|Interview: Melody Gardot by Sandman|
There are numerous singers out there who are blessed with a great voice from birth, but there are few who are also given the gift of feel, emotion, phrasing, and passion. A while back I took a listen to a new artist who comfortably works in the blues/jazz genres and possesses all of the above. Although the blues/jazz genres are not usually my normal day to day listening, I am always curious about new artists in unfamilar genres. As I listened to Melody Gardot, her voice and music hit me over the head like a sledgehammer. Melody has been given all of the gifts a recording and performing artist could ever want. She has been performing from a very young age and the professionalism and polish is apparent in her work.
Melody has overcome a great obstacle in her life; a terrible accident in which a car hit her on her bicycle leaving numerous serious injuries which she is still coping with to this day. Her CD was recorded bedside while still recovering. If this isn't the most passionate display of an artist in love with their craft I don't know what is.
Melody's work is truly impeccable. Her backing band is top notch and her vocals approach perfection. She pulls the listener into her music like a great temptation. I hope all listeners will give her some playtime and see what I'm talking about, because she is undoubtably one of the more talented artists to grace the pages of IndieMusicPeople.com. To me this girl has a magical voice that upon one listen will make anyone a believer that Melody Gardot is a star waiting to be discovered.
Recently I got to chat with Melody and get her thoughts concerning the world of music, and the world in general. Sit back, take a read, and enjoy the world according to Melody Gardot.
Tell us about how you first became interested in the blues/jazz genres? There must have been some great influence that pulled you that direction in music which is certainly the less traveled road.
Well to be honest I favor the genre itself. There is so much history rooted in blues and jazz and so many struggles with the people who founded it. It's an emotional and soulful genre that's carries with it a number of stories not only of a person or a place, but more so of a time and a way of life.
Plus it's a blast to play. The first time I heard it I couldn't get enough.
At what age did you really begin to get interested in music? Tell us a little about the music you heard during your childhood. I've read you come from a long line of musicians. Please tell us about that.
I was always singing as a child. My mother and I would make up songs about my dad (things like how much his feet smelled) in the car rides to and from visitation. I remember being as small as three and singing with my mom. My aunt would do the same. When visiting her in the summer, she and I would sing and harmonize in the car, around the house and in the garden. It was a very natural and uninhibited way of interacting with my relatives. Silly songs mostly, but regardless music was very prominent.
My grandfather played the accordion, the trumpet and sang. And my great grandfather was a conductor from Poland. There are rumors that he was dealt a bad hand and did not receive credit for some of his works (which are now very famous) but since it is only a rumor within the family, I won't mention the works. My mother plays guitar and sings but not professionally. Yet still some of my earliest memories are of her singing to me over her guitar songs like "summertime", "Blowing in the Wind", and "If I had a Hammer". (She loves folk music).
Do you ever listen to or have any interest in alternative or rock music, or are you a straight jazz/blues kind of person? If I went to Melody's CD player right now what CD's would I find?
I don't really have an opportunity to listen to music like that because of my Hyperacusis. If it's too loud or has too much on a high frequency end of things, I stay far, far away. However I would generally say I listen to everything but new country.
In my CD player I usually have mixed CDs of very wide variety ... you could find any of the following artists on one CD: Django Reinhardt, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Radiohead, Louis Armstrong, Patsy Cline, Eva Cassidy, Rufus Wainwright, The Cure, Stan Getz, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, David Bowie, Debussy, Prince, Wagner, Rachmaninov, Tom Waits, Brahms ... pretty eclectic mix, no?
Over the years what musicians do you think have most influenced you and your style of music?
Blues and Classical music was the biggest influence on me. I was given lessons by an amazing teacher. He taught me everything he knew in three years. I began with classical, and would memorize things and play them at lightening speed. He would always tell me to slow down, but I think he realized I had fallen in love with the techniques. So he began to teach me improvisation and show me greats like Ellington. I took to it like a fish to water.
Shortly after, I joined various improvisational groups and that's how I learned to be flexible as a musician and understand the importance of solos and making a piece "breathe." Music is a living thing. It needs space to settle and room to grow. And when you cram it all together with no regard for its potential, all you have is noise.
People who have most influenced me ... since I haven't really answered the question (laughing) are mostly singers and conductors. Cole Porter-for his sensibility and originality was a great influence. Billie Holiday taught me that you don't have to be the best, you just have to be good at what you do. And the hair bands of the 1980's taught me how NOT to do my hair.
I know you began performing at a very early age in clubs. Tell us some about that general experience. Did your parents support you doing this or did it cause some friction in your family?
Well I was working (which means I was making money). They were a bit scared at first because it was the city and they didn't know if it was dangerous or not. But they soon grew to see that I was in no immediate danger so it wasn't a big fight at all. Playing in Piano bars gave me a great opportunity to share the perspective of what a jukebox might feel like. You're there to entertain.
I enjoyed the experience a great deal. I did have regulars and they were always asking me to play that song or two they loved. All in all it taught me a great deal about how to and how not to be a musician. I learned how to communicate with music; I learned how to make people forget their troubles for a while and enjoy the music; and I learned, little by little, what I who I was and how much of that I wanted to share with the world each week.
I know this might be a little difficult for you, but I'm certain the viewers and listeners will be interested in learning this about you. I know you were involved in a horrific accident a while back and were hit by a car while riding your bicycle. As seriously as you were injured you must have had a thousand thoughts about how much you could ever recover, and how close to the same will I ever be. If you would, please share some of those experiences and tell us some of the up and down moments of that whole ordeal.
I don't mind talking about it at all. What's in the past is past. I am a strong person. And this experience has only strengthened me more so. Yet, I am also human, and I would be lying through my teeth if I said it didn't plague my mind once in a blue moon. Usually, I don't even give it thought. People have to REMIND ME I am "disabled". The very world suggests inability. Yet, I don't feel that way. So, I suppose the battle is mostly internal. I dream of days when I ran each morning. I have running shoes on the top shelf of my closet waiting for me. They may never get used, but at least it's in the forefront of my mind as something to work towards.
A great deal of the hardship has been just finding out who I am now and what I can and cannot do. It's a lot of trial and error, pain and pleasure. Tomorrow I can wake up and not be able to do what I did today. The up and downs of life are just that: my abilities are inconsistent. And there is no rhyme or reason yet, so the frustration that exists is mainly rooted in illusion. Meaning, I believe that if I have done something before, I can do it again, when such is not always the case.
It's hard for some people to imagine what it must be like living like this, but to be honest, I think it's hard to imagine living any other way.
You have one of the most rich and golden voices I have ever heard! Did you ever take singing lessons? Do you work with your voice extensively or is what we hear pretty much of a natural thing? Do you have any good general advice for all the singers out there?
(Blushing) Well Thank you! I did not take singing lessons. Actually I was in Choir for several years. Ensembles and State groups, but I grew tired of the lack of freedom. Believe it or not I was a Soprano I (the highest pitch of female voice). But I think I was lost as to where I felt comfortable singing. I needed the experience of being in a group to learn how to blend voices. I do a lot of this on the EP. It gave me the knowledge to understand SATB format and vocal arrangements and taught me how to and how not to put together a piece.
I don't generally work with my voice. In fact I would probably be the worst example for others because I do many impersonations which put strain on my vocal chords. Yet, I refuse to put a stop to my silliness. I may hum bars before a show to get ready but no major prepping. Where I sing is a comfortable range so no vocal exercises are extensively needed.
Advice for singers:
Well you can start by getting out there and getting rid of your stage fright. You wouldn't believe how many people I meet who are afraid to sing, but have wonderful voices. It's a strange thing really. I have never really had it so I can't suggest how you get over it, but I would think it's a process of practice and gradually overcoming your fear. It helps to have people who love you in the room while you sing because they will support you and help to coach you.
What does Melody like to do when she has a free day? What are your hobbies or interests when you're away from the music scene?
I rarely have a free day. If I'm not at the doctors, I'm taking care of the animals or doing some odd chore. But, when free time arises, I like to go outside and soak up the sun. I'm not a big fan of television or computers, yet I find myself in front of them more than I would like to admit.
Without interruption, I could spend all day doing yoga and go to bed a happy woman.
What are you thoughts about the state of the commercial music industry? Do you think that the independent artists are making any headway in being heard by larger audiences or is the internet music community still a big secret to most people out there?
Well, it's hard for me to answer that being as I have no real gauge to say which one is better. I have only been an independent musician, and imagine that having most artists make the most of their situation (commercial or non commercial). I most definitely believe that the internet has revolutionized the music industry. It's revolutionized our lives in general. A while ago, I communicated with someone from Japan, and recently it was someone from Alaska- all without picking up a phone. Musically, we have an opportunity to reach anyone with a computer and an internet server. THAT'S amazing all by itself. Also, many of the people who come out to shows discover the music online. A great number of my CDs are sold solely on the internet through web sites and their exposure such as IAC (note, now IndieMusicPeople.com).
And I'm guessing it's the same for many other artists here. From Internet radio to online sites like Myspace.com, people are practically handed these artists on their front step.
If Melody were going to a concert tonight, she might be going to see............?
Who is this Melody Character you keep referring to? I would assume she would go to see someone good ... Damien Rice or Blondie.
Are you ever totally happy with your recordings or is there that "something else" you always wish you would have done to them?
If referring to the CD, Some Lessons, I would say, I'm happy. Recordings are a record of where you are and where you're head was at the time. And besides aren't regrets just lessons we haven't learned yet?
Tell us something that you've always wanted to do musically but haven't had the chance to do yet.
Play the Kazoo ... professionally.
What are some of the differences between Melody Gardot of five years ago compared to Melody Gardot today?
For one: Boobs. Didn't have 'em then, and yet I can't seem to get around them now.
Two: Shades...I wear my sunglasses now all the time (autonomic nervous system damage causes photosensitivity).
Three: I'm beginning to get comfortable with the person I'm becoming now, and I wasn't so wise to be able to do that 5 years ago.
Tell us about the best gig you ever played. What made it so special?
Hmmmmm this is hard because Id like to think they just keep getting better. But, Id have to say my best gig was a private party we did where the hostess's 8 yr old daughter asked to sing one of my songs "Wicked Ride" with me. She did a wonderful job and she knew all the words! I was touched. There's a photo of her on my website I believe.
Would you care to share any embarrassing moments that have happened on stage that you just can't seem to forget, try as you may!
Oh, I'm always embarrassing myself. Oddly, not on stage though. I usually spill water on me at some point during the night while trying to drink. That's about it.
Tell us a little about the musicians that play with you. Have you played with them a long time? Does the group get along pretty well?
Oh the boys ... I love them all. Peaches McCormick, Taki76, and Charlie Pattierno (guitar, bass, drums). I knew Peaches and Taki long before the accident and Charlie is the newest member of the group. We all have very different personalities but we all blend together really well. Actually, I feel very fortunate to have such a great bunch of guys to work with- all super talented and all easy going. Its like having three brothers.
Are you a news informed person? Do you spend any time following the news? Do you have any great concerns or worries about the state of the world or the future in general?
I don't watch TV. So the news is not regularly on. I am not a big believer in worrying about things you have no control over.so no. I'm not very political and I am comfortable leaving it in the hands of those who care to be involved. I hope we all find resolve and common ground, as when it comes down to blood, guts, and chemical makeup, we are all just humans trying to coexist.
Do you believe in.................
Love at first sight?..............No. What if I was blind?
UFO's......my friend drives one of those on the weekends.
Destiny...... Not really. I believe in Karmic principles and fate.
The Loch Ness Monster... Sure I know Nessy. We go waaay back.
Psychics...... If you throw a brick at a psychic and they move they are psychic. If they don't they are a fake. They should have seen it coming.
Heaven and Hell...... Sure. In various contexts.
Tell us some of your pet peeves that are a sure way to get on you wrong side?
I can tolerate almost anything. One thing I don't like is a lack of humor, or excessive negativity. I enjoy laughing a great deal, regardless of the appropriateness! I'm always looking for a laugh even in the worst possible situations, it keeps me young and it keeps me grounded. People who dwell on negativity and the impossible things they cannot do are those I try to avoid.
Do you play any cover material when you play live? If so, who are some of your favorite artists that you like to cover?
Very rarely we will do a cover. In the past we have done Stormy Monday, and Wade in the Water as covers. I really enjoy Eva Cassidy and we share a similar vocal range so covering her songs is natural. Most blues artists are high on my list of people to examine for covers.
Now it's time to play either/or...
spring or fall....spring
stage or recording studio....stage
vanilla or chocolate.....neither, strawberry
steak or salad.....salad
PC or Mac.......Pc
book or movie....book
pink or black......pinkrain or snow......neither Im a sun person.
red or white wine......red
coffee or tea......tea