Derek Vanderhorst Enlists An All-Star Band For His Debut Album, ‘Wildflower’

Article Contributed by KG Music Press | Published on Saturday, January 22, 2022

Derek Vanderhorst, a musician, sound designer and re-recording mixer for film and tv, is a self-described workaholic.  Known for working on Academy Award nominated films from No Country For Old Men, Hidden Figures, and most recently The Eyes of Tammy Faye, he has a knack for mixing dialogue and music and pulling out the emotion by balancing all the elements that make up a film soundtrack. Those skills translate on his upcoming album, Wildflower.

Vanderhorst was introduced to music at the age of 5 with piano lessons but embraced guitar, mandolin and banjo in his teens, touring with the bands Leaf and The Rosemarys before being managed as a solo artist in the 90s by Les Garland (Co-founder of MTV and VH-1).  These experiences led him to L.A. where he found his way to the film world and his success in that realm, but which also led to him putting down his guitar for 20 years.

A few years ago, Vanderhorst was diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer.  Along with the threat of dying, he was told he might lose his voice and hearing.  He knew then that his lifelong dedication to music could no longer take a back seat.  Now 5 years cancer-free, and after hundreds of hours of vocal rehab, he has claimed his voice as an Americana artist.

During recovery, Vanderhorst took stock of is life and relationships and wrote over 150 songs. Eleven of those songs make up the recording, Wildflower. “It’s an album of metaphorically and emotionally going home and becoming grounded,” he explained.  “It’s about finding song and nature and balance in life.  Mixed in is also a humorous look at my childhood to present day.”

Vanderhorst said that the songs definitely changed during the recordings. “I wrote them spending hours in my home studio during covid.  I hadn’t heard the songs with the other players and instruments, so when that happened, new creative energy flowed and the songs that are on the album emerged.” Mike Valerio has played bass on nearly every film Vanderhorst has mixed and was also his neighbor for years.  During the pandemic, they started texting and then exchanging rough versions of the songs and Valerio would put some bass parts to them.  “In the first versions of the songs my buddy, Max sang on them because I will still working on vocal rehab and couldn’t sing more than one line without choking or coughing. As my voice strengthened with daily voice lessons, I started to sing them and started to feel more of an old Bob Dylan or Tom Waits vibe as my voice is rough and the songs sometimes become more spoken-word.  After discussing this with Mike he really helped gather the players and shape the sound of the album.”

From the dreamy sounding, “Baby” to the beatnik folk tone of “Hanging On Your Door” to the fast-driving country feel of “Hillbilly Princess” Vanderhorst shows his dexterity on instruments while embracing this vocal style. “It’s one thing to learn to sing better and it’s another to literally find your voice again. When I almost lost my voice, I realized how much I had to say through song.”

He describes his music as folk, Americana, and story-telling music and the lyrics on the song, “Can’t Fall in Love With You” bear out his songwriting skills—These old shoes wear like an old lost friend | Haven’t got a thread or a stitch to mend |Old sayings true no place like home |But these walls are empty and I’m left alone.  “It’s a song about feeling alone during my cancer treatments and a cheeky reflection on a relationship that had run its course.”

The title song, “Wildflower” is a fast, melodic uplifting song with a bit of a country tinge that Vanderhorst sings with Miranda Lee Richards. “It was written as a duet. I wanted it to be a love song that emphasized the different roles in a relationship and how we compliment each other and how we can each be the light in dark times. Jason (Soda) played me a video of his old band with Miranda singing and right away I fell in love with her voice. She is amazing and up for anything and came in and made the song magic.”

The album ends with “Shake Shake Shake”, a song that comes in under 2 minutes. “This was the first song I wrote when I picked the guitar back up after 20 years of working too much.  I was with my fiancé walking our dog around the neighborhood and started singing it to her. It’s a very simple, cute love song and the music is a tribute to all the punk bands I loved when I was a teenager.”

Now with a post-cancer outlook on life, dedication to music and passion for songwriting, Vanderhorst hopes to empower others into finding their voice. “Anything is possible—I didn’t think I’ve ever be able to sing again let alone release a solo album.  Life is short and relationships matter.  Be grateful for everything that we have and pursue your passions and dreams at any age or stage in your life.”