Another record destined to make my top 5 list for this year was released this week - PARISH LINES by Rod Melancon, a South Louisiana native who listens to Springsteen, rocks like Duane Eddy and Josh Homme, and brings it home vocally like that kid from Tupelo, MS did...
Here's a quick Q&A with the artist Rod Melancon, who was produced on PARISH LINES by Brian Whelan, another Dwight Yoakam bandmember out there making great records.
Q. On your new record PARISH LINES, you mention crawdads and rice fields. Was the territory of your youth the bayou, or another area?
ROD: I grew up in a place called Wright. It's basically a farming community. There is a sign on the rice mill that says "If You Lived in Wright You'd Be Home Now." It's surrounded by rice fields. My grandpa was a rice farmer. In that same area, my dad had a crawfish pond for a while. I basically grew up surrounded by those two things. I grew up at the very bottom of the state. It is bayou country.
Q. Did you grow up with zydeco, or cajun fiddle music?
ROD: There are some musicians on my cajun side. My grandma's youngest brother played zydeco music. Doug Kershaw grew up near by where I grew up. I didn't really let the music of the south consume me until I heard Hank Williams Sr. for the first time. That moment struck a chord with me and it hasn't stopped ringing since.
Q. Brian Whelan (Dwight Yoakam's multi-instrumentalist) produced this record. Did you guys verbalize the sound(s) you were going for, and if so, in what terms?
ROD: We started meeting last summer. We would spend alot of time sitting on his porch talking about the songs and how they would sound if we recorded them. He'd tell me to maybe consider a different verse. A very nice way of saying "you could do better." Ill never forget that summer. It really progressed the way I play music. I learned that producing is alot like sculpting. That makes Brian one hell of a sculpter.
Q. Your acoustic-leaning songs on this record are spare and direct, tell haunting stories, and they remind me of Springsteen's NEBRASKA record. Was that a conscious choice?
ROD: Not long after I discovered Hank Williams I discovered Bruce Springsteen and Nebraska. The stories are so visual and the production really brings it to life. The first Springsteen record I got was The Ghost of Tom Joad. It is my favorite album of all time. Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad take me to a different place. The stories consume you.
Q. Which song was easiest to record and why?
ROD: The easiest was Feathers. It was towards the end of the day when we recorded it. I sat in the middle of the room and did it in one take. That was the last song we recorded. It brought everything full circle.
Q. What song was hardest to record and why?
ROD: That's hard to say. Everything went by pretty smooth. Brian handled that whole thing perfectly. Not once did I think "Will this ever end?"
Q. What do you think you've learned about songwriting with the material you put on this record?
ROD:I've learned not to give everything away. Give them an idea but don't give them the answer. Let the listener fill in the blanks. I've also learned not to rush it. Give it time and it will pay off.
Q. You take rockabilly and country conventions on this record, turning them around and making them into something new. What's the key to breathing life into forms of music that are much older than you?
ROD: That goes back to the whole sculpting thing. Though the influences are there it sort of forms its own thing on the way. I love country and rockabilly. They both come from the same place. I spent a lot of years like a clinched fist. My songs were slow and quiet. Brian Whelan gave me the confidence to crash through the goddamn wall.