Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
Melaena Cadiz moved to NYC an aspiring theater actress, but ended up becoming a folk singer. “What I loved about theater was the storytelling and live experience,” she explains, “I just didn’t like auditioning. I didn’t like pretending to be somebody else.”
Cadiz, who has now been residing in the city for nearly a decade, quickly found music to be her preferred form of artistic expression, as through it she could both tell stories, and be herself.
The singer-songwriter’s third album, Deep Below Heaven, which is due out on May 20th, is conceptually based off of a short story written by Sam Shepard. Cadiz explains the connection, saying, “I loved that Motel Chronicles book, and that short story, it’s actually about an actor on a movie set, and he’s riding behind the camera car, and he falls off the motorcycle. It sounds like a fatal accident. I’m not sure what Sam Shepard meant by it, but as (the character’s) falling he says he has a sense of being deep below Heaven.”
Cadiz latched onto the phrase. “I thought it was really poignant. You always think of Heaven as way above, but the idea of being deep below it has a different feeling to it, almost like you’re in a cave reaching up, like crawling up towards something.”
Although Cadiz says she isn’t a religious person, this notion of reaching up to Heaven was something she wanted to work with. “I love the idea of people down here, swarming the earth, struggling, and all of us, pretty much, trying to reach for something better.”
Describing the album as a “book of short stories that each have their own characteristics,” according to Cadiz the two ways in which everything on Deep Below Heaven connect are through her songwriting, and the concept of “reaching for something, striving for peace, and something better.”
The stories of Deep Below Heaven are all personal ones. Cadiz left the theater because she didn’t like pretending to be someone she isn’t, and with each song she sings she reveals a little bit of who she is, or perhaps more precisely, who she was. The present tense doesn’t really apply to Cadiz’s music, as she doesn’t write about her present self, instead she opts to bring the maturity of perspective to the life stories of her past.
Born and raised in Michigan, Cadiz went to college in Seattle, and lived in Paris for two years during a short marriage in her early 20s. One example of this history being in her music is the song “Neon Drag.”
“‘Neon Drag’ I wrote when I was remembering a time in Seattle when I worked at a club out on Aurora Avenue,” she explains, “I worked with a few of my girlfriends out there, and it was a time when we were all kind of struggling, but we were having a lot of fun doing it. We would drive home at five in the morning, and we would listen to Blondie, and it was just these great meandering drives back to where we lived.”
This brings up another theme Cadiz says she consistently works with on Deep Below Heaven, “Those bonds of friendship that you really hold dear.”
Whether it was the wild times in Seattle, the tough times in Paris, where she says, “Making ends meet to be able to eat every day was really a struggle,” or the exciting times of leaving theater for music in NYC, Cadiz has always made it through, and now she has a plethora of stories to show for those efforts. With an emphasis on the personal, and a talent for the use of the narrative, her latest collection of stories will emerge from a place Deep Below Heaven.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.