'Just Enough Sun': Songs of emotional emergencies

Heather Maloney was able to channel hurt into her work

BRATTLEBORO — This past year was a difficult one for many of us. Singer-songwriter Heather Maloney was not immune to the unsettling zeitgeist of 2017, but as an artist, she was able to channel hurt into her work. The result: an intriguing set of compositions on an EP entitled, "Just Enough Sun."

The new songs came to Maloney in rapid succession. She and producer/band-mate Ryan Hommel decided to record them simply and quickly. "Most of the songs came spilling out in one piece" recalled Maloney in an email earlier this week. "I didn't really have to beg the muse for these ones or chip-away at them over time. These particular songs were emotional emergencies and they ready to see the light of day before I even really know they were brewing."

When Maloney — who will be unveiling her emotional emergencies tomorrow night at The Stone Church — sat down with Hommel to discuss their shared vision for the record, the pair decided to preserve the raw emotions that drove the songs in the first place. "We wanted it to be cathartic but not sloppy," said Maloney. "I think Ryan really drew upon a visceral knowledge of what we were trying capture with that 'live' feeling, and he really made sure that every bit of instrumentation/production added in didn't obscure that feeling, but rather highlighted and intensified it."

The opening track was clearly the outgrowth of some of the personal turmoil Maloney was working through. "There are a lot of changes happening in my life currently, and lately it feels in general like the earth is shifting beneath our collective feet in a way it hadn't been before. The first track "Let Me Stay" is a song I wrote the morning after a visit to my mom's newly empty nest. She made my brother's room into a guest room, and waking up in it made me realize I was much more shaky-kneed when it comes to change than I'd thought. I thought I'd become a surfer, that I'd been through so much change and loss already that I couldn't be fazed anymore. But I'm clearly not as equanimous as I'd hoped, and this song came out through tears that morning."

The EP does contain one song that was not a Maloney original: a shiver-inducing version of Bob Dylan's classic, "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." It is a song she has loved her entire life and Maloney saw that the time was right to breathe new life into it. "(It) feels more alive and relevant than ever To me this song is about an intense time in history, like this one, where hatred is getting louder but love is getting louder too. There is so much work to be done to uproot oppression. And/but I feel strangely optimistic that change will come and that love will ultimately win."

Since the release is so close to the new year, I asked the singer to reflect on the past and present 12 months. "2017 was many things. I struggled but I did my damnedest to hold my heart fiercely open in the face of some ugly stuff. I know a lot of us have. Personally, I got to know hope as a sturdier thing than I'd thought, and that it could remain intact in conditions that should obliterate it. So for 2018, I feel a renewed sense of hope and faith in humanity, in my friends, family, community and in my own silly upward-beating heart. I'm hopeful that we will get wiser and kinder, as individuals and as a country."

What better place to start the healing than a former house of worship? "I'm extremely excited to be singing in this beautiful meant-to-be-sung-in Stone Church, and especially with Ryan, who has a knack for making harmonies the soaring kind I'm just happy and grateful to share a few stories/laughs/cries and, as Graham Nash told me when I asked for his single most important piece of advice in music — to "sing from the heart" to some friends and some strangers, and be present because it's gonna fly by."

Heather Maloney's EP release show is on Friday, Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m. at The Stone Church 210 Main St. Tickets are $15 at stonechurchvt.com or $17 at the door. For more information, call 802-579-9960.

Dave Madeloni may be reached at madeloni@aol.com


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