Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Catching Up With Melissa Stylianou The Silent Movie Interview

Tell us about the record!

M.S. "This record is a document of the material I've been exploring with my band over the past couple of years at 55 Bar at our monthly residency and other concerts.  Some of the songs are pieces I've sung at various times in my career and in different configurations, like "The Folks Who Live On The Hill" and "Moon River" and others are songs I've been enamored of but only recently begun to explore, like the Paul Simon tune and the James Taylor piece.  When I trace many of the tunes back to the moment of initial inspiration, I find they lead to the same place - my husband Jamie Reynolds, with whom I wrote the title track "Silent Movie" and whose band Exitman first introduced a few of these songs to me way back when I was working as a waitress at The Rex Hotel in Toronto in the mid 2000s.  Jamie's weekly gig was on Wednesday nights  - mine was Fridays and while I barely knew him then, the music he was making made quite an impression.  That was where I first heard the Johnny Cash tune and the Joanna Newsom tune.  The Vince Mendoza and Edgar Meyer pieces I'd been singing as wordless songs for years before the lyrics came to me and both of them coalesced shortly before the recording.  Basically, it's been a slow unfolding of a journey getting to this recording and collection of songs and while I almost went into the studio a few times before this recording, everything just felt right when we got to November, 2010.  We had a super fun two days at Bennett Studios with my producer Oded Lev-Ari in the booth helping us get the best out of the performances.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the record came to be in great part due to the backing of many individuals through my Kickstarter campaign and it has been such a great experience connecting with so many folks over the process of the recording and being able to celebrate with them as it's come to be released on one of my favorite jazz labels, Anzic Records. This CD is very personal for me - I have deep associations with each of the songs and I am very happy with the performances we captured.  It represents a side of my personality - introspective, romantic, hopeful, sometimes melancholy.  I am pleased with how we explored the idea of space and texture that we as a band have been working towards, and how we told the stories of the songs as honestly as we could."

The "feel" of the record is more an intimate club date than the traditional dialed in studio performance.Was this really by intent or just a matter of all the stars being in perfect alignment.

M.S - "Firstly, thank you!  Oded and I talked a lot about how we wanted this record to sound and agreed that a very natural and organic sound would be best to capture the live essence of our gigs on recording.  Up until the day of, I was planning on being in the big room with everyone with just a few baffles around me, but I came down with a sinus infection, and figuring we'd probably go back and overdub vocals, I set up in the iso booth.  It's kind of funny, we ended up not going back to re-record the vocals and using all live takes, relying very little on editing.  I was having a lot of fun in the studio - recording is something I don't do that often and it had been many years since I'd done my own thing and I had forgotten how challenging and rewarding it can be.  I knew the material inside out which definitely helped to make me feel free and the band and I are good friends, so the hang was great and the studio was divine! Sadly, Bennett Studios is closed, but I'm sure wherever engineer Dave Kowalski is, he's busy!   I think all the stars were aligned as you say, for us to make music."

What sets "Silent Movie" apart from being the run of the mill vocal record that seems to be getting churned out at alarming speed these days?

M.S.- "I never know how to answer that question.  If it sounds different from other recordings, I hope that's because it sounds like me trying to be as honest as I can and singing songs I adore with people I adore."

The tunes are rather eclectic and i know that is a word that is as played out as "amazing" but how were the tunes chosen and does the set list reflect anything special about you or perhaps what you would like the listener to take away from the recording?

M.S. "- I look at the list of tunes a little differently I think than some people.  These songs, whether written in 1941 or 2004 are like letters I found written by strangers (and some written by me) that I'm picking up and reading.  There's love and loss and happiness and philosophical questions there, and each one a personal (even private) story.  The style of writing is different from song to song, but what we work hard on as a group is finding the essence of the song and exploring it from our musical vantage point, finding the common thread in this diverse group of songs.  Hopefully the listener will feel that, too. -I'd like the listener to have whatever reaction they have to the music (feeling it's hard to wish for an outcome since that is out of my control), but hopefully they will hear our intention in telling these stories and happening upon musical interactions with each other that further those tales."