GETTING TO KNOW: MELANIE HORSNELL

Melanie Horsnell grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches before a five year music residency in Sydney, and then a move to rural NSW. With five EP’s and six albums to her name (three of them in the last two years), her work charts her life from Candelo to Paris and back. Her latest CD recorded in the city of love early this year is Quatre Chemins. The album was launched in France and Ireland in late April 2015.

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Image Credit: Emma Bjorndahl

Melanie Horsnell talks to The Street ahead of the launch of her new album, Quatre Chemins.

DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MUSIC.

It is like breathing, I’m always walking around with a soundtrack in my head.  I love to be able to play, to sit down after dinner and sing songs.

WAS THERE A POINT IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU KNEW YOU WANTED TO BE A SINGER/SONGWRITER?

When I was about 20 I won a spot on a youth cd with a song I had written (I’d only written 2! About a guitar player I had a crush on in year 10 ) and at that point I was floating around a little with work, and suddenly this idea dawned that I could be a musician and songwriter.  I’d played music since I was 5, but I never thought of it as a career.  So I quit the supermarket job and flew to London to try and crack the big time.  I ended up writing 50 songs while there, so at least it was an expansive experience!.

FROM BUSKING TO DRIVING THE NUFOLK MOVEMENT TO NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION, WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ALONG THE WAY?

That I want to play forever.  And with that comes the acceptance it’s not a climb up, rather it’s an up and down ride, and that you will play all sorts of rooms to all sorts of crowds, from 5000 people in a huge theatre to one Norwegian tourist in a tiny Dublin pub, and that they are all fun.  Also the artists I ve met, who worked their asses off and are at the top of their scene, they are all absolutely lovely.  It’s rather inspiring, they are nice people to be around.

THE FRENCH LOVE YOUR MUSIC. YOU HAVE WRITTEN SONGS ABOUT THE CITY OF LOVE AND ALSO RECORDED QUATRE CHEMINS WITH MUSICIANS YOU MET WHILE THERE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT PARIS?

Oh Paris! Well I went to Paris to just try and discover its music scene, and next thing you know I’ve gathered a bunch of musicians and we are making an album!  The  musicians there are astounding, they work most nights of the week in small bars, busking, and they are determined to be good at playing, and enjoy themselves.  They sparkle!  Music is enjoyed like wine, part of everyday!  Of course  there is also the old 6am stumble home across pont neuf watching the sunrise over the seine, after singing all night with new friends.  It’s magic.

YOUR VOICE HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS HAVING ‘THE UTMOST DELICATENESS’. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR VOICE IN SHAPE?

Sing sing sing all the time, most of the time I don’t know I’m doing it, just singing while walking down the street and shopping…

YOU HAVE BEEN ON STAGE WITH MANY ESTEEMED MUSICIANS AND THEY WITH YOU? TALK US THROUGH THE PROCESS OF COLLABORATION WITH OTHER MUSICIANS.

I have played support for some amazing musicians such as The Frames (with Glen Hansard) and Jason Mraz, I have to admit I was always rather shy.  I have written songs with lovely songwriters such as Catherine Britt and Wendy Matthews.  Catherine and I just sparked off each other, we are both rather romantic and so it was easy to come up with ideas for songs, and they flowed well.  Sometimes you can get stuck co-writing, and you might want to run off into a corner to write little bits yourself, but with Catherine it was easy and fun!

YOU HAVE THE DISTINCTION OF BEING THE ONLY AUSTRALIAN TO BE FEATURED ON THE CANADIAN POLICE DRAMA TV SERIES ‘FLASHPOINT’. YOUR SONG,  ‘SOMETIMES’ OPENED A SEASON AND WAS PLAYED THROUGHOUT. DID YOU WRITE THE SONG FOR THE SERIES?

No, It is actually written by my friend Simon Cox, he taught it to me years ago when I played The Excelsior in Glebe. It was a song that always made me cry.  I’ve adopted it now, and put it on my first album, and it’s nice when Canadian teenagers send me messages about the song, it seems the people who are having a very hard time enjoy listening to it, I’m glad it helps.

ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS? IS THERE A PROCESS THAT YOU ALWAYS LIKE TO GO THROUGH BEFORE STEPPING OUT ON STAGE?

I might be superstitious! I’m not sure, I like crystal necklaces!  Before I go onstage I like to have a bit of quiet time, I get  a bit wobbly before and after a show and I’ve been known to lock myself into a bathroom purely for the quiet.  I’ve seen some interesting pre-stage prep though, one of my friends eats only raw food and little glasses of chinese medicine.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?

I have another album coming out (because I can’t help myself), a covers record mostly called “songs to sing on a Saturday night”.  I’ll slowly release  that, and head out on a big tour next year in Oz and over seas.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

Gardening actually, I live in a place that I can grow my own food, and the stars are fantastic too.  So between the garden and the stars there are songs I think.

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

I’m reading Henry Lawson, and Barbara Baynton at the moment, oh and Kenneth Slessor.  I’m in an Australian literature phase, I want to write some stories about small town life, and it’s interesting to read these older stories.  There are quite a few brave women in them.

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