Mel Keith & The Strombachs
“There's nothing else in life that gives me what signing does. It's freedom,” notes Moncton, New Brunswick-based singer Mel Keith.
Soft-spoken and inviting, Keith's charming conversational tone is only a taunting hint at the powerful, enigmatic voice featured on her self-titled independent debut solo effort. If singing is freedom, with one swoop of her velvety delivery, impacting lyrics and captivating harmonies—bolstered by a backing outfit she has dubbed The Strombachs—Keith liberates all on this marvel of eponymous magic.
Yet while Keith humbly belies her disarming gift exemplified on engaging tracks such as “Amazing,” “Is Anyone Here” and “Just Like Kathleen,” deeming her natural skills as, “nothing extraordinary,” a host of rousing enthusiasts and national praise resulting in a nomination for an East Coast Music Award assert the enviable power of her abilities.
“I think my honesty and sincerity help me to stand out. When you're honest and true to yourself, others gravitate towards it naturally,” Keith admits, delving into how singing has played a crucial role in her life since childhood, turning into a natural hobby, habit and eventually calling.
“I've loved music ever since I was a little girl. I can't ever remember not having music involved in my life. I used to take great pleasure in listening to my parents' records back in the day. As I grew, I started to learn instruments and then wrote my own songs and started performing. That just led into pursuing it as a career.”
And how exactly does someone with Keith's inherent talent initially recognize her ability? Through the folly of adoration she beams, noting that a musically-indiscriminate upbringing found the likes of diverse acts such as pop/punk stalwarts The Dead Milkmen finding equal footing with celebrity singers including Cindy Lauper in her personal catalogue.
Naturally those disparate influences took hold. Keith inevitably soaked up such rich artistry, which lent a broad autonomy and distinction to her craft while still adhering to one common theme: candied melodies and singable hooks. The results are indisputable on her gem-filled debut.
While Keith notes that the album's pop sensibility and rock foundation is prompted by outside genres, resulting in a truly diverse and unique aural experience, she is adamant about ensuring that a heartfelt sincerity also permeates all of her lyrics in an effort to ensure her music is as enjoyable as it is cathartic.
“The last decade of my life is on this album,” she declares with pride. “I was thinking a lot about family and my personal experiences; how I've grown and changed when I wrote this record but family-oriented themes are most prevalent. I think my grandfather's passing made me reflect on a lot of things, something I think I'll continue to do naturally in the future. It will surface again.”
Apparently it has already. Garnering more life experiences that impact her soul, Keith already foresees more authentic, guileless songs about how to navigate the wonders of life in her future. Once she has an opportunity to process them, that is.
“Everything happens so fast in the unexpected situations life throws at you. You don't have time to sit and process. That's where embracing an art form always helps. I'm sure I've got plenty of songs in me when they're ready to come out. Hopefully other people will find my songs help them too.”