Take Five with Michelle Malone

Photo by Jolie Loren Photography
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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 19 – Spring 2022

Georgia’s favorite indie-rocker who is known for her “gritty blues-rock” sound, Michelle Malone takes us back to the Seventies in her upcoming album 1977, due to drop April 22, 2022, via BFD/The Orchard. Recorded at Bakos Amp Works in Atlanta, GA, Malone was joined by Doug Kees on guitar, Gerry Hansen on drums, Matt Stallard on bass, Neal Wauchope on keys, and Trish Land on percussion. Special guest vocals include Amy Ray (“River Song”), Eliot Bronson (“Not Who I Used to Be” and “Even The Queen”), and Kevin Kinney (“Powder Keg).

Throughout Malone’s decades-spanning career, she’s collaborated with artists from the late Gregg Allman to Steve Earle, ZZ Top, and the Indigo Girls and released more than a dozen records. She’s performed in every state in the US as well as in Germany, France, Switzerland, Mexico, and Australia.

Your new album 1977 will be dropping on April 22nd. The album has been described as more of an “organic, stripped-down album” as opposed to your previous “gritty blues-rock” albums that you’re known for. Can you share with our readers a little about the album and the inspiration for new music?
I’ve come to realize I’ve changed so much in recent years, and I feel that it’s likely that everyone has to some degree. A lot of the songs on this album were written as therapy to comfort myself, and I figure if they make me feel better, then they’ll be good healing medicine for everyone. I love so many styles of music. From rock to folk to blues… I was exposed to so much great music growing up in a musical family. And this album allows me to really sing my emotions. The past couple of years have been so difficult for all of us. In a way, this record reflects those struggles. I think we are more alike than we are different. And I really just needed to get all of my feelings out. What a great way to express them!

You also produced the album as you have in the past. Is that something you will be doing on all of your future recordings, or do you envision yourself collaborating with other producers, and if so, who would be your dream collaboration?
I love being at the helm. And I’m sure I’ll do it again. It’s such a pure form of creation. Getting to direct the way the music moves.

My dream collaboration…

Not living: Glynn Johns
Living: Peter Asher

Speaking of producing 1977, how did the collaborations with the musicians come about and tell us about the recording process at Bakos Amp Works.
Recording in Georgia and supporting locally is incredibly important to me — there are amazingly talented musicians here who are cut from the same cloth as I am, and we get the Georgia sound. It’s connected to the clay and the pines and our musical roots. I’ve worked with Jeff Bakos on several projects. I think he just “gets me”. It’s so comfortable to be in his studio.

We recorded live to get an organic, honest take. I would sit on the couch and show them the song, and we would figure it out on acoustic guitars while the drummer would listen or tap sticks on the couch. Parts would start to gel, and we would do a take — work out a few kinks in the arrangement, and the basic track would magically appear — when it works, it’s exhilarating! It also helps keep it fresh and in the moment.

I don’t send the songs in advance to the musicians, so no one knows them — not even me, really — at that point, they’re basically sketches. I like to let the songs tell me what they want. It’s my job to pay attention and give them what they need, especially since I’m producing the record. 

The musicians I had play on the record are just so good! Doug Kees, my guitar player, was able to play in a way that was like storytelling. He created such a mood that really reflects the feeling of the songs. Matt Stollard on bass and Gerry Hansen on drums are intuitive players. And Trish Land on percussion, a former tap dancer, is so steady and sure. It’s a dream team

Is there any one song or lyric that speaks to you on this album?
Not who I used to be… the song and the lyric — it kind of speaks for itself. Growth can be messy, but I’m grateful change comes easier to me now.

What guitars did you play on 1977?
Martin and Gibson acoustics. My favorites — and the perfect sound for this record.

1977 Tracklist:

  1. Not Who I Used To Be 
  2. Know My Name
  3. Even The Queen
  4. River Song
  5. Bodyguard
  6. Dust Bowl Man
  7. Buck Knife Man
  8. Powder Keg
  9. Georgia Made
  10. Daggers

All songs written by Michelle Malone except “Not Who I Used to Be” (Michelle Malone/Eliot Bronson), “Even The Queen” (Michelle Malone/Eliot Bronson), and “Dust Bowl Man” (Michelle Malone/Carol Price)
Engineered and mixed by Jeff Bakos

1977 by guitarist, singer, and songwriter Michelle Malone is a beautiful album inspired by her 1970’s rock influences in a stripped-down appeal for fans of rhythm and blues. With beautiful anthems such as “BFD,” Malone demonstrates her songwriting appeal to make a tropical track that brings to mind the sounds of the ocean and the shores to walk on the beach with a song in your head. “Bodyguard” is a melodic anthem with a ballad feel for free spirits everywhere in a dancing rhythm. Rounding up the album is the moody closure “Daggers,” a track similar to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” as a breakup song telling the story of a tumultuous relationship based on co-dependency. 

Malone demonstrates how blues and emotional alternative rock can combine forces to be both retro and modern all at once. Utilizing her own blend of gospel and rock harmonics, 1977 is a massive collective of hope and perseverance through the struggles in life, whether it be personal or professional. This award-winning artist brings together her influences, including Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young, for a classic sound that can also be taken as a modern voice to add creativity for the newer generations. 

It is both positive and emotional aspects with 1977 to show off the artist’s country chops for “Buck Knife Man” that adds attitude to the album. Overall, this album is specific with songwriting skills and a pure demonstration of lyrical talents to showcase the skills of the songwriter and the band. Each note resonates throughout the listener’s own interpretation of each song to make a message of their own. 

Malone is a force to be reckoned with: a guitar goddess who makes her space as a modern rock influence wherever the tide carries her. There’s no stopping this rockstar!

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