interview by Tara Kelly Kearns
Although she now lives in Paris, France, Melodie Knight is a name that still rings throughout Seattle’s recent music history. Graced with a lovely voice, dynamic stage presence, and a charismatic personality, it doesn’t take long for people to be drawn to her. These traits have afforded her many opportunities, including recording with many local Seattle favorites such as Bryan John Appleby, Benjamin Doerr of St. Paul De Vence, Hey Marseilles, Jon Russell from The Head and The Heart, and folk-father Damien Jurado. She was also a member of Mychal Cohen’s band Campfire OK from 2010-2012. Most recently, she contributed to the solo project of Benjamin Verdoes (of Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band and Iska Dhaaf) and will be accompanying him on stage at The Triple Door tonight right here in Seattle.
In the following Q&A, Knight discusses what she’s been up to, the challenges she’s faced while living overseas, what she’s looking forward to visiting the USA, and also talks about the upcoming show with Verdoes.
What have you been doing since you arrived in Paris?
I’m writing music! I’ve just started working with an English composer writing music for a character I created named “Charlie Kind” (a very big ‘thank you’ to Mychal Cohen for the name). The songs are mostly written and now I’m working on the character development and stage persona. We are dreaming up some epic shows.
I’m [also] toying with another project more along the lines of a “rock opera”. It is loosely based on the stories of an old and very famous actress I [assisted] last year in Paris. The production is currently in its first draft writing phase. I’m assuming the research, writing, funding, casting, etc, [will] take a while, but I am excited to be finding my visionary team.
[I’m working on] another project with electronic music producer, Matt Leschuck from Seattle, [whom] I met when working at Caffe Vita. Our creative process [entails him] writing the beats and general flow of the song and I write the lyrics, work out the melody, and sing. Since setting up a home studio here in my apartment [in Paris], we’ve started production [and] I’m hoping to get the songs finished this year and move on to even more fun working on the videos to go with each track. I’ve become very influenced by the Swedish band iamamiwhoami and their visual album “kin”. Check it out -- flawless and beautiful.
What was it like moving to Paris?
I had imagined that there were many big cities in France (as there are in the States. ie LA, Chicago, Denver) and that I could choose the one that fit me best. After traveling around a bit, I found that there are some larger cities, but none are as progressive, diverse, and opportunity giving as Paris. That being said, Paris is still tough ground for an Anglophone. I came here not thinking that our “differences” were as great as they truly are, but it’s all in the small things: how you “share” a sidewalk, how you order food, how you greet people. I’ve spent this past year taking the time and observing everything [and] just now feel just a tiny bit more comfortable in participating in the day-to-day French lifestyle. I eat my baguette and drink my coffee every morning, sit down for lunch and go out for late night drinks just like all the other kids here.
What kinds of people have you been hanging out with there?
[This] city has given me the wildest friends. They are from everywhere. They have seen so much. Their projects are remarkable and culture influencing. Paris does a good job at filtering out the boring people and leaving the “cream of the crop”. I’m happy and honored to be a part of the “making” and “shaping” here.
Are you fluent in French yet?
Sure. But I collect new words and grammar in every conversation. I understand most things, can express my own thoughts and questions, and even find myself self-talking in French. No dreaming in French yet, though…
What’s your favorite thing to eat in France?
Cheese and pastries. All day. Everyday.
What do you miss most about the USA! USA! USA!?
I miss the optimism.
The openness between strangers.
The familiarity of the cities.
The ease of just getting things done.
What brings you back to the States at this time?
Just before leaving the states for France [in 2012], Benjamin Verdoes asked me to sing on a couple tracks [including "Under the Layers" below] for his first solo record, The Evil Eye. [Recently], he played a show for the digital release of the album at the Tractor Tavern and then planned an epic vinyl release at the Triple Door. Upon hearing that, I took the leap, deciding it was time to return for a visit and be a part of this very exciting night.
Can you describe your experience working with Benjamin Verdoes?
Working with Ben has been [an] epic healing for me in music making. I’ve been a part of many musical ventures that turned sour and I was in desperate need of care. Even though I only sing on a couple songs on his new record, he made me feel like I was a part of the entire process: asking for lyrical ideas during the first recording session in Seattle, putting me in contact with Ken Stringfellow here in Paris to engineer a recording session to finish the song “Under the Layers”, keeping me updated on when songs were getting mixed and mastered, and inviting me with open arms to come sing at his upcoming vinyl release show. He has been an incredible cheerleader as I moved, set up camp, and started dreaming again. I’m honored to have participated in the making of [his] record and even more excited to perform alongside him with a special secret “orchestra” also backing. Our friend John Van Deusen of The Lonely Forest will be opening the show. I love that dude. Such a kind soul.
What else do you look forward to while you’re in Seattle?
Eating at Uneeda Burger, drinking so much coffee, going to the Fremont and Ballard Sunday markets, hanging out at Conor Byrne Pub, laughing with old friends, playing the piano at my old house, visiting all the best “views” and riding the ferry over to Bainbridge.
Check out Melodie tonight at The Triple Door for Benjamin Verdoes’ solo vinyl release show featuring the Seattle Rock Orchestra. Find out more here.