Student Spotlight: Shea (Buttr) Winpigler on Finishin’ What Ya Start!

Shea Winpigler (Buttr) screenshot from her music video

Shea Winpigler (Buttr) screenshot from her music video

There’s nothing smoother to cut through than butter. And maybe that’s part of why singer and songwriter Shea Winpigler (aka, Buttr“shea butter,” get it?) creates the music she makes, which oozes with mid-tempo, lo-fi grooves and gooey R&B vocals.

But one other thing is true about butter, it breaks down and melts way too easily.

And that’s where Shea’s hurdles of self-confidence come in, inhibiting her progress and preventing her from fully realizing all the crazy artistic potential she possesses. Until she found her way to Soundfly, a lot of signs in her life were pointing in the other direction. (Let’s not get into the personal stuff, but let’s just say despite her cheery demeanor, it hasn’t been an easy year.)

Below we talk about Shea’s recent session with her mentor, which helped open up her creativity, deepen her songwriting and production skills, and strengthen the confident voice inside her head that pushes back against imposter syndrome. Take a listen to “Sitting” below, a heartfelt slowburn groove about letting things go, learning to love oneself and others, and not take on so much that you get buried.

Things seem to be on the up and up, and if this delight of a track can tell us anything, it’s that we should be REALLY excited to hear what comes from Shea next! Read on to learn more about Shea’s artistic journey and the music she makes as Buttr here.

Q: You just released your new single, “Sitting” — congrats, I love the song and the video! It’s funky, but smooth; those finger snaps just immediately get my head bobbing and then I’m immediately locked in the groove, even if it is sultry and downtempo. How did this come together?

A: Thank you, Jeremy! My friend Mike and I originally worked on this song a year and some change ago. I think the description and vibe is a “stream of consciousness,” kicking rocks, walking down the sidewalk, easy-listening jam. It’s a “don’t think too hard about this” kinda track influenced in part by R&B and lo-fi. The track fit perfectly (thematically) into what I’d already been working on: an album solely focused on the feelings of love and loss. The goal was to truly have a good time, collaborate with a friend, and enjoy the process 🙂

“I like to do things on my own, but you go much further together.”

Lyrically, where do those themes come from for you? I’m hearing a tiny struggle between “independence” and “dependence” or relying on someone else. What’s the message you’re trying to deliver with these words?

You hit the nail on the head! That’s exactly it. I feel like, regardless of where this deep-seated belief stems from, I’ve struggled with letting a partner (or anyone really) help me. Out of fear of them holding it over my head or judgement. So I wrote this song after becoming fully trusting in my partner at the time. Knowing that this person showed me that I don’t have to do everything by myself. That I can do things in tandem with someone else. I like to do things on my own, but you go much further together.

Like many, you started out doing cover songs, can you talk about the transition to writing and recording your own words and music? 

Yeah! So I’m in a wedding band with Mike (who collaborated on the track with me), so I obviously sing a lot of music that’s not mine. I’ve been writing music for forever, but in 2018, I released my first single “Not From You,” about not getting happiness from other people, drugs, etc. It was kind of a breakthrough moment.

I finally decided to start performing my own stuff, so I signed up for SoFar Sounds, This Is My Brave, and a few other shows to start putting myself out there. I’d been too scared to do it before, but I knew that I needed to in order to feel fulfilled.

It was organic in the sense that I’d been wanting to do it for so long, but it was difficult emotionally and mentally to get through that initial moment of: “It’s TIME!” It still scares the crap out of me, but collaborating with others and including other artists in the process makes it a fun experience that you get to share. I let the voice inside my head that says “people will not like this” get overpowered by the voice that says “this is fun and I like goofing off and emoting.”

What is your songwriting/production process like exactly? 

Now having taken a production-focused mentorship session with Sam Friedman, I’ll just mess around in Ableton Live with a certain vision in mind. I usually start with a sound I enjoy, start creating a melody and stacking things that sound nice together (HAHA this is the worst description of music writing!). I kinda black out and then at the end of it, I have a song.

Before I knew how to produce my own music, I’d have friends, like Mike, send me tracks to write to. Put the song on repeat and write along to it. Honestly, I just enjoy painting pictures with words and being silly. I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m a “this is good” kinda person, it doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s meant to exist as a piece of time. A moment you shared.

For the song I’m coming out with later this month, I put a bunch of sounds I liked together and then chose an experience a friend went through to write lyrics to it.

+ Learn about Soundfly’s goal-oriented custom mentorship program, and fill out a quick form to get paired with a mentor (like Sam Friedman) to improve your skills!

Let’s talk about your production-focused mentorship session with Sam Friedman. What kinds of things did you uncover during your time together? 

So, Sam is incredible. He really helped shape this next phase of my musicianship.

We addressed my complete “lack” of understanding of how to create a song from scratch (without a uke or guitar). I’d never made a full song start-to-finish in a DAW — I’d have so many half-finished songs that I didn’t know how to arrange properly. I kept thinking that my brain was broken. It was like I didn’t understand how to pick apart music and digest it, and I learned how wrong I was!

“Instead of giving up, thinking I don’t know where to take the chorus, pre-chorus, bridge, etc., I learned to push through.”

It turns out I’m much more capable than I thought. I think it’s a commitment to finishing that was my biggest problem, and Sam and I talked about that. He gave me an option to move onto another project using the techniques I learned in the first three weeks or finish a full song by the end of the course. I chose to do the full song — which he agreed was a great decision due to my finish phobia (if you will). Instead of giving up, thinking I don’t know where to take the chorus, pre-chorus, bridge, etc., I learned to push through.

It of course takes time, and that time spent creating is teaching you more about yourself, your skills and your capabilities. At the end of our mentorship session, I finished a song I’m really proud of; produced, sung, and written by me. And that’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish. I actually did it!

How did Sam’s advice and tutorials help push you beyond the scope of the session afterwards?

Sam’s advice and feedback honestly gave me a lot of confidence. He showed me how equipped I was and then helped me sharpen my tools and skills to do whatever it is I intend to do musically.

I needed that reassurance a little bit. You think “I’m so lost! I don’t know what I’m doing!” and then to have someone lay out a foundation for you and show you that the space from point A to point B is literally just taking the time to learn and experiment, it’s liberating. It all sounds so simple, right? I don’t know how to do this thing, once someone teaches me the thing, I then know the thing and can go out and do the thing.

Well, yeah, Duh! But that’s why having a mentor was probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself. Learning is the gift that keeps on giving hehe Sam was also just so laid back, friendly, professional and knowledgeable and he puts a lot of time and effort into his music, that he inspired me to keep having fun, making songs and being myself.

Shea Winpigler (Buttr) screenshot from her music video

“This is a ‘finished what ya started’ year. There’s so much pride that comes with doing the thing you set out to do.”

I can’t help but notice the opening line in “Sitting” is about “doing everything by myself” (which I get is part of the relationship narrative internal to the track), but part of me hears that as in line with why you initially came to Soundfly to get more perspectives on your music! What brought you here in the first place?

Again: ding ding ding!! You got it. That’s exactly it. I thought every musician does everything themselves. Every talented person I know, somehow I had it in my brain that they did it all on their own, and sure, maybe that is true for some of them, but I realized I didn’t have to anymore! And I didn’t want to. It’s liberating to give yourself that.

To have an awesome company, Soundfly, provide a service to this late ’20s gal like me, who thought I’d never learn production and I’d never be able to make a song “all by myself.” It wasn’t by myself at all. I really feel like this session changed me. I was done being scared of showing myself to other people. Making connections and being friends with other artists and music makers, it’s really nice.

I don’t have to be alone.

What’s next for you in 2022 or ’23?

Ay, yes! So the goal is to release a song a month this year. By the end of the year, I’ll have an album out! The next song comes out this month, and is called “Dumby Dumb.” I labeled the first .wav file that, and so now it just has to stick. My friend Justin in Georgia, and two of his actor friends are helping me put a video together for it (not by myself again!) I want to FINISHHH all of the songs I’ve had on drives and in my notes haha it’s time they come to fruition.

This is a “finished what ya started” year. There’s so much pride that comes with doing the thing you set out to do. So simple, yet again, but those unfinished projects really weigh on me. It’s time I remove the musical bricks and let them become little birds that fly away and smile back at me.

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