When Melissa McClelland got together with her band to record a batch of songs she'd written for her third and latest album, she didn’t know how the LP would ultimately take shape. “I really wanted it to be a lot of fun to play live,” she says of her one set objective. “I wanted us to be able to go into the studio, as a band, and play the songs top to finish—just play them live and get a real vibe going in the studio. And then once we started doing that, this kind of old-timey feel came through the production.”
The result was Victoria Day, released in April on Six Shooter Records, on which McClelland marries a vintage, barrelhouse flavor to narratives rife with sensuality and ruinous sin. Produced by her husband, musician Luke Doucet, the album underscores McClelland's progression as an artist—which began with her debut, Stranded in Suburbia, and continued on its followup, Thumbelina’s One Night Stand—including the musical influences that have fostered her talent.
Speaking with Donald Gibson of Blogcritics Magazine, Melissa McClelland discusses her songwriting process in detail and how her most recent efforts manifested on Victoria Day.
On this album, you’ve got a rockabilly, blues thing going on. What inspired you toward those styles?
I’ve always been searching for my voice. And I’m really drawn to a lot of different styles so that doesn’t really help... But when I started singing anything that had a hint of the blues in it or gospel, it just opened my voice up. It stretched everything out. I love those beautiful, slow, spacious songs where I can just enjoy singing. The ones from my previous record, Thumbelina, I knew that the songs that had those qualities are the ones that really stuck with me and [are] the ones I continue to play live. So I knew that on this record, I wanted to take it further into that direction.
Before getting into the studio, what was the songwriting process like? Did you write songs whenever they’d come to you or was it a concerted effort, like, “I’m going to write today”?
My approach to songwriting is so different than it used to be—because it used to be an escape. I’d come home from school [and] to procrastinate from doing my homework or cleaning my room, I’d play my guitar for hours and hours, and write songs. But now my music is my work. I do have to instill discipline into my writing. I have to block off time and tell myself, ‘Okay, I need to work on my songs.’ But usually the initial inspiration of a song is unexpected. It’s usually a line, a lyric, a melody, a chord structure—just one little, little, tiny glimpse of a thing that just catches my attention. And I’ll usually repeat that to myself for months and then finally when I take the time to sit down and work at it, that’s when the song becomes a song. But the little ideas, they still kind of come out of nowhere.