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Roots, Rock and a Can of Georgia Whoop-Ass: Michelle Malone Stays Strong

Roots, Rock and a Can of Georgia Whoop-Ass: Michelle Malone Stays Strong
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By Stephanie Schroeder

Country music artists have devout fans and sell tons of records because they sing about how life really is. Americana, country music’s hipper colleague, has stars like Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle penning and recording songs that tell a story as opposed to beats that just go oomph, oomph, oomph. There are more Americana roots-rock stars with true hard luck stories and tales to tell than the one-hit wonders fabricated by The Voice and American Idol.

In the latter category is singer/songwriter Michelle Malone. She’s also in the category of “those who will get there someday” [to the cocktail hour of life]. Malone’s singular brand of “Americana roots rock” via her 13th release “Stronger Than You Think” is an inspiration to all ages.

She dedicates her new offering to “those of you who are fighting the good fight for your life, your family, your sanity,” certainly an intriguing invitation to speak with Malone for further meaning and exploration.

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“Most everything’s a true story for me and I literally went back to the place I used to live and that’s (“Stopmin’ Ground”) the whole story,” she tells Fifty Is The New Fifty.

“It was pretty sad – the place I grew up was an apartment complex, and I just had the fondest memoires of it. I remember learning how to ride a bike there, learning how to swim, running around in the woods and the creek. I went back and wanted to show [her wife] Trish and I’ll be dammed if it didn’t become the ghetto, it was so run down and there where homeless people living on the trail where I used to walk to school, living cardboard boxes, which is really, really sad.”

Malone says the point of the song, and the entire album, is that you should never go back in time because the memoires we are making now are so much better. “We need to just keep moving forward and accepting where we are now and looking forward and not backwards. Who knows how much time we have,” Malone asks rhetorically, “and that’s true at any age…it could be 40 years or 40 minutes.”

“I’m at this glass half full point in my life and my new modus operandi is getting onstage and make a conscious effort to create a happy, joyful and fun environment for people to have an escape from their cares for an hour or so, I believe that’s the job of music.”

Malone, who signed with Clive Davis, then at Arista Records, while in college, was later with Velvel Records. She started her own label, SBS Records, in 1992 to have more control over her career. She writes, records, and consistently tours nationally and internationally.

Music is transformative and Malone says, “I’ve had in recent years more than a couple of friends who have come up against serious health issues, housing issues, you name it. People are fighting for their lives and they are fighting for their sanity…they’ve been out of work for a year or two or more and there are all kinds of difficulties. And here I am seemingly skating through life unscathed, I’ve come up against a few things, but nothing like that and I feel incredibly fortunate and I just want to help in some way.”

Malone says she wanted to relate to people she knew who needed it and bring them a joy and a little relief with her music, “So I made a conscious effort to write songs that would inspire and power people whether it would give them joy or strength or whatever….”

“It’s so much where we get to at this point in our lives and it takes a while, honestly. This past year, from April to April, I played in Kristian Bush‘s band and it was fun and different. He is such a talent and a pleasure to work with and his whole thing is to bring joy to people and that was really inspiring to me as well. A lot of inspiration for this record came from his entire attitude because I found when I played with his band, I was always happy and you can’t beat that!

Insert Image 2 Michelle Malone_Photographed by Reverend Charley Photography

What Malone is doing right now is really stripped down when she plays live, it’s totally unplugged. “I have commented on more serious things throughout my career and I’ve had a few moments where I’ve been known to get political, but at this point I just really want to have fun,” she says.

The beauty of Americana is that it is real life, about building brick by brick and not being an overnight sensation or winning the lottery. These types of stories appeal to everyone in every demographic. Michelle Malone’s single “When I Grow Up” on her new CD expresses exactly this sentiment:

“When I Grow Up” speaks decidedly to those of us over 50. “I don’t think many of us feel grown up no matter how old we get. I had gotten to that point where I just wanted to be serious all the time and it was all about success and then I just got to where I just want to have fun and enjoy myself while I can, and that’s what the song is about.” Malone says she recently made a video for the song – “It starts out very serious and then it gets really fun and just ridiculous,” she says, laughing.

Even with consistently excellent reviews and multiple awards, Malone remains largely unknown to mainstream audiences, but that hasn’t limited her output or dampened her passion for the art, or for championing the underdogs. She is her own example, going strong with a 20-year-and-counting career that doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.

You can order “Stronger Than You Think” (along with all of Malone’s other CDs) from the store on her website. “Stronger” will release on iTunes in the fall.

 

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Stephanie Schroeder
Stephanie Schroeder is freelance writer and activist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been published The Guardian US, The Brooklyn Paper, Curve, Chelsea Now, Passport, and others. She is the author of the memoir Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide.