Wolverine Traveler: Q&A with Melaena Cadiz
Shortly we will kick of the new #WolverineTraveler and while you know a lot about photographer Mikael Kennedy and his past journeys with Wolverine, we haven’t fully introduced you to his very talented and lovely wife, Melaena. Equipped with #1000Mile boots, Melaena and Mikael will take off on a month long tour to promote her new album, Deep Below Heaven. Get to know Melaena a bit more through our Q&A session with her below.
As a little girl, what did you want to be “when you grew up?”
An acrobat. Then a writer.
When/how did you start playing music?
I always sang, my parents had to implement a “no-singing-at-the-dinner-table” rule. Then, in high school my dad brought home a classical guitar after one of his business trips, he’s an architect and would travel a lot for work. He gave my brother and I all these songbooks with hits from the 60s & 70s and we became obsessed with learning those and then writing our own songs. My friends and I started a band, played a lot of NIN covers and performed at coffee shops and school festivals.
How would you describe your music? And who or what have been your biggest artistic influences?
I think the best way to describe it is as Americana. It’s influenced by folk, country, rock, blues, sometimes I’m inspired to write something very classic country and sometimes a meandering psychedelic chant. But I think it’s all very much of America and saturated with the places and people I’ve known living around the country.
My biggest musical influences as an artist are pretty classic, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Loretta Lynn, Billie Holiday. I love Joanna Newsom. I’m really drawn to all sorts of music, but always get hooked in by strong lyrics—whether intricate like Joanna Newsom or simple and Hemmingway-esque, like Tom Petty. I’ve been getting into more pop music lately and the economy of words in good pop songs is mesmerizing.
What does your “dream” band look like… who would you most like to play with?
I really got back into Mazzy Star lately, I love their sound, the simplicity and restraint of it. I was just listening to some of Lucinda Williams’ records, she has this great hybrid of classic country and dreamy more contemporary guitar parts woven into it. Emmylou Harris’s “Wrecking Ball” album is like this too, it’s one of my favorites, produced by Daniel Lanois.
I’d love to get to play with a string quartet—my producer Alexander Foote wrote some amazing string parts for this record and I’d love to be able to play them live.
What’s the inspiration behind Deep Below Heaven?
The title comes from a short story out of Sam Shepard’s “Motel Chronicles” about a man in a motorcycle accident. He falls from his Kawasaki and he has the sense of being “deep below heaven, the tallest sky he’d ever seen.” I fell in love with that phrase, this idea of us humans swarming the earth with all our love and sadness, our desires and defeats.
I like to think of the record as a book of short stories, myself and each of the characters struggling in our own universe but united in that struggle, deep below heaven, far from grace, reaching for something.
What are you most excited about as you begin your cross-country tour for Deep Below Heaven? What are you least looking forward to?
I’m so excited to see all these parts of the country where I’ve never been. The Grand Canyon, the Badlands, and catching up with friends along the way. I’m not looking forward to a bunch of 15 hour drive days, but we’ll make some good playlists. And I just got CDs to learn Spanish!
What books are you currently reading or what is your favorite book?
I love “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen, “East of Eden” by Steinbeck, “Of Water & The Spirit” by Malidoma Patrice Some, a really beautiful true story about ritual in West Africa. I just read “Mrs. Dalloway” – I can’t believe I hadn’t read it before, it’s amazing, the way the narrator hops from inside one person’s mind to another and really gets at the things that are so hard to put into words; people’s struggle to connect to one another, our apart-ness, the nature of time passing. Reading that I felt like, “wow, this is what I’ve been trying to capture in a lot of my songs” I guess in a sense it’s what everyone tries to capture and express in their art.
Outside of music, what is your favorite pastime, how do you relax?
I love to cook, my dad just taught me to make Paella, so I’m going to give it a whirl this week. My husband Mikael and I go for walks in the country whenever we are able to get out of town. My girlfriends and I have craft nights when we have the time, we gather at my house and make dinner and paint and sew things—I’ve been working on mobiles for my friends’ babies out of sticks and felt.
What is the one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Maybe a lot of people don’t know I’m half Filipina, my dad was raised in Manila and my mom’s English-Irish from Caro, MI.
A fellow Michigan native, what are a few of your favorite things and places here?
The sleeping bear dunes, I remember going there for the first time as a little girl and how magic and other-worldly they were. My family also spent lots of time at my grandparents cottage in South Haven on Lake Michigan, I had the best summers running around with all my cousins and taking our little inflatable boat out into the waves. That was a really wonderful way to get to grow up.
Stay tuned as we follow Mikael and Melaena on their journey! #WolverineTraveler