The phrases “gypsy soul,” “unforgettable character” and “gorgeous with a unique voice” have all been used to describe Melody Federer, one of the most talented singer-songwriters out there today.
Federer made a late-August stop in New Jersey — to open for Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness at a drive-in show at the Monmouth Park in Oceanport — and recently talked about her musical journey, an intriguing, gutsy undertaking driven by determination and a desire to succeed.
Federer was born in Texas and grew up in St. Louis. “Then I actually moved to New York when I was 18 and lived in New Jersey for a while, on my sister’s couch in Hoboken — home of Sinatra, I believe, I just love him,” she said. “Then I fell in love with this French piano player who was doing a jazz gig in New York, and I saw him when I must have been about 20 years old, and we sort of fell into this whirlwind romance and he convinced me to move to Paris with him, like a month later.
“So, I moved to Paris and we started playing as a duo on the street. He would bring his piano and I would sing. And then we started playing festivals and we got a little deal offer in L.A. So, I moved to L.A. and did that, and then I became a songwriter for others for a while. I went down to Nashville and wrote a bunch of songs for other people and then started releasing my own music again, so now I’m living in Seattle.”
She mentioned her large family, with 70 cousins. Is tennis great Roger Federer possibly one of them?
“I think so, distantly,” she said, with a laugh. “I know that we both like to cause a racket!”
Hmm, another link to greatness; something this performer seems to be encountering more and more as her career progresses. Federer has written music for Kelly Rowland, Hilary Duff and Jacob Whitesides, and recently has been collaborating with the legendary Burt Bacharach.
Where does she draw her inspiration from?
“I think I have sort of weird tastes for a person of my age,” she said. “Just yesterday I was driving and I was listening to The Foundations” — best known for hits such as “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “Now That I’ve Found You” — “and those songs are just perfection to me, and they don’t get old. My dad kind of raised me on James Taylor, who is my ultimate hero, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Doobie Brothers, America. And then I kind of discovered jazz in high school and loved Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and then in Paris more jazz and now pop, country.
“I’m kind of all over the map. I do like a lot of older music from the ’40s to the ’70s. I don’t know why, but it just feels like they really captured something in time with the live musicians.
“One of my first memories was my dad playing my mom a James Taylor song on his guitar. He was self-taught and would play in the house or just to my mom, sometimes, and I remember him singing ‘Blossom’ to her. He also taught me piano by ear. He’d just show me how to play the chords and just play around. He even wrote some songs when I was little, once again for my mom, or about American history, because he really likes American history.”
This vivacious entertainer is a self-professed people person who loves interacting with fans and strangers alike.
“I feel like the conversations that I have with East Coasters in New York and New Jersey are like playing a good game of tennis — lots of back and forth,” she said. “Everybody is so chatty and friendly here. They just chat with me in elevators or at the store and I think, ‘Do they know me?’ Then I remember, ‘Oh okay, I’m on the East Coast and people are friendly.’ ”
She said opening for McMahon “was mind-blowingly cool. I had to pass a COVID test in order to play the show, so waiting on the results made me a little nervous, but I was fine.
“The gig came about through my agent A.J. Paul, because he’s worked with Andrew and they were looking for an acoustic opener, so he submitted me. They got a lot of submissions, and to my shock and amazement they said, ‘Yeah, she can do it,’ and I think KT Tunstall just opened for them and she’s so awesome, and to be among the ranks of her and getting to open for Andrew is probably the coolest show that I’ve played so far in my career. I’m pretty stoked; it was pretty interesting to play for people in their cars. Night 1 was sold out and I think Night 2 was, as well.”
Federer has released a series of singles over the last several months, and for this wise-beyond-her-years artist, this time around is bit special because the material is written by her and for her, not for someone else.
“I have singles that are getting added to rotations at stations,” she said. “The one is called ‘This Town’ (see below) and the newer one is called ‘The Wonder Years.’ I have this finished album that I poured my heart and soul into, the last two years down in Nashville, and really took my time with it. I was really specific with the vision and the instrumentation and the arrangement and lyrics … I just wanted it to be authentic. I’ve written for other people so much and this was my baby, ya know?”
For more about Federer, visit facebook.com/MelodyFedererMusic.
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