Ondine, better known to Carleton students as Palina Buchanan ’22, gave a raw and impassioned performance at KRLX’s first virtual Live @ the Record Libe show of the year. She played covers of songs by some of her biggest musical influences and some of her own original music.
Ondine, Buchanan’s middle name and also the French word for a water spirit, was chosen due to her personal connection with water. “Since my songwriting has always drawn heavily from water as a source of inspiration, seeing as I grew up in the Puget Sound area, I thought that using my middle name was appropriate,” Buchanan said. She defines her style as alternative folk, and takes a lot of inspiration from folk music with acoustic instruments and vocal harmonies.
Music has been a part of Buchanan’s life since she was nine years old, when she started to learn to play piano and began to venture into the realm of jazz. Buchanan has been able to achieve personal success with her individual music while also contributing to Carleton’s music department in the jazz band as well as with Scattitude, a vocal jazz group on campus.
She says her love for jazz is rooted in her childhood, recalling memories of listening to it with her grandparents and then studying it on piano. Upon entering middle school, she found herself in jazz choir, followed by jazz band in high school. “A lot of my musical trajectory, at least in an academic sense, has been in a jazz setting,” Buchanan said. In a social sense, jazz was at the forefront of her upbringing as well. She discusses how she found many friends in the jazz community at her school and even had a band with her longtime friend from high school, with whom she released a professional EP her freshman year and an album her senior year.
“I like jazz theory a lot, how the chord structures are and how it sounds so intricate. It’s a lot different from traditional choral and band stuff, which is still really beautiful, but I really like the individual expression of jazz,” Buchanan said.
This individual expression is at the heart of her music and drives her songwriting process. She stated, “I think a lot of the time when I’m not actively thinking about what I want to sit down and come up with, which rarely happens, it’s some sort of outside motivation like when I’m feeling angry or not feeling grounded. Then I sit down with an instrument and just sort of free write verbally and kind of rant with a chord progression and come up with verse structure. It’s kind of like writing in a journal a little bit.”
In Buchanan’s performance on October 29, she chose the artists that had the biggest influence on her style of performance and songwriting, such as First Aid Kit, Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Smiths. It was clear how these styles influenced her as seen by the raw, storytelling quality of her performance. “I guess that’s my subconscious looking to brand myself,” she said jokingly. She utilized her impressive guitar skills throughout her performance, complementing a warm voice that gives her music an ethereal quality.
She also performed a song from her album, Failed State of Denial, released in May, and another song that she released in the spring. This album was her first solo endeavor that she recorded in the Weitz sound studio. She admitted that she faced some technical challenges along the way. “One part of the professional aspect of an album is the sound—making sure I’m using microphones right, utilizing music software the best I can for my first attempt, and mixing and mastering in a way that at least doesn’t sound like a phone recording. The other aspect is the distribution, which gets really technical with today’s multitude of streaming services. There was a lot of money and time that I hadn’t realized would have to go into the post-production business side of getting my music to listeners.”
In terms of her future endeavors, she says that she doesn’t have any concrete goals as there is no way to predict what the music industry will look like. Her dream goal is to be a producer and have her own studio, but her immediate aspiration is to attract more listeners and keep learning and practicing more instruments.