MELODY MAKER October 16, 1971
MELANIE: "I'm not holding back anymore
MELANIE is a special kind of performer with a unique following. Something of a prophet to her faithful, something of a little girl lost to her detractors, Melanie, after four years of steadily rising success, is only now reaching maturity as an artist.
With her new album "Gather Me" out this month, Melanie has achieved a plateau of excellence unmatched in her earlier work.
Sitting In a New York hotel room her guitar close at hand her twenty-five pounds lighter frame enclosed in a genuine safari suit from famed Atacomble and Finch (department store for sporting goods, plain and fancy), Melanie was full of delight for "Gather Me."
"When I was doing the album I wasn't thinking of anything else. It's really the freest album I've ever made. I wasn't worried about the time limit and there wasn't any pressure to get the product out." "Gather Me" is the first album to be released through her own company Neighborhood Productions.
She is in New York re-work some of her songs for Buddah Records her former label. Buddah owns the tapes to discarded songs and had threatened to release them just the they were if Melanie wasn't willing to take them in hand. "I'm Just using a single guitar and me singing. The songs are all just bits and pieces but I'm re-working them so Buddah won't release garbage Some of these things are four years old and just weren't all right for album releases. I'm thinking of calling the album "Patchwork," she laughed "because if I leave it up to Buddah they'll probably call it something dumb like 'Melanie Cutie Pie.' "
That Cutie Pie-Beautiful People Image still stays to haunt Melanie and for the people who have not listened to her growth as an artist "Gather Me" will be something of a surprise. Although Melanie says she truly likes all of her old songs, she is cruelly critical of her singing.
"I can't stand my voice," she says flatly. I really sound funny. I didn't try to sound like that, It just came out. My voice was so high, even on ' Ruby Tuesday ' and that's one of the more recent songs, my voice is so for quivery. It's changed now, truly a physical thing, It got lower from using it."
Although Melanie's songs are extremely personal she refuses to deal with them on a psychological level. "I don't write for any reason," she explains, "I never analyze my songs. It makes me very uncomfortable. I don't regret any of the songs I've written. I like a lot of them more than I used to. Like 'Any Guy.' I didn't like it then. I didn't like anything about it. Now I do. It's a funny song. It's nice to be able to take an old song and find new life in it. I'm interested in doing this album for that reason. It's song I have to do, not songs that I would choose to do. But if I don't do them again, they're going to be released the way they are. It's sort of like being assigned songs to do. It's interesting even from a technician's point of view."
On stage Melanie is anything but the cool technician. Becoming totally involved in singing watching Melanie perform is like watching a play. Like Streisand or Nina Simone, Melanie becomes the lyrics and transcends the arena.
"In a performance I have to focus right on the spot where it hurts .I can't evade it because everyone will see. On record you can evade the spot. But a live performance they'll know right off if you're not getting to the point. It is an emotional drain but that kind of a drain is also a boost. It's that kind of emotional draining that does the same sort of thing a fast does. You starve yourself of something and then you get a rise.
" 1 used to be really stingy with myself and it turned out I was the only one I was really hurting. I wasn't saving anything for myself. It was actually more painful to hold things back, to hold things from coming out. It only hurts you. I've been more open than I was. The easier I let things out the less uncomfortable things are.
It's been getting progressively easier now that people are coming to hear me and they're familiar with how and what I sing. I don't have to prove anything thing anymore. I love it when someone anticipates a word and sings along. In fact" she says frankly, and to the contradiction of most entertainers, "I love it when people call out requests. Itís like a conversation to me. I'm not a showman. I don't come out with witty things to say. I love it when they start talking to me because it makes me comfortable. I'm not really answering someone when I sing a song they've requested, but does become a two-way conversation.
"There are times I'd like a more of a listening situation especially when I'm introducing new songs. The other night I went back to small club in Philadelphia where I used to sing (Main Point) and did two shows and never once sang a song anybody had heard. It was a great feeling I thought this is what it's all about, not singing hit records. It's so good to do something like that to get yourself back" Melanie is about to branch off into acting (one of the reason for her conscientious dieting) and says the one role she would have loved to play was the Liza Minnelli part in the "Sterle Cookoo"
She explains sadly that the only parts that have been offered to her are poor little ugly girls who can't adjust. With her new style, those kind of offers will surely end.
The people around her constantly suggest that she write a musical or an opera, but Melanie honestly says, "It doesn't come to me like that, I'm not good at assigning myself projects to do" She had some two movie scores, but the experiences have left her burned and she refuses to do anymore unless she can work hand in glove with the producer and or director.
This winter she will again be appearing in London for what she calls her "shopping concert".
Back to Chronology
Back to Melanie