INTERVIEW: Melanie Bresnan

Hi Melanie, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Great!  Thanks for having me!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Sound Of One Heart”?

Sure, I’d love to!

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

It was inspired by the worst night I can remember in college.  I went to a show in the basement of the shadiest Elks Club in Cambridge with my crush (whom I had dumped my boyfriend for), only to be introduced to his new girlfriend.  And then my ride home for Thanksgiving called to tell me that her mother had broken her neck and she needed me to buy a $120 Amtrak ticket home for the next day (which at least gave me a reason to leave the show).  And then the bus back from Cambridge never showed so I walked the two miles home in the November cold.  And then my little, Freshman cousin called to say his roommate had been caught dealing drugs out of their dorm and now he – the straight-edgiest of straight-edge – was on housing probation.  So I stopped at a packy [basically a liquor store that sells just enough off-brand groceries to not be a liquor store] on my long walk back, drank a six-pack to myself, and wrote “The Sound of One Heart.”

Any plans to release a new music video?

Yes!  I filmed and edited a music video for the “Sound of One Heart” with the help of some friends.  I’m really excited to share what we managed to create with a public park, a bunch of thrift store gear, and a couple shots in front of my washer/drier.

The single comes off your new album Reckless Dreams – what’s the story behind the title?

The album title comes from the title of a song – one that I had written for my high school choir teacher’s retirement.  She had a large part in encouraging me to pursue my dream of a career in music when many other adults in my life were telling me to find a more practical path.  This EP is my first release and is a sum of my many “impractical” skills: songwriting, singing, visual art, production.  And I initially burned through my bank account paying musicians to play on the tracks, so it was certainly “reckless.”

How was the recording and writing process?

It was a great experience.  I spent a lot of time in college learning about the recording process, so it was very comfortable being in the studio.  I was lucky to get some of the most talented people I know to play on the  project (for example, the mandolin player won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival competition with his band a couple months after he tracked for me).  As a songwriter, it’s a very tense but exciting moment to hear your composition played by a band for the first time, so it was really special to hear these amazing musicians translate me ideas into reality.  My boyfriend, Pete Jacobs, handled the engineering and a lot of the production side of things.  It was our first project together at his new studio, Black Dog Recording.  We must have enjoyed the process, because I often assistant engineer clients’ sessions with him now.

As for the writing, since this is my first release and I studied songwriting in college, I had a massive back catalogue of unrecorded songs to filter through. Ultimately all the songs on the album were written within a year or two of each other – and there was a second set of slower tracks that were initially meant to flesh it out to a full-length album.  The EP format felt more appropriate for this first release, but since a couple of the songs were sisters to the the tunes that ultimately ended up on this project (I often write several songs on one topic back to back, especially when they’re inspired by something happening in my life that I’m trying to process), I would like to record them too.  Maybe release a “Cautious Reality” EP as a follow-up, haha.

Did you get to play with other styles in this record?

I don’t normally get to play with a full band, and I had never had the opportunity to work with a pedal steel player or mandolin player (who wasn’t also my father) before this project.  It was way too much fun watching those guys work in the studio.  I’m the kind of person that wants to know how and why everything works and the pedal steel was fascinating.

It was also my first attempt as a bodhrán player to interact with a drum kit on a track.  I had only ever played the bodhrán in traditional Irish sessions where I was the only percussion, so adding it to a pop track like “Like Nothing Can Hurt Us” was a challenge for both Pete and myself.

What role does Nashville plays in your music?

Because I began working on this not too long after I moved down, I think the sound ended up way more Country than it would have had I recorded it elsewhere.  At the time, I had just finished up an internship with the manager of some classic Nashville artists and it was hard not to be inspired by that and the city in general.  I’m really glad it sounds the way it does though; I got to make the Country album that I would want to hear and used a lot of my favorite country artists as references for sound when talking to the producer and musicians.

What aspects of love and dreams did you get to explore on this material?

The cross-section of my life that the EP covers included two break-ups and the beginning of two relationships, so there’s lots of ends and beginnings.  “Like Nothing Can Hurt Us” talks about the risks of starting a new romance  while “Love Song” was my reaction to an ex refusing to let the relationship end.  “Friction” is all about the urge to – well – make “friction” with someone special.

“Bird of Prey” and “Reckless Dreams” delve more into the subject of dreams or surrealism.  “Bird of Prey” is definitely the odd-song-out on the project, but I think it’s one of the gems of the EP.  It takes a first person perspective on the inner thoughts of a raptor in a way that forces the listener to see from the perspective of this sociopathic creature.  Two years after I finished it, it still feels like one of the best songs I’ve ever written.

The coolest thing about all these themes for me is that I’m doing a painting for each song.  Not only do I get to approach the topics as a writer and singer, I also get to reimagine it through the lens of a visual artist.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes!  I’ll be doing an East Coast tour the last week of October through the first week of November.  There’ll be a North East release party at Rockwood Music Hall on October 30th and Nashville release event on November 11th at The Country.

What else is happening next in Melanie Bresnan’s world? 

I’ve already started writing the next EP – and I’m hoping to film another video soon.  I’m also trying to find some free time to indulge my video game habit.  I just finished playing through Uncharted 4 and I’m anxiously awaiting a new Sims expansion, so I’ll need another game to tide me over until I leave on tour.  

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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