Melanie Visits OC and Talks On Woodstock, Love, and Finding Peace
Melanie's voice is soft and raspy at the same time. If you didn't know who you were talking to, you'd have no idea that she played alongside legends at Woodstock and toured around the world. She's immediately kind and humble in her expressions. "I sense that something has got to give, I sense that people are becoming more aware...I'm just very hopeful for humanity," she says. It carries through her stories no matter if she's talking about the music industry, touring, songwriting, or about her beloved, late husband, Peter.
Beautiful, young Melanie
The New York singer--born Melanie Anne Safka--became famous for her songs "Brand New Key," and "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma." She performed for over 500,000 concertgoers at Woodstock in her early 20s. But well after the 60s faded, she continued to write and tour, and would you believe, with the rising of hipsters, she's gained a whole new following.
Melanie will wrap up her tour with Romancing the West, an on-stage documentary about Western music, very shortly, and while the show is running in Orange County she was lovely enough to speak with the Weekly. We're not worthy!
OC Weekly How would you describe Romancing the West?
Melanie (Laughs) That's an interesting question. I would have to say it's been evolving and changing as we go along. I think it's still in its preview stage...it's a real eclectic mix of things. I mean I started out singing a completely different assortment of songs than I sing now. I'm doing "Brand New Key" and a new song, "Angel Watching." I think I sort of represent the Pagan aspect of spirituality in the show. I mean it's a documentary and there are musical styles that go along with visual representations on a screen. I've never heard of anything like it before and that's what got me interested. I just gave it a leap of faith.
How is touring with Romancing the West different than touring as a band?
Oh my God, it's entirely different! I don't have any kind of set; I'm just out on the stage here and there. I normally perform a 90-minute set. Once this tour is over I'm going back to New York and will play all of the favorites and then a bunch of songs, totally new songs off my album, Ever Since You Never Heard of Me.
Do you like that title?
I do like that title! Where did that come from?
I think it came from the pockets I'm in. In some places I'm Queen Melanie, and then in other places no one knows who I am. So, it's addressing that. I'm gonna be putting it out pretty soon. Right now, I just finished a musical that I wrote called "Melanie and The Record Man." My husband passed away two years ago and he was my producer from the very first record. We got married, 45 years together, three children. So, you know, we're dealing with that. And to get myself through the grieving, I just started writing our life together and I just realized how crazy our life was. Totally insane. I met him when I was 18, we had hits, and we went through the historic phases of the Vietnam War, protests and pro-peace demonstrations. I've always found myself more pro-peace than anti-war...So, I wrote this musical with all of that in mind.
You seem to experiment with more outlets than a lot of other musicians. Where do you think you got this from?
I think when I started out I was so young and all I wanted was to be authentic. That's what I thought the 60s were about, being your authentic self. I didn't want someone writing for me - that's why Peter ended up being my manager. I was really quiet when I first started out, just vulnerable. That's probably why I still have a following of any kind. They know that it honors musical expression.
What kind of kid were you growing up?
A natural introvert. I've always been that way to the point where I was painfully shy. I learned how to deal with the world, and you have to be with people especially when you're a performer. But my husband was the ultimate extrovert. We were complete opposites. He was the dynamic one, and people would always guess that he was the famous person. (Laughs) But as a kid, I was the oddball...I felt I was taken wrong most of the time, and I just wanted to disappear.