Michelle Malone brings back the Hot Toddies for Christmas joy

Veteran Atlanta singer-songwriter Michelle Malone is a bit of a musical chameleon who is adept at infusing different aspects of rock, jazz and blues into the same song. And she plays solo and with multiple bands.

And when Christmas time arrives, Malone joins a group of musicians she dubs the Hot Toddies and performs at different venues in metro Atlanta to celebrate the season. This year, she will show up in Newnan, Dahlonega, Fayetteville, Decatur, Avondale Estates and Lawrenceville as well as private events and a concert in Nashville. (Check michellemalone.com for the schedule)

The Hot Toddies concept began in 2017 with guitarist Doug Kees, who she quickly saw was super talented and versatile and “became like a brother to me when we play.”

The band’s style, she said, evokes the 1940s and ‘50s: “It’s early rock and roll Chuck Berry meets whoever came before him.”

And she gloms that feel to some of her childhood Christmas favorites. “I grew up in a musical family,” Malone said. “We were all singers and musicians The music reminds me of my grandmother and singing with her and watching ‘White Christmas’ with the family... I love the way the music makes me feel.”

And since she isn’t the type of musician to just cover songs in obvious ways, she’ll take certain songs and give them a twist. Take Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” which is already a bit melancholy.

“We do that in a minor key,” she said. “It’s dark and swinging. It’s menacing.”

“Deck the Halls,” she said, captures a New Orleans vibe. And “Up on the Housetop” feels more like “Tequila.”

The setlist, she said, swings between songs that tug at the heartstrings and those that make people dance. “That’s how I do most of my shows no matter the genre,” she said.

Malone, who has been a regular presence in the Atlanta music scene for more than three decades, used to do more than 200 shows a year. She has trimmed back down to about 130 this past year, which is also the first year since 2019 that would be deemed a “normal” one for musicians.

“I enjoy what I do but I’ve come to the point where it’s not always my focal point,” she said. “I also like to have a life outside of music. I like to read. I’m a seeker. I like metaphysical and spirituality.”

But she will still do her annual New Year’s shows at Eddie’s Attic. The early show will be acoustic and the later show a full band with six people squeezed on that tiny stage. Sometimes, she said, she’ll play guitar on a table. “I haven’t had any accidents yet,” she said.

She now lives down south of Atlanta. “I kind of needed to get out of the fray,” she said. “Growing up in Buckhead, it felt so much smaller. You could walk everywhere. I’d go to the mall after school with friends and play pinball. I went to Peachtree Road Methodist Church. It’s now gotten so big and out of control.”

She said she was driving up West Peachtree the other day and felt like an outsider. “It’s unrecognizable in a lot of places,” she said. “I love trees and I don’t like the frenetic vibes. I now live in a quieter place with a lot more trees. I’m happy.”

Malone said she made it through the pandemic in one piece. “I worked my [expletive] off trying to make it work,” she said. “I connected with a lot of different people. I started Patreon and did live streams every week. I did something called Six Packs. People would hire me to come to their house and sing to them and their neighbors in their front yard. We’d chit chat. Then I’d hop in my car and go home.”

Fans kept her financially solvent without touring money. “They were amazing and generous,” she said. “It worked out really well.”

Malone earlier this year released an acoustic album paying homage to 1970s Lauren Canyon-style singer songwriter music called “1977.”

“Everyone has received the record real well,” she said. “We got a lot of airplay, the videos are doing great. I am grateful and excited.”

Malone tapped into the multi-generational appeal of the likes of the Eagles, Carole King and Fleetwood Mac.

“I think the music of that era speaks to people in a completely different way,” she mused. “I don’t know if it was more authentic or not. It was recorded by humans and it hardly sounded perfect and that resonates. I like to feel and hear the human element in music.”

A SAMPLING OF UPCOMING MICHELLE MALONE AND HOT TODDIES SHOWS

Thursday, Dec. 8, 7:30-10:30 p.m., $25, Downstairs at Redneck Gourmet, 11 North Court Square Newnan, eventbrite.com

Sunday, Dec. 18, 8 p.m., $25, Napoleon’s, 2836 Lavista Road, Atlanta, freshtix.com

Friday, Dec. 23, 8:30 p.m, $12-$49, 37 Main, 106 North Avondale Road, Avondale Estates, eventbrite.com

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