Melissa Black is a musician and songwriter with a strong connection to nature, as evident on her new release,
The Eden Project EP.
For the past decade Melissa has been a staple on the original music scene steadily gathering accolades and building a loyal fan base. A chance meeting with singer/songwriter Scott Bird led to a production meeting with Riversong Music and the team was assembled to work on ‘The Eden Project’. Pre-production began mid 2016 and tracking started soon after. As the project developed the musical landscape was revealed and the imagery surrounding the songs came into sharp focus. The production team then developed filming ideas around the stories that were emerging from the songs, after spending time as participating artists at Tarkine in Motion 2017. The quality of the recordings and visual concepts led to Melissa becoming a Riversong Music family artist and a valuable contributor to their environmental arts project.
Melissa says her passion for music began when she was very young. “I used my older brothers record collection for ages, where I discovered Jethro Tull, Cream, Deep Purple, Led Zep all the classics, then I discovered (I think much to my brothers disgust!) Queen and I was off on my own adventure.”
These early influences still inspire her sound today. “There was a lot of hammond organ in my brothers collection which I loved the sound of, then Queen with the piano sealed the deal.”
The title track, ‘Eden’ shines as a key single from the EP, with an enticing piano, strings and guitar intro leading into the full instrumentation evoking comparisons to Neko Case’s album Hell On and Tori Amos.
The hooky chorus of ‘Fallen Angel’ sets it up as a great radio track and the song has already found a warm response on the soundslikecafe network.
A music mentor teacher for children and teens, Melissa is inspired by a broad musical pool. She cites her favourite artists as “most definitely the story tellers”, listing Freddie Mercury, Jeff Lynn, Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Regina Spektor, Elton John for the melodies and Bernie Taupin for the stories, Kate Miller-Heidke, Aurora Jane and Diana Anaid.
Melissa is also a part of an exciting new short film called ‘Merging with takayna’, launching in July, which is part of the Tarkine In Motion project co-ordinated through the environmental action group of former Greens Senator and environmentalist Bob Brown. Takayna is the name of the Tasmanian wilderness also known as Tarkine – Australia’s largest temperate rainforest which is the habitat of many of Australia’s most iconic animals, some of which are endangered.
Check out Melissa talking about the Tarkine and her release on 3CR Melbourne here.
Piano driven songs supported by solid groove, understated guitars and a conversational vocal delivery which evokes the rich Australian landscape and an empowering feminine essence ~ Heart Light Music
The Eden Project EP is out now through Riversong Music.
The video for Eden will be released on the 10th of May, with shows to follow in July surrounding the Tarkine in Motion exhibition in Hobart.
More tour dates below:
2nd May – Guest Host Australian Songwriters Association – Ground N Sound’, 6/23 Musgrave Avenue, Chirn Park Gold Coast 6.30 – 9.30pm.
17th May – Album Showcase – Boho & Co Prospero St, South Murwillumbah NSW
18th May – Launch of New Shop + Album Showcase – Boho & Co Prospero St, South Murwillumbah NSW
29th May – Murwillumbah Farmers Markets (Album Showcase)
Murwillumbah Showgrounds NSW 7am – 11am
6th June – Ground n Sound (Australian Songwriters Association)
Chirn Park, Gold Coast QLD 6.30pm
8th June – Valiant Music (Instore Album Showcase)
Brunswick Heads NSW 11am – 12pm
10th August – Album showcase for Fundraising Support for Cancer Function – House of Gabriel, Riverside Drive, Tumbulgum NSW
August 24th – Ground n Sound (Album Showcase)
Chirn Park, Gold Coast QLD
August 25th – Sphinx Rock Cafe (Album Showcase)
3220 Kyogle Road, Mount Burrell NSW 12pm
Sunday 1st September – The Nook Cafe, 87-89 Tweed Coast Road, Hastings Point, 6.30pm – 8.30pm Bookings 02 6617 6779
Friday 6th September – Marty’s at Caba, 35 Tweed Coast Road, Bogangar (Cabarita), 6.30pm – 9.30pm Bookings 02 6676 3955
Sunday 15th September – Uki Buttery Markets, Uki Village, Kyogle Road from 9.30am to 1.30pm
Connect with Melissa Black:
Fiona Joy (Hawkins) – New Album – Story of Ghosts
Having won many awards for her two previous solo piano albums, Fiona is destined to do the same with Story of Ghosts.
Fiona’s third solo piano album takes her fans on her journey of the past year of her life as she deals with a harrowing year in 2017 and makes no attempts to sugarcoat the emotional’s. The year included many friends and family members getting seriously sick, dying or going insane.!!
She bares it all over the course of these mostly grey-toned melancholy and vulnerable pieces, that draw on her classical background and impressionistic modern yet melodic composition.
‘There is a little madness in the music I write, it only pops out of the calmness momentarily, but enough to know that there is uncertainty in everything we hear, feel and experience. It’s much more classical and very connected to my roots” says Fiona .
“There’s a lot of emotion in it, that part was challenging. But when I get feedback from my fans that I’m touching their lives, and in some way making a difference, that makes it worthwhile.”
She uses the piano to weave interconnected tales with similar motifs – She opens the album with the uplifting and just whimsical enough “Song for Dunnie,” which she wrote for the funeral of Annette (Dunnie) Crossley, one of her best friends and business partner in her company Little Hartley Music. The lushly flowing piece represents a life full of vibrant brightness, good humour and joy.
“Story of Angels” moody hypnosis that leads to attempts to dance and then sudden dream-dashing stops into “Story of Ghosts” the deepest tale is told by the third story song. The contemplative “Story of Insanity” which alternates shards of light and night in a romp of anger tempered by gentle understanding. “Contemplating (Solo) which find Fiona deep in thought, seeking answers in the high notes as tension builds. “Blue Dream” whose high and low dynamics indicate mood swings that shift on a dime during crises. “The White Light” perhaps a place between worlds where high and low notes battle it out for our mortal hearts.
Fiona ‘s choice to work with producer Cookie Marenco reflects Fiona’s appreciation for high quality audio. “Even CD quality is unsatisfying when you’ve heard DSD or SACD, especially when played on a high-end system” says Fiona.
Fans of FLOW, the recently launched hit new age group featuring Fiona, Will Ackerman, Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster, will recognise the closing track “Before the Light” as the beautifully rendered foundation of “Arrival,” the opening track on FLOW’s self-titled debut. In the FLOW version, the darker edges of the piece get subsumed into a lighter hearted grooving vibe. Here it’s allowed to flourish in the shadows, exploring the heavy mysteries of life’s pain that occur before the healing – and wondering along the way if it will ever come.
Fiona recalls asking Ackerman once “What would happen if I ever got happy? Would the creativity dry up?” – since she’s built her artistry and fan base on her incredible musical embrace of sadness.
“No, Fiona, you will just start writing happier music.” He said, surprised at the answer “Maybe down the road, I’ll make a few happy songs”.
But for now, especially on Story of Ghosts we can enjoy the musical beauty and grace that she shares while working through the obstacles to make peace with the sorrow life has thrown her.
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Rachel LaFond – New Album – Encounters of the Beautiful Kind
Come along on a powerful musical journey inspired by Rachel LaFond’s experience, of being a stranger in a new country. New Zealand to be precise where she now calls home.
This beautiful solo Piano Album was recorded in high resolution audio at her home and mastered by the golden ears of Mike Bloemendahl.
The music explores universal human experiences: feelings of loneliness, worries about not being good enough, and the evolution we undergo as existing friendships change or fade while new connections spring to life.
This journey culminates in the realisation that as we bear each other up and connect with one another, we make the world a more beautiful place for all of us.
About Rachel LaFond:
Rachel LaFond is an American composer and pianist now residing in New Zealand who has been steeped in musicality her entire life. Her appreciation of the piano began when she was a toddler as her mother (a piano teacher) played with a young Rachel on her lap. She began formal lessons at age five, and by the time Rachel was eleven, she began teaching lessons herself. She lived in Vienna and studied piano performance there as a teenager, then returned home to major in piano at the University of Washington. After university, she continued to teach and perform professionally, but for years Rachel didn’t realise she had a talent for writing music hidden inside herself until David.
David she had met just weeks ago. Rachel couldn’t stop thinking about him on one rainy autumn afternoon, everything changed. Gazing out the window of her teaching studio, Distraction transformed into inspiration, and by the end of that evening she had finished her first original piece, Loving in the Rain. This first piece stood alone for a while as Rachel got swept up in life’s adventures: Rachel and David got married, quit their jobs, and embarked on a year of long-term travel around the world.
Rachel’s music is inspired by, and engages with, the full depth of human experience. Whether she’s capturing the heady wooziness of falling in love or responding to the chest-cracking pain of Barcelonans who suffered in the terror attack of summer 2017, her pieces are unflinching and compel the listener to lean into the feeling of the song for just a moment more. Rachel’s drive to bring beauty, light, and kindness to dark places through her music lends a striking sense of purpose to her creative work. And she’s just getting started.
All recorded in Auckland, New Zealand in Rachel’s home.
Mastering by Mike Bloemendahl
Connect with Rachel LaFond
Loren Evarts newest album Home Again
Home Again is the 6th original album, of this amazing contemporary pianist. It revisits several pieces previously recorded by Loren in the 1980’s, and eight new ones. It was produced by Grammy award winner Will Ackerman (Windham Hill Records) at his Imaginary Road studio in West River valley, Windham County, Vermont and was engineered by Tom Eaton.
Featuring Grammy-winning artists and Grammy-nominated Artists Eugene Friesen on cello (Paul Winter, Trio Globo), Rhonda Larson on many types of flutes (Paul Winter, Ventus) and Jeff Haynes on percussion (Pat Metheny, Pete Seeger), bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel and King Crimson).
Besides Piano, Loren Evarts has been known to perform by singing, trombone, hammered dulcimer and organ.
Loren has performed professionally in the Connecticut area of USA in a variety of musical situations for over 40 years. He has been grateful to have been involved in performances with artists such as Dave Weckl (Chick Corea), Gerry Neiwood (Chuck Mangione), Everett Silver (Chuck Mangione), Mike Davis (Rolling Stones), Danny Stiles (Bill Watrous), Fred Vigdor (Average White Band), Rhonda Larson (Paul Winter Consort).
About Loren Evarts:
I was in first grade when I heard a fellow classmate play the piano, and I said, “Hey, I want to do that, too.” Of course, I had no idea that you had to practice, which made me think twice about my choice. But due to frequent beatings from my mom, I persisted, Partially kidding!
I started playing classical piano at age 7, but like a lot of kids, I started listening to pop radio in middle school. Fortunately, I was allowed to stick in a few popular tunes in my lessons along with the serious music. In high school I started to get influenced by jazz. My biggest influences were bands like Chicago and Tower of Power, Elton John, James Taylor, Carole King, Jazz singer Al Jarreau, and jazz pianists like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Liz Story.
What can a crowd expect at a live show?
My music is probably best described as a mix of new age, jazz, classical and world. It’s piano-based but sometimes I will add a percussionist, bassist or woodwind player for concerts.
What are your future plans for 2018/2019?
Well, I am an American so, like many of my fellow citizens, I am looking to survive until 2020(enough on politics). But otherwise, At my stage of the game, I just want to put out a good product, and I hope to write some new material now that my newest album has been released. And that means I have to sit down at the piano and start! I am always gratified when people enjoy my music. I no longer crave being a big star. It’s nice being in this place.
FLOW: A DYNAMIC NEW AGE IN MUSIC
Will Ackerman, Fiona Joy Hawkins, Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster Take a Open Approach to Musical Discovery, Embracing Friendship While Building Organic Songs for their eponymous new release–FLOW.
Forty years after Windham Hill became a catalyst for the global musical phenomenon, its bountiful legacy of best-selling solo works (George Winston, Liz Story, Alex DeGrassi, Michael Hedges) and Grammy-winning ensembles (Shadowfax)–extends into a truly new age with FLOW–a new four-piece ensemble comprised of Ackerman and three of today’s most acclaimed independent artists, Australian pianist Fiona Joy Hawkins, acoustic guitarist Lawrence Blatt and flugelhorn master Jeff Oster. All in, FLOW members have accumulated literally dozens of accolades, from GRAMMY® Awards, ZMRs, IMAs, IAMAs and a catalog of #1 albums in the genre.
FLOW, on Blatt’s LMB Music label, came together to record deep in the West River Valley in Southern Vermont, at Imaginary Road Studios, the longtime creative home base of legendary Grammy-winning acoustic guitarist Will Ackerman, the original founder of Windham Hill; the 282-acre property in Windham County has become a hotbed of acoustic excellence over the past 25 years.
Ackerman shared his thoughts on the process of recording with FLOW, saying – “There was a moment in the process of making FLOW with Fiona, Lawrence and Jeff when I felt a hint of panic that my pieces were being altered and transformed into something very different from what I would have done with them on a Will Ackerman record. It was in the moment just after this thought that I realized that FLOW was actually working… that I was experiencing real synergy. The group had become a creative entity unto itself and four dear friends had gathered to create something beyond anything they could have created on their own.Experiments don’t always work. This one worked!?”
As officially announced, the concept of FLOW had its origins in 2015, when Blatt invited Fiona and Oster to join him at Imaginary Road to create an album inspired by the iconic Windham Hill sound and ensembles. Ackerman had already produced several of Fiona Joy Hawkin’s and Oster’s albums plus Blatt’s recordings The Color of Sunshine, Emergence, and Latitudes and Longitudes featuring Oster on horn; Blatt and Fiona met while recording a special project on Blue Coast Music.
Oster remembers that each of them brought two or three songs to the project to which they added their parts under the guidance of Ackerman’s longtime production partner at Imaginary Road, Tom Eaton. The group likens Eaton’s multi-faceted role in the success of the project as that of The Fifth Beatle.
Reflecting on FLOW’s debut project, Oster says, “If you look back into any time of human existence, this need for peaceful breathing and listening has always and will always be deeply important. It’s not only New Age music, it is EVERY AGE music!”
FLOW made their official debut with an album release celebration at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on October 6, 2017. The group is booking concert dates this Spring, including a featured performance at the Zone Music Awards on Saturday May 12th at Roussell Hall in New Orleans; they are nominated for both Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
“By Sari Cohen”
“These are four musicians who are all self-sufficient in their talents. They’re brilliant at making albums that are unique and musically successful as soloists. The lovely surprise is that they, we, all managed with grace and ease to come together and create something new and different from anything any of us had ever done before,” Grammy-winner Will Ackerman explains.
“By Angel Romero”
Flow is a supergroup of musicians who have been involved with New Age music for many years. The term New Age is used to describe a wide range of genres, from easy listening acoustic music to electronic meditation music. In this case, Flow performs peaceful and ethereal instrumental music with smooth jazz, folk, gliding ambient sounds and classical music elements.
Link to USA Tour Dates and Tickets
FLOW hope to tour Australia at select locations in 2019
Read Tom Eaton’s new Q&A talking about his albums Abendromen and most recent one indesterren!
What inspired you to become a composer and who are your early influences?
I started playing piano in high school around 1987 and got into synthesizers at the same time. Mostly I was listening to the pop music of the time, Peter Gabriel, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, but also Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. Through a friend I was led to Windham Hill…Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges and George Winston, and those more acoustic albums balanced the music coming from the Private Music label that was releasing amazing electronic work. So my piano playing was being influenced by the sequences of electronic music and people like Winston, and my electronic work was being influenced by the ambiance and sparseness of the Windham Hill records, which was similar in use of space to what Patrick O’ Hearn was doing at the time. Probably the deepest and most lasting influences were Tangerine Dream and Tim Story.
Tell us a little about how you write, how do the songs come? What gets you going creatively?
Both of my albums that were released in 2017 came from a huge emotional upheaval and life change I was going through. “Abendromen” was a way to process the deep sadness and loss I was feeling, and “Indesterren” was more about me finding my footing in a new chapter of my life. My music frequently starts at the piano, even if the piano doesn’t play a huge part in the finished material. For much of what I doing these days, the first thing I do is create an ambient electric guitar loop as a textural landscape for the piece and then work the melody over that shifting drone. Once I have the bones of melody, usually drawn from one of the piano improvs I’ve got stashed away on video, I start weaving electric guitars, bass, percussion and synthesizers in and around the melody until things seem to find a sense of cohesion.
Your bio mentions that you’ve been a recording engineer since 1993. Tell us more about that?
I opened my first commercial studio in 1993, catering mostly to the folk and singer-songwriter scene around Boston/Cambridge, MA. For seventeen years I produced albums in that genre before a chance opportunity led me to Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road studio in Vermont when Will was in search of an engineer. We hit it off and in the last six years, we’ve produced more than fifty albums together for clients from all over the world. We record at Will’s studio in the mountains of Vermont and then I mix and master at my own studio where I am usually working on some of my own music in addition to the Imaginary Road albums.
What is the first record you bought and why?
I was dj-ing friends parties starting in sixth grade, with my own 45 collections, so it must have been some pop hits of the time. Prince, or Men Without Hats or Hall and Oates, maybe. I definitely remember the first three CDs I bought: Tangerine Dream-Tyger, U2-The Joshua Tree, The Police- Every Breath You Take, The Singles.
What current Australian(or Local) acts inspire you? Ditto for international acts?
I’ve done a bunch of work now with Fiona Joy, both on her Signature Synchronicity album and in her capacity as a member of the FLOW group with Will Ackerman, Jeff Oster and Lawrence Blatt. Working with Fiona is a blast…she is fearless and completely committed in the studio. I adore Damon Albarn’s recent work…his “Everyday Robots” album is brilliant. There’s a rock band from the states called House of Heroes that is amazing, their newest album “Colors” is getting a lot of play here these days!
Tell us a little about your music and what a crowd can expect at a live show?
My music sits somewhere between “pretty” new age, full on electronic music and ambient music…with some electric guitars thrown in for good measure. I wander in and out of using rhythm parts…some songs are percussion driven and others float on those beds of swirling electric guitar. When I’ve played live in the past few years it has been solo piano… the albums are too textural for me to pull them off in concert by myself, so sitting at the piano seems like a direct and familiar way to introduce at least part of my voice to an audience.
Favourite artists of all time?
David Sylvian, The Blue Nile, Tim Story, Tangerine Dream, Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Kate Rusby and Will Ackerman!
Where do you see artist careers heading?
Well, it’s hard to see the financial return side of the business improving anytime soon, but for those that want to be out on the road playing there is still a living to be made. It’s a different music industry model now that the internet allows music to be moved nearly instantly all over the world. I still love making albums that are collections of songs circling around a central theme or feeling, but the world seems to have returned to a more singles-based model, though of course vinyl is coming back to some degree, so there are music listeners who do want to immerse themselves in a longer experience, which is a good thing. I hope that somehow the streaming world comes around to a more artist friendly system, where fans can listen without spending too much money and musicians can get more than fractions of pennies per spin.
What are your future plans for 2017/2018?
I have three albums of my own in the works right now, and the constant cycle of albums that Will and I are working on. So my plans are to sit right here in front of my mixing console and make some music!
Want to listen to Tom’s latest album? Find it here:
Interested in what else Tom Eaton is up to? Check out his socials!
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Rebecca Harrold has spent many years working as a pianist and singer. Since moving to the Boston area she worked extensively with The Company Theater, the Voice Studio of Robert Honeysucker, and recently with Burklyn Ballet of Vermont. A true collaborative musician her abilities and willingness to play and sing diverse styles has taken her to Europe, primarily Italy and Greece. Rebecca recently completed production on ‘The River of Life‘ with Windham Hills founder and producer, Will Ackerman. Available everywhere.
Watch the video for her song ‘We Belong Together‘ here: youtube.com/watch?v=XgP6CGxc2DU
Find the album here: