Songs with Melody
Australian Melody Pool has had a busy year. In July 2013 she released her critically acclaimed debut album The Hurting Scene through a major label and in the months since has played a sold-out tour of Britain, shows in the United States and has somehow found time to begin writing her follow-up release.
Pool, who used crowd funding to record the album in Nashville, has a sound that's been compared to an early Joni Mitchell or Jackson Browne. With jet-setting across the globe, it's little surprise that inspiration for the follow-up to The Hurting Scene can strike at any moment.
"It comes at the most inconvenient times when I'm staying at people's houses and they're asleep or something and I have to whisper into my phone. But I feel like the best [songs] come at any time, they're not planned," Pool says from her home in Kurri Kurri, a small town about 150 kilometres north of Sydney.
What is the creative spark: a lyric, a note, a thought?
"I don't really know, it's really impulsive, I tend to just - I can easily go a while without writing because I don't think of anything - but if I start playing one day it just kind of falls out," Pool says.
"If I've got one line, it's almost like verbal diarrhoea, it just comes out and I just scrawl on the page and I'll be playing guitar at the same time. It kind of all just comes at once."
Like many musicians, Pool says songwriting is its own therapy: "The way that I write is a lot like that; it's mainly when I have something to say or feel like I want to vent about something - whether I'm angry or mad or just empowered.
"When I have something to say it kind of flows out, I don't always know consciously when I write the song. [Later] I'll be like, ‘Oh, that's what I've been thinking about lately, that's what's going on in my life'."
The next stumbling block is being ready to unleash the songs into the public arena, especially those that might share Pool's most intimate thoughts and feelings, showing herself at her most vulnerable. Pool was particularly hesitant about two songs from The Hurting Scene: On the Morrow and Henry.
"I wrote them thinking no-one would ever hear them and I showed them to my producer and he was like, ‘You have to put that on the record', and I was like, ‘I can't do it, it's too close'. He was like, ‘That's what people want, they respond to it and relate to it'. I'm really glad I put them on there even though it was scary at the time."
Fan feedback since the album's release has only reinforced her decision to bare her soul. Her album even helped salvage a friend's broken relationship.
"It's really amazing, I've had a lot of people who feel they relate to the songs a lot and they're going through similar things," Pool says.
"A friend of mine had broken up with his girlfriend and knew that she was listening to my record a lot.
"He started listening to my record to see how she was feeling and why she liked my record so much. He realised how much he was hurting her and he changed and now they're totally in love."
Though Pool is planning a move to Melbourne by the end of the year and feels the pang to tour when she is home, she will always consider Kurri Kurri, in New South Wales' winery-rich Hunter Valley, her base.
"I get homesick when I'm on the road and then when I'm home I get tour sick, like I want to be on tour again," she says.
Pool also plans a return to Nashville this year to record her second album. She hopes to work with the same musicians she did on The Hurting Scene, with the addition of a strings section. She'll also increase the recording time, to somewhere around two to three weeks. It might sound short, but Pool prefers to record live takes of the band playing as one in the studio.
"We did the first record live and in about six days it was all done and I'm hoping to do that again, and try and do it really full on as a live band," she says.
"It's a mixture of actually capturing the song in full and how it is played live, so I guess to me that's how a song is meant to be played. It's also good for me because I do so many gigs. It's kind of like it's more normal and natural for me to play live, so I play my best when I do and I want my best to be on the record."
First, though, Pool heads for New Zealand for a co-headline tour with Kiwi Marlon Williams, who has made a name for himself in Australia since relocating there last year. The shows will give Pool a chance to road test some of the material she's written for album No 2.
"I've been playing a few new ones lately at live shows so I might sneak in a few really new ones and see how people respond to them," she said.
She's looking forward to her home-town show, always a highlight.
"It's amazing, it's awesome. I know so many people [in the crowd], I'll look out and it's like my birthday party or something - all my friends are there.
- Melody Pool and Marlon Williams play Wellington's San Francisco Bath House tomorrow with support from Aldous Harding.
The Dominion Post