This story was originally published by ArtsATL.
Michelle Malone is in the midst of an album release spree. An all-acoustic collection called “Fan Favorites, Vol. 1 Unplugged” has just come out and Malone will perform two shows at Eddie’s Attic on Saturday, May 20, to mark the release.
In addition, she’s deep into the process of composing songs for a new studio album that she hopes to begin recording in August.
In December, the albums she’s recorded with her Christmas band, The Hot Toddies, to sell at concerts will be given a wider release. And she’s also planning to put out a 25th anniversary version of her “Homegrown” album that will be re-mixed and re-mastered with a vinyl edition.
The songs on “Fan Favorites” span three decades of Malone’s career, from “Dimming Soul” and “Blue Suede” on her 1996 album “Beneath the Devil Moon” to a song from her most recent album, “1977.” A bonus track is her version of Christine McVie’s classic “Songbird.” The songs feature Malone and her longtime guitarist, Doug Kees.
Credit: Courtesy of Michelle Malone
Credit: Courtesy of Michelle Malone
Malone spoke to ArtsATL from a hotel room in Austin, Texas, where she and Kees were performing, and touched on the new album and her plans for the upcoming months.
Q: What led you to take this approach, doing acoustic versions of some of your most popular songs?
A: I recorded it in 2020. I’d been live-streaming so much, and obviously acoustically. I was stinking bored. Doug and I went into the studio and made an “unplugged” record of the songs people requested the most during live-streams and at live shows. I thought it was a good way to get into the studio. I didn’t have new songs ready yet for the album that became “1977.” I thought, let’s go into the studio and see what happens.
Q: How did you pick the songs?
A: The fans picked them. I knew what the favorites were because they’re the ones people always request. I started selling the album at shows and online, but I never gave it a release. So that’s what’s happening now and the official release will have three bonus tracks on it. I love this approach. It’s something different for me as well, and that’s exciting.
Q: Did any of the songs change for you as you recorded acoustic versions, in terms of your perspective on them and how you view them?
A: Absolutely. Some of them can take on a whole new meaning when they’re stripped down. And some of them we messed with a little bit: changed the key, changed the vibe, changed the tempo.
Q: You’ve worked with Doug Kees for several years now, both in duo and band settings. How has his presence impacted your music and your sound?
A: Doug is a helluva guitar player. I enjoy playing with him and he brings a lot to the table to every song. We’re very simpatico in terms of influences and how we approach the songs. He’s explorative and he makes it fresh for me. I already know these songs inside and out; he brings a fresh perspective and fresh melody lines. That’s invigorating for me, and I assume it is for an audience as well. You get to hear songs in a whole new way and a new approach.
He’s very well rounded. He can play as many styles as I can sing. And I love that. It’s sort of the yin to my yang. We can do rock ‘n’ roll, we can do folk, and we can do a Hot Toddies jazzier style Christmas band. It’s so much fun for me.
Q: How did you meet?
A: I met him at college. His band was playing a gig at Agnes Scott, and he couldn’t find where he was supposed to be. I happened to be walking near him and he asked me. The weirdest part is I remember it like it was yesterday, and I don’t remember anything, especially something that seemed inconsequential at the time. I wasn’t even performing yet at that point. And we didn’t play music together for several decades. When we had a Drag The River reunion, the original guitarist wasn’t interested in doing it, so the drummer suggested Doug. They had played in several bands together.
Q: What comes next for you?
A: I’ve been writing a lot for the next record and I hope to start recording in August. I’ve been writing with someone, and I’m really excited about the songs we’re getting. And the Hot Toadies recordings that I’ve been selling online and at shows are going to be officially released at Christmas by the same label/distributor that’s releasing the “Unplugged” album.
Next year is the 25th anniversary of my “Homegrown” album. I found all the two-inch tapes and I sent them off to be “baked” and digitized. They literally put the tapes in the oven to make them fresh. We’re going to re-mix it and re-master it and re-release it on vinyl next year. There’s a lot to look forward to.
Michelle Malone Duo
7 and 9:30 p.m. May 20. $30-$60. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur. 1-877-987-6487, eddiesattic.com.
Scott Freeman is executive editor of ArtsATL. He is the author of four books, including the best-selling Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band (which is in development for a feature film) and Otis! The Otis Redding Story. He has worked as an editor at Atlanta magazine and Creative Loafing. He was a reporter for The Macon Telegraph and News, as well as The Providence Journal.
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