Graphic (c) 1996 Brett Greiman

Melanie Interview

by Steve Eaton, August 1996
Pictures by Brett Greiman -Visual Artist
Transcribed and Edited by D.J. Boldinger


Every single year, people make pilgrimage to the spot, it's such a sacred spot, very beautiful, nothing developed, just a field, there's a bronze plaque on a big monument, with the names of people who played there. I was there for the 20th and the 25th, it's always the same thing; the police try to stop people, but people come and set-up tents.


I like playing in big places, it's always more fun to play in small places, because people are more willing to eagerly leave the pub after a period, even have a few drinks, so they feel real comfortable, whereas you play in the big places--on their best behaviour. I really enjoy it, my music should be that way; really enjoying it.


Picture (c) 1996 Brett Greiman I had hit records, I don't think I was pure star material, my personality; I go to a party, I'm the one who ends up in the corner talking to the quietest person in the room, I'm just that kind of person, the hanging out--the gold stuff you have to do, I wasn't that good at it, my husband made-up for it in a lot of ways, but there's just so much a guy can do, so I think, when I have hit records, it's a real shock to me, it wasn't like my goal, when I first started out my goal was to join the Peace Core, that was my thing, but they didn't want folks like this in the Peace Core, so I ended up singing in Greenwich Village, going to acting school, finding out how to express myself, then I met my husband, who was a record producer, and we hit-it-off right away.


In my real personal life, I like walking down the street having nobody at all know or care, but not once I'm in an area where I'm doing a show, people just don't put it together, also the whole mock-up is a private, ordinary person.
For my profession, as far as getting places, having the show and better sound and all that stuff, the more well known, the more you're selling records, the more hype and more promotion; the more people think you're good! It's like my little restaurant; the more people enter the restaurant, the more people think it's good. When you have a hit record, travelling is easier, people, controllers, agents are nicer to you, but you know I don't live for that!
This is as free as I've ever been, as far as doing what I want to do. I don't think it's ever been this way. I have a real strong sense of myself, my style, or whatever, personal vis of what I am, but, when you're constantly counselling people who connect with it, you're wondering what are you doing? So I did a little bit wondering, and now I feel very 'Oh yea, of 'course, right that's what I'm in'. I feel like this is it, this is really my time, it strikes me funny when people come up to me and say "You're just as good as you used to be, terrific" and I think, 'Are you kidding? I'm so much better than I used to be. It's not even close."


I'm getting myself back into this country, Because I have been in Europe, now in Europe I'm really well known, people do come up to me in the street, it's been happening over there, I had a hit record on a big label, but here I don't want to be on a big label, they want you for too long, I like to go off without more than one kind of album a year, I like to do what I want , I don't have mom and Dave and whatever, you can't do that because it's not triple-A enough, and all the different fish and the marketing, they could never figure out where to put me.

Picture (c) 1996 Brett Greiman


I usually do a cross, section, I don't usually do all the hits, I might throw one hit, the whole reason to do this; to have a thing happen to the audience; the people in front of you, that is the whole reason, I don't sit by myself and get off on my own, I really don't, I know many people do.

Old Songs

Q: I read in some 70s interviews where you talked about people just wanting to hear the old songs over and over again.

A: They weren't even that old… There's a difference between those hit records and me now, it's nice to have a song where people say 'oh, that's Melanie's song' or 'hear is some muzak' or something.

Q: There was such feeling in songs like, "I'm Back In Town" and "Any Guy", where did those come from?

A: From being jilted a lot in a very short period of time! (Laugh). Drawn from truth, it just takes one bastard, and you can draw from that, the rest of your life, you really don't need a whole lot of them.

Q: "What Have They Done To My Song, Ma", were they changing your song in the other room?

Picture (c) 1996 Brett GreimanA: Peter was the producer, I wasn't an accomplished musician, I used to express myself in things like, "I want the song to be less fast", I didn't even know to say it wasn't the tempo, but the pattern that is too busy that made it feel fast, I didn't even know that term, how to talk to musicians, so I had to leave it to others to translate what I was wanting and most times it didn't get translated, and that-was-that, so most times I was frustrated in the studio.
That's why for years and years I performed all by myself. I think when I was by myself, I just played the chords, I would have my dynamics, my tempo.
I would embellish this in my head, I was hearing the strings, the drums and everything, but I was implying it on the guitar, I was hoping that everybody was getting everything I was hearing, but I think I was hoping too much.
I wanted to have other musicians with me, but I wasn't feeling good at communicating with them, about what I wanted. There's so many great musicians now because the 'acoustic music thing' is so much bigger than it was when I was starting out, it wasn't a music that was taken seriously at all by the industry, 'can we put a groove to it, can we have a hook', even the folky things that became hits were done with a full rock band. I think I heard my songs more pure, more orchestrated, rather than with a group.

Picture (c) 1996 Brett Greiman

Record Labels

I'm on so many different labels, and some of my hits were even on my own label that went bust, there's very little that has ever been continuously promoted about me, though I've never stopped working. People say why don't I take a little vacation? No…I've been non-stop working.
You don't have a PR company, you don't have a whole business thing going, you don't have the record company sending your records to all the radio stations, so people think 'what happened to her?' Well, I have been working a lot in Europe, I do have a major label in Europe, and they do promote sometimes, I never know when, or when they'll want me.
For so many of the artists on big labels, the label has a vested interest in their artist, so they keep promoting to the stations, but nobody's servicing me to those stations, so if people remember, it's just 'cause they remember.
Picture (c)1996 Brett GreimanI was lucky because Peter was always the person who negotiated the contracts, a lot of people have said that he negotiated a little too good, because they couldn't take quite as much advantage of me as they would have liked to, so they didn't like me very much, a lot of those corporate record companies that I was with, didn't like that I could get out of their contracts so easily. Steve Miller wasn't so lucky, twelve years down-the-road, he signed a lifetime rich-and-famous contract. A lot of people you didn't hear from anymore, because they were locked into these deals, and I wasn't. Every major label, they can't figure out how come they don't own anything, and they don't, I own my stuff.
There's a lot of bootleg stuff on me, I had a record out, that I never put out, it was "La Bamba", I recorded it when I was on Arista with Clive Davis, I don't know how this tape came out, but I recorded a version of "La Bamba", in a studio, that we never mixed, never finished, we never released, it came out in Italy, and it was a Number One record, somebody sent it to me, I wouldn't have believed it, because I went to Italy, and having knowing I had a hit record, I would do "La Bamba", but I didn't know, so I'm singing all these songs that nobody ever heard of, but I didn't know, I found out later.

Picture (c) 1996 Brett Greiman


During the eighties, it was like a wall came down, and anyone who was at Woodstock, or had the vibe of 'organic', 'acoustic', anything to do with that, everybody was dead, it was like there was a war, and we lost, it wasn't defined, no one knew where it took place, but there was a powers-that-be feeling of the wall is down, no more of that stuff. And now onto selling cocaine, it's the eighties, the dance, studio 54, all blitzie, and everybody was doing dance rivers and punk, new-wave, even Neil Young was giving his blitzie new-wave thing with punk band.
Everybody was coming over to me and saying, "Melanie, it's time to grow-up, you have to cross the line, put that guitar down, cut your hair, make the transition from flower child to earth-mother, grow-up and wear something else, something with the Manchester look, "here she is; like a funky chic playing, very natural". Picture (c)1996 Brett Greiman
Everybody had gone nuts, it was a very hard time to continue, there was something in me saying people didn't change, some things change; but it isn't people, people still are the same common denominator, I get up in front of an audience, maybe they would be dressed differently, but we connect. People would be surprised they liked me, "Wow, you're gorgeous, even though you are a relic of the sixties". It was very much like that. There was a written policy on one of the major labels, not to sign anybody over 30. A very strange time to be me.

Q: The Internet?
A: I have to start all that, I'm going to, it's very new and exciting because you can be independent a lot easier now with that connection, so I am definitely gonna.


Both my daughters sing, they've sang since they were little; now they're bigger; they come around with me, but my eldest daughter is having a baby. My son comes with me now, he's just starting.

Jeordie Interview by Steve Eaton, August 1996

MelaniePicture (c) 1996 Brett Greiman Jeordie

Q: What's it like for you singing with Melanie, you actually look like you enjoy it, you look like you're in love with…
A: How could you not enjoy it, I mean it's so much fun, it's fun, it's fun! We've done big and small festivals, small shows and big theatres, I actually like the smaller shows, because this way it's kind of like you really feel like you know the people in the room, I think, also, people get more of what she's saying, but, it's really nice to reach a bunch of people at the same time. In Europe it's all big festivals during the summer time when they have all their big shows.

Q: What is that magic that makes Melanie connect with people?
A: I think it's the ability to communicate what she really feels across to people through the words and music, a lot of people have some pretty good ideas of pretty nice experiences that other people can associate with, but at the same time, you can't always have the ability to get exactly what you want to say down, it gets lost, that's why I think she's incredible doing it, that way, it's like Wow!!

Q: What about your own career?
A: Very soon I'm going to be recording, I did a CD, "A Foreign Film", with Leilah, and that went really well, but it's not exactly what we wanted, but it's pretty good, but I only had one song on that CD, that was my own, it's a really good great song. I re-recorded "Hold on, one, two, three", nothing added yet, we're gonna add stuff to it, but I want to do 3 or 4 more songs and have a mini-CD.

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