Singer-songwriter and West Coast native Mel Parsons discusses her new album Glass Heart with RNZ Music's Alex Behan.
For Mel Parsons, recording her fourth album was by far the most ambitious undertaking of her decade-long career. Flying to LA to record in a studio recently vacated by Fleetwood Mac, to work notable producer Mitchell Froom (Fleetwood Mac, Crowded House, Paul McCartney, Randy Newman) left her feeling blessed and a little humble.
“I really wanted to work with Mitchell after I'd met him. We spent a bit of time together a few years ago and he had an amazing vibe. I was just lucky he was into it.
“If you see the sort of people that Mitchell works with its big guns on big budgets for the most part, so I’m still not quite sure how I managed it. I think I might have been his pro bono case or something.”
Despite having released her last album Drylands over three years ago, the songs on Glass Heart were written just before recording began.
“They’re all pretty fresh. I had been writing since Drylands came out three years ago. I was collecting songs the whole time, but just ended up shelving them.
“Funnily enough I was sending Mitchell songs back and forward before I went over there and I didn’t tell him which were new songs and which songs had been hanging around. I just sent them all through.
"He picked every single new song for the record and of every single old one he said, ‘I’m not feeling it, I’m not feeling it.’”
There is both sadness and hope, endings and new beginnings on Glass Heart. While Mel prefers to keep the details behind her lyrics shrouded in some mystery, the melodies themselves are mysterious even to her.
“The melodies are a pretty unconscious process. I wish I knew where they came from because I’d get more of them.
“Sometimes people ask very directly what a song is about and that’s fine. However, I feel like it’s nicer to be able to listen to them without knowing that because as soon as you know that this song is about xyz then that changes the way that you listen to it.
“It’s harder for you to connect with it on an emotional level.”
There is much on Glass Heart to connect with on an emotional level. The highs and lows of life, love and loss are poignantly presented with lush instrumentation. But Mel is quick to point out that it’s not her that’s sad.
"I’m a really hopeful person I think. Even though there’s a lot of darkness and sadness in my music, I think as a human I’m pretty hopeful.
“The glass heart thing is just that thing when you’re feeling so sad that you feel like you are transparent. People that know you can see right through you.
“And obviously something glass that is dropped is broken. Smashed in fact.”