(#39) Melaena Cadiz
"Some days making a good dinner or digging up stuff in our garden is just as fulfilling as writing a great song."
Where did you grow up? Describe that place and its people…
My parents were divorced so I grew up between my mom’s place in a suburb of Kalamazoo, MI and for 2 years of high school with my dad and stepmom in Singapore. Our neighborhood in Kalamazoo was super suburban; each house exactly like the next and cookie-cutter lawns, right off the freeway. Kalamazoo is a really great town actually with two colleges and a lot of culture but as a teenager it seemed suffocating and conservative and boring. When all my parents decided we should live with our Dad for a couple years my brother and I went to Singapore. It was eye-opening to suddenly be living in a huge city with so much diversity and to be an outsider.
What were you like as a child? What did you want to do when you grew up?
I was pretty quiet and shy, but I loved to sing for my relatives when they came over, I’d hide behind the couch and make my Dad introduce me and then run out and sing “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” I wanted to be a singer, a writer, an acrobat.
Where are you now? Was there a particular reason you wanted to come to this place?
My husband and I just moved to Los Angeles. We’d been in New York for ages and spent some time in the California desert last year. It was a real turning point for us, we went home and immediately started packing up and selling off stuff, preparing to move west.
Is there something about it that is especially inspiring to you?
It seems like there’s a great community of artists and musicians out here. It’s so much calmer than New York, I love the light and hearing birds in the morning and being surrounded by bougainvillea and cacti.
How did you start making music? Was there a particular moment when you knew it was what you wanted to pursue?
I always loved to sing and started playing guitar when I was 14. I got more serious about it a few years ago when I decided to make my first album.
What instruments do you play? Do you have any formal training? Self taught?
I play guitar, a little banjo and I’m trying to teach myself the piano. I took guitar lessons for a while from a few different people, blues and classical. My brother’s a classical guitarist and luthier and he’s taught me a lot.
How would you describe your writing process? Music or lyrics first?
It depends, usually a phrase will catch me, either music or lyrics and I build from there.
How would you describe your sound?
I love the folk music of the 60s and 70s and am heavily influenced by that. Lately I’ve wanted to make music that’s really simple and sparse and raw.
What musicians, past or present, inspire you/your music?
I love Springsteen, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills & Nash — all the classics. And as for new music I’ve been listening to Ryley Walker a ton. I love Joanna Newsom, Jessica Pratt. And my friends who make beautiful music inspire me all the time; Matt Bauer, Bones of J.R. Jones, Dana Falconberry to name a few.
How would you say your sound has changed as you have developed as a musician? as a woman?
Definitely, I’ve learned to trust myself more and follow my intuition both in life and in music. I think it’s brought me to a sound that’s more my own.
Congrats on being a new mama! Do you foresee it evolving again now that you are a mother?
Thanks! Absolutely. I feel like with a baby I have to surrender to being totally in the moment all the time. I have to learn to go easy on myself and not be too attached to any particular plan or way of doing things.
What inspires your work? What motivates to you to do what you do?
Lots of things. I find inspiration in my own life and my own struggles. I get a lot of inspiration from the books I read. I’ll find a phrase that sets off my imagination. And other people's stories, the everyday touching moments that you catch every now and then. Like an old man eating an ice cream cone all alone. Or kids all dressed up awkwardly beautiful for prom.
What is the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?
My husband's a photographer and we talk about our art together all the time. He really encouraged me to record my first songs. There’s a cheesy line from a superhero movie we repeat to each other sometimes when we’re in doubt, “Your best is good enough.” Really do your best and be honest with yourself.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken that you feel has paid off?
I’ve taken a lot of stupid and not so stupid risks that have both been epic fails and great successes. One that has really paid off was deciding to up and move to L.A. just two months before having a baby. I really love this town and feel like it’s inspiring for my work and also nourishing as a new mom.
What are your biggest challenges? Do you have an achilles heel?
I have trouble saying no and I always try to please everyone.
What are the things that you want to fill your days with? What are the things that are most important to you?
Spending time with my family. Making music and puttering around our home. The most important things to me are friends and family and having a simple but rich life.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do what you do? Or for anyone who wants to live a more creative life?
Make the work that feels right and honest to you and make the best work you can. You don’t have to make a living off it for it to be a valuable creative endeavor. I found Patti Smith’s book “Just Kids” really inspiring because she and Robert Mapplethorpe just made whatever art they felt like making. Some days making a good dinner or digging up stuff in our garden is just as fulfilling as writing a great song.
What does the word authentic mean to you? How does your work allow you to live authentically?
To me it means following your own compass, doing what you want (without hurting anyone). I try to create work that’s truthful to me and my story and I think that filters into all aspects of my life and vice versa. My husband and I talk about this a lot. The idea that a life well lived is a form of art, then his photographs and my music are almost just relics or documentation of that life.
Do you have a morning ritual to you get you ready for the day? or maybe a way you find balance? escape?
I sit and have my coffee and sit a moment before looking at email or anything. I try to get some yoga in if the baby allows it.
Any badass women you love? Dead or alive?
Jane Goodall for sure.
Karen Blixen and Virginia Woolf.