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Published on February 10th, 2015 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


Magnolia Memoir – ‘Pale Fire’ aka, Light at the end of the tunnel

Throughout history, there have been those whose magic power is their voice and how they use it to weave a masterpiece for their listeners. Magnolia Memoir and their front woman Mela Lee are master story tellers, who bring their listeners along on some terrifying adventures, depositing them safely at home base.


Magnolia Memoir’s lead storyteller Mela Lee has been known to give reviewers cause to compare her five-octive range voice to the likes of Etta James and Annie Lennox…all very fair and right on but I nominate her as having some NANCY WILSON in her too!!! On the hit single “Odds and Ends” from their recent “Pale Fire” project, she hits a run that was pure jazz and sent shivers down my spine. Check out the video here.


About “Pale Fire”


Conceptually, Pale Fire is also a loose reference to the prolific Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov’s literary work of the same name. As a concept album song-by-song, every track stands on its own, but, if you are a Nabokov fan, you will find a different meaning, as every song on the album has a nod to the book.


But, in addition to the intriguing symmetry between the two works, and how captivating the Pale Fire concept independent of Nabakov references, what makes this a breakthrough album is how the group has used the studio as a canvas to create its most compelling work to date. 


Mela’s own pale fire story of surviving a horrific car crash and relearning how to walk makes the release of the album that more poignant. “My recovery has been nothing short of miraculous,” she says. “This project, this band, and this life are worth fighting for. Without them- I’d be twelve deep in a Percocet haze feeling sorry for myself. That just wasn’t an option.”  That spirit is the Pale Fire.


We got to spend some time with Mela and her “partner in crime” Alexander Burke, in between their other activities. The energy crackled through the phone line as the two tag-teamed responding to questions, playing off one another in that manner long-time teammates have.


Describing the collective of Magnolia Memoir, Mela began, “On the real, We’re a bunch of best friends who get to make music for a living; which is fantastic.” She continues, “Magnolia Memoir is actually an event, it’s something that’s happened, we’ve all come together and it’s magic. We feel like we’re the best dressed kids at the funeral! [laugh]  There’s a darkness to our music but definitely an optimism. We’re the Memoir”


Magnolia Memoir started out small and became bigger than they imagined Mela explains. “Neil Baldock kind of produced several of the tracks because that’s who we started writing with in New Zealand at Roundhead studio. We wrote “Odd and Ends” there and recorded “Silence of the Ink” and “No One Like You” and we thought they were going to be demos but the were so beautiful, “No One Like You” and “Silence of the Ink” that we kept those live recordings on the album. Brandon Friesen heard the music and asked if he could produce some of the tracks and Chris Mullen, who’s been there since the beginning recording demos and putting things together.”


Alexander chimes in here that, “Chris Mullen and I did our first gigs ever in LA. When I did my first recording session, he was the second engineer so I’ve known him, almost since the day I moved to Los Angeles.” Which Mela points out, “Kinda proves the point, it’s a pocket full of friends.”


The two partners travelled in the same circles for a while before actually meeting. Alexander called Mela’s voice a Stradivarius, saying she has incredible range AND he says, she’s one of the most talented song writers he’s ever met. When they actually met in the studio and Alexander experienced Mela’s voice, he thought he was being punked or pranked it was so beautiful. He also points out that Mela’s dual skill set of song writing and singing, is not a common thing in the industry.


Alexander relates that when putting together Mela’s first record, the issue of budget came up and HE, not being a great listener, thought she indicated a total budget of $15,000 and he jumped right in, pulling in players to make the record. Alexander recalled going to Mela’s house and all of her stuff was gone and he asked her what happened…Mela told him he’d gone about $8,000 over budget although he thought he’d come in under budget. As it turns out, Mela had allocated a budget of $1,500!!! Mela had sold all of her belongings to pay the bills! Talk about dedication and belief in oneself and the mission laid before you…


As it turns out, Mela’s money was well spent, the session players recruited for her record, became the group now known as Magnolia Memoir; they are headed into the music history books is my prediction.


There is no group I know, whose lead has a 5 octave vocal range, perfect pitch AND writes hits like this dynamic Alternative Rock band. There is something so inspiring in this group, as each individual has experienced and overcome powerful personal tragedies and turned them into a magical musical experience for their listeners and live show attendees…I’m sure the cell phones are lit up in the audience as Magnolia Memoir takes concert goers on a roller coaster ride supported by the trellis of fantastic tales of woe and triumph…they are the Memoir.


Would that I could give you the entire conversation here in black and white, but to get the full effect, you need to HEAR the conversation, there is no substitute. The pair left me inspired and looking forward to a long future with the band…I met them as a journalist and departed from them a greater fan and supporter than their music alone could ever create…


Find out more on Magnolia Memoir via their official site and check out our “Live Session” below:

About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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