Artist Spotlight: Walkney
When we first heard Walkney a few months back, we were super excited about him joining the Songfinch Songwriter Community. With clever lyrics, melodies that swirl around your head and a voice that makes his lyrics come alive, he’s been a perfect match for Songfinch.
The Pennsylvania based singer-songwriter hit the ground running with various tours in the United States and Canada, been featured on MTV.com, landed a sponsorship with Spirit Airlines & appeared on American Idol. We had a chance to sit down with him, learn a bit about what got him to where he’s at and hear about where he’s headed.
Good afternoon, it’s great to be chatting with you. Take a moment to tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into music.
Thanks for having me, my name is Derek Mrdjenovich. I make music under my middle name which is Walkney and I’m a singer songwriter from Altoona, Pennsylvania. I love to travel and love to laugh. I’m a bit of a goofball. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time traveling around with my mother and her deaf awareness group, ‘Beautiful Hands’ who would perform American Sign Language to pop songs. I got pretty into it as a kid and it transformed into a love for the stage. I went on to do talent shows, but it wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I actually started a band. We played local shows then went on to tour all over the US. It’s all led me here.
What is the music scene like in Pennsylvania and how has it helped shape your sound?
The music scene in PA is a lot different now than when I was a teenager. I would go to a lot of local shows at Masonic Halls, church basements and things like that. But now it seems like local scenes are disappearing a bit and everything’s moving towards the bigger cities, myself included. I spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh over the last year and a half creating my EP, and I found that there’s a really awesome music scene there. I went to a few open mic nights including one at a club called Spirit in Pittsburgh, doing some hip hop and blues oriented stuff. It has really helped me figure out who I am as an artist.
Talk a little bit about your time on American Idol. How far did you get and would you do it again? What did you learn from it?
My time on American Idol was pretty cool. I went through a few different auditions before I made it in front of the judges. I made it Hollywood week then got cut, but over the process I met a lot of really great talented singers and artists. On top of that, they flew me out and put me up in the Roosevelt Hotel. To be a part of something that was on television for the first time ever was such a crazy experience. What I really learned from it was that you have to be prepared and you have to be ice cold. It also helped me believe in myself a bit more, there are so many people supporting me and it blew me away. I don’t know if I’d ever do it again though, we’ll see.
Having worked in music licensing and brand partnerships over my career, your sponsorship with Spirit Airlines peaked my interest. How did that come about and what does it mean for you?
My oldest friend Joe Castellucci was at a Chainsmokers’ concert at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, PA when he saw an ad spirit was running. He sent them an email and six months later we got an email back about their “Spirit Give and Go” program (eventually turned into “SpiritMusic4Miles)”. They have me play in their planes terminals and they fly me basically anywhere I need to go. It’s made a world of a difference to me because it means that I can just get up and go at any given time. Right now I’m in New York City, next week I’ll be in Nashville, then SXSW, Chicago, Costa Rica, then on tour. I’m already living the dream and I’m so grateful.
You released your debut EP “Oh No” last November, congrats! How has the response been so far?
The response to the EP has been really wild for me. It’s been so long since I’ve put out a project and it warms my heart to know there are people out there who love the music as much as I do. My friend Michael O’Malley, the man who mixed and mastered it, and I really worked hard on it. He really gave me a shot and it really became something that I think we’re both very proud of.
“Lucia Rose” is one of my favorite songs on the EP and is the first single. Talk a little about that song, how it came to be and how it ended up on “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 66.”
I actually wrote the guitar for Lucia Rose a couple years ago and saved it in my voice memos as “Garage Pop.” One day I was just sitting on my couch writing with an acoustic guitar, as I usually do and I wrote a song called “Yes I Will.” Afterwards I started looking through voice memos and I found “Garage Pop,” relearned it on the guitar and I came out with “Lucia Rose.” It’s a song about heartbreak and how your dreams can get in the way of things that you love and people that you love. The life of leaving home.
After American Idol, I was sending “Lucia Rose” and a few other tracks around to some people and my friend asked if he could submit it to some stuff, I said yes, and “Now That’s What I Call Music” came back saying that they wanted it to be featured. I’m on the same track list as Migos, Camila Cabello, and Maroon 5 – it’s surreal.
How would you explain your music in three words?
Which artists over your career so far have had the most influence on you as an artist and your sound overall?
When I was a kid my first favorite band was Linkin Park, and I really loved that they meshed so many different genres together into one awesome sound. I started listening to Guns N’ Roses, which made me fall in love with the blues guitar, a lot of metal stuff, and then Slipknot. Then I really got into like Lil’ Wayne and 50 Cent. So that was my childhood, but then I got into a lot of emo bands like All Time Low and Mayday Parade.
I spent a lot of time out in the sun following Warped Tours and getting involved with the scene. Lately, I’ve been setting my sight to the sun, listening to a lot of greats like Quincy Jones, The Beatles, Carole King. Basically, a lot of the stuff that my mother used to play for me in the car when I was a kid. I’ve been kind of getting back towards my roots.
Anything else that you’d want to let the readers know?
I do have some projects in the works, I’ve been working with a lot of different producer friends. Being a solo artist has been really cool because I can make music with virtually anyone I want. It’s the digital age and everyone has recording setups, so I’ve got about six or seven ongoing projects which is a lot, but I’m a bit of a workaholic when it comes to making music. I’m very excited for what’s coming in 2019 and for the rest of my life!