Michelle Malone Brings It Back to Where It All Began

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Michelle Malone has been rocking your face off for quite a long career now, but this spring she’s taking it back to where it all began, to quote the Allman Brothers song. She’s just released Slings and Arrows, one of her very best albums, and to support it she’s going on tour with her old friends the Indigo Girls. It’s a relationship that goes back to the very beginnings of the Atlanta music explosion of the late Eighties and beyond.

 “It really did start with them,” Malone remembers. “They were the center of it all. I met them when I was at Agnes Scott in the Eighties, and they were at Emory, and I went to see them at The Dugout, which was in Emory Village. It was a little dive bar where you could get a pitcher of beer for three dollars.  They would bring their own PA and set up, and run their own sound, and play a show. I think Amy was playing a little Ovation guitar.”

 Although Malone was primarily listening to louder music at the time -- “I was a die hard Georgia Satellites fan; to me they were our local Rolling Stones” - she was drawn in by Emily Saliers and Amy Ray’s folk-influenced sound, and she soon found herself in their inner circle. “I met Amy,” she says,  “and I think we went to the Majestic with my friend and Emily, and chit-chatted and ate breakfast, or whatever it is you eat at midnight. I remember I talked to them about the fact that I played and wrote songs, but I had never played out. Because I was scared, and I wanted it to be perfect. And they kinda got a little angry at me for not playing out, and they asked me to come play with them.”

She did. In fact, in the thirty odd years since then, she’s been one of the Indigo Girls’ most valued and frequent collaborators. She’s also carved out quite a career for herself, having released some eighteen albums, garnered numerous awards, and built up a rabid fanbase with her songwriting, her playing, and perhaps most of all with one of the most remarkable voices I’ve ever heard. She’s uniquely able to blow the roof off the place with a loud raucous number, and then to turn right around and whisper a soft song that will break your damn heart. Combining those two abilities was a hallmark of another great Georgia artist by the name of Mr. Otis Redding and, fittingly, Malone covers an Otis song on the new record.

 “I’m a huge Otis Redding fan, she gushes, “and some of my earliest memories are sitting in my parents’ VW bug while ‘Dock of the Bay’ came through the AM radio. And just knowing somehow, at three or four years old, that that was special. It seems like he’s always been in my world. So in 2014 there was a celebration of Georgia music, a concert at Atlanta Symphony Hall. Chuck Leavell was the musical director, and he had just played on my record. He asked me if I’d be part of the show and sing a couple of  Otis Redding songs by with Gregg Allman. I mean, just saying that right now is amazing. So I got to sing ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ that night with him. It was just one of those moments in life, you take a movie of it in your mind, and you just keep it.”

The original plan was to have Allman join her in the studio to record an album version, but sadly he passed away before that could happen. So she called upon an old friend and fellow Georgia music legend, Shawn Mullins, to sing the part (“He was just the most obvious choice to come in and fill those shoes,” she says matter-of-factly, as if she’s talking about asking the next door neighbor for a cup of sugar). The duet is one of the highlights of an exceptionally strong album.

The album was the first she’s recorded completely live in the studio, and it shows; it has an organic quality that just can’t be matched by a more constructed recording. It just has that feel. And in the end, that may be the most fitting compliment that can be given to the record, because it’s so reflective of the artist herself. “I listen to music for a feeling,” Malone muses, “and then I pay attention to the rest of it. Maybe that’s why I’m the type of songwriter I am. I want to feel it first. I’ll think about it later. I’m so tired of thinking by the time I need music.”

You can hear the entire hour plus interview, including live acoustic versions of two songs from the album, at the link above.

For all things Michelle Malone, go to her website here.

To see the new video for "Civil War," go here.

For tickets to Malone’s album release party this weekend at Eddie's Attic in Decatur GA, go here.

You can catch Michelle Malone live at the following shows this Spring:

Mar 24—Eddie's Attic—Decatur, GA—2 shows—CD Release Party

Apr 5—The Foundry—Athens, GA

Apr 7—Unitarian Universalist Society—Rockport, MA

Apr 14—Brickhouse Tavern—Newman, GA

May 5—Matilda’s—Alpharetta, GA


May 10—The Paramount—Huntington, NY

May 11—Garde Arts Center—New London, CT

May 12—Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College—Saratoga Springs, NY

May 14—Stone Mtn Arts Center—Brownfield, ME

May 15—The Cabot Theater—Beverly, MA

May 16—Ridgefield Playhouse—Ridgefield, CT

May 18—The Music Hall—Portsmouth, NH

May 19—UPAC—Kingston, NY

May 20—Lebanon Opera House—Lebanon, NH

May 26—Decatur Arts Festival—Decatur, GA

June 23—Crimson Moon—Dahlonega, GA