Miss Melody Gardot sat and spoke with me before a benefit concert held at World Café Live Downstairs in Philadelphia in January. She, with the help of her management team, put together a benefit show for a hospital in Philadelphia, including door prizes and giveaways to all concert attendees. After attempts to get her attention, I finally asked her manager, Joe, if I could talk to her. Out from backstage she came, wearing sunglasses and a hat, and also sporting a cane. I was to find out why very soon.
She came and sat with me at the table where I had been making small talk with the couple sitting next to me. She was very warm and friendly and happy to oblige any questions I had. I found out that Melody is a Philadelphia native by way of South Jersey, just a spit from the city. She was studying fashion at an institute in Philadelphia, so music wasn’t actually the career path she originally chose. But in November 2003, Melody was hit by a car while she was riding her bike home. The accident left her body immobile and brain injured. She would face months of treatments and therapies to try to get her back to “normal.” During this time, music became more than just a hobby to Melody. Now recovery and music were part of her job. Music was encouraged as a therapy for her recovery. We have heard the commercials that say music leads to brainpower. Well, it really is true.
So amid going through treatments to bolster brainpower, learning to walk again, and making music, Melody made a CD. “Some Lessons,” the title of her self-made album, was recorded while she was in a hospital bed.
“I had suffered a brain injury after the accident, and as a result lost much of my short term memory. One doctor suggested I try to play and write. His reasoning was, ‘In your brain you have two sides. Those two sides are connected by many pathways or bridges.’ When I was hit, all of my so called bridges went out, and music is the only thing that has shown remarkable results in rebuilding them.”
You can hear the influence of singers like Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald on this CD. Her style has also been modeled off of Duke Ellington and Cole Porter. Before the accident, Melody sang in clubs to make extra cash for expenses not covered by college tuition, now she’s making music to aid in recovery. Melody made the first batch of CDs at her home, recording them and burning them, then creating labels off of her personal printer. Her room was covered in labels and CD inserts because they had to dry before assembly. “It reached a point where I had made as many as I could afford, and I was starting to get tired, and broke, from the process. I was blessed to have an anonymous person offer to help pay for the costs of professional manufacturing, and only because of this was I able to have a large batch of CDs pressed.”
Melody is managed by JB, of K. Oakoustic Management (www.myspace.com/koakoustic), and her mother. Both have been supportive and helpful in the music aspect of planning shows and promotions, but also caring for her and her health. I asked Melody about the future and if she would like to be signed. She simply answered, “So many people are pro-indie and anti-label nowadays that it’s definitely an issue I think about. You can do a lot as an independent artist, especially with the internet the way that it is. I suppose it would have to be the right kind of offer.”
So many things happened this year that were unexpected, I couldn’t even imagine what a new year could bring. The best thing I can hope for is to continue to be happy. – Melody Gardot