. Our acoustic duo is, The Sherrington’s. But if we ever find a hard hitting bass and drummer it’s. The Cringe.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

View more of Paul Whyte's work »