After three and a half years of work, Irish-Greek singer-songwriter Melina Malone has finally released her debut album Aphrodite for the world to hear. Begun deep in the depths of the first lockdown, drawing influence from neo-soul artists such as Erykah Badu & Jill Scott, as well as the likes of Nao and RAYE, Aphrodite is an 11-track meditation of femininity and inner strength all through the lens of Greek mythology, drawn from Malone’s Greek heritage.
“It actually feels like such a relief to have this album out in the world” Malone grins as we settle down to discuss the record, “It was definitely the last couple of months where I’ve realised how much time I’ve spent thinking about one project and it is taxing”.
“You don’t realise it when it’s happening but the day the album came out it felt like I have ten thousand weights lifted off my shoulders. I had the best night's sleep of my life the day it dropped and it’s been great, finally seeing things come to fruition”.
GP: You’ve been working on Aphrodite for years, you’ve spoken about it as far back as 2020, how does it feel to finally have it out in the world?
“It actually feels like such a relief. It was definitely the last couple of months where I’ve realised how much time I’ve spent thinking about one project and it is taxing. You don’t realise it when it’s happening but the day the album came out it felt like I have 10,000 weights lifted off my shoulders. I had the best nights sleep of my life that day”
GP: When did you commit to making an album?
“It was about three and a half years ago, shortly after the first lockdown. I’d started writing some of the songs but they were never really intended for an album until it came to me one day when I was reading a lot of books about Greek mythology. Looking back, I think the catalyst was COVID and I felt this strange atmosphere where people were… I don’t know, I was grasping for something to do, thinking the way we all were whereby if I don’t do it now when will I, and it just came to me and I went for it.
The name of the album came first, I had Aphrodite as a name and that was the first thing I clung to and everything was built and created around that. It took me three and a half years from then but it was really rewarding, definitely.”
GP: You’ve produced the album with Alex O’Keefe and Adam Shanahan, were they involved from the very beginning?
“They came in about six months into the process. I’d worked with Steven McCann previously and he is a long-time collaborator of mine. We’d started work on two or three of the songs then COVID hit and I was stuck at home and I just had this itch to work with new people and polish this sound which I’d started to cultivate and I found Alex and Adam and we got started. Both are excellent collaborators, but in different ways. I really enjoyed working with them.”
GP: When you start work with a new producer do you present them with a template of sounds your aiming for or how does that process begin?
“I put together a list of people who’s sound I was interested in and Alex was the first one I approached. I was a really big fan of his work in the past and yeah, I showed him three or four demos I had already, I explained the concept for the album, what I wanted to do with it and we had a Zoom and he was really interested. He got the vision really quickly and we just got to work.
Adam came a little later, they both worked on different elements. Adam mixed the whole project and produced two of the tracks and Alex produced the rest. It was similar with Adam, I tentatively sent an email, explained what I was trying to create and asked if they were interested in getting involved and luckily they were which is great. They work together quite a lot so that was great too, it made everything easier. They were very professional and very hard working.”
GP: What was the thought process behind putting this album together? As you previously mentioned there are lots of elements of Greek mythology and history in there, what were you trying to capture with the work?
“As I said, Aphrodite, the name, came first because I was hooked on reading about Greek mythology at the time. At the same time, I was reading a lot of feminist critique and gender theory and they both intersected in a really interesting way I want to see how my work could apply to those themes. From there I tried to draw parallels with what I was writing. I had a song out already by then, 'Ti Ein Afto', which was sung partially in Greek, and that evokes these really woozy, dreamy feelings for me whenever I sing it about wanting to be in Greece and enjoy the warmth of the country and sit in its culture. That was the catalyst for the rest of the songs and how I could tell a story through this lens.
For me, Aphrodite is a concept album of course, but it also tells a story from start to finish. The beginning of the album is the story of someone going through a sense of loss of self and trying to get back to who they are. The loss of self happened through a trauma or a break-up, and it's through the goddess of Aphroditie, the god of love and fertility and femininity, it’s about trying to find your feminine strength again after you go through something like that and that’s the journey I’m trying to portray. The last song, ‘Anywhere’ with the wonderful Max Zaska, is about still being able to love again and love yourself and it's meant to be a very hopeful and positive end to the story”.
GP: Now that the album is out and it's been so well received, what’s the next phase for you?
“I’m working on bringing the album out on the road. I’m currently working towards doing an Irish tour, which opens with a show in Workman’s Cellar with a six-piece band on December 2nd, and then a tour in the new year. To be honest I’m already working on album number two. Because this one took so long, and musically it was done over a year ago, I’ve already started thinking about what’s next and I’m dying to get back to writing again and back in the studio to make new music”
GP: Do you think that newfound drive and excitement to get back in the studio is another manifestation of the weight of the album coming off you now that it’s released?
“Absolutely, 100%. I really struggled a good bit in the last few months to write because this album, especially as an independent artist, was such a huge undertaking that I felt like I couldn’t write anything else until it was out. Now that it's done, I’m just raring to go. I’ll spend a good while gigging this new work, but yeah I’m buzzing to get working on album two.”
GP: Earlier this year, you wrote a piece about the importance of looking after your mental health as an artist, is that something you’ve struggled with in the past?
“Absolutely. I always make this joke actually, because I’m in a very long-term relationship with my partner, over 10 years at this point, I was always like ‘Awh, all I can write is happy love songs, I need to go out and experience some heartbreak to write something new’ which is actually ridiculous when you think about it, like of course not but as artists sometimes there’s a misconception that you need to experience something first hand or go through something to write about it when actually there’s countless different artists who don’t write with that personal touch. I write with stories I hear and see, what people tell me, and I do feel really deeply what other people’s stories are and how they resonate with me. My album is about Greek mythology, I didn’t go through any of that but it still resonates and I hope other people feel that too.”
Melina Malone plays The Workman’s Cellar on 2nd December. Tickets are on sale now here.