The NewSong team was thrilled to welcome 2018 NewSong Grand Prize Winner, Mel Bryant, to Echo Mountain Recording Studios last month. The songwriter and her Nashville-based band, Mel Bryant and the Mercy Makers, were joined by producer and NewSong founder, Gar Ragland. Melding classic rock and contemporary indie influences, Bryant has compiled a group of songs that tackle big themes, ranging from love and relationships to social justice.
The opportunity to record at Echo Mountain is part of the musician’s grand prize package, and the EP will be released on NewSong Recordings in 2020.
Mel took a break from recording to answer a few questions about the upcoming record.
Mel Bryant: A lot of the songs are justice focused, in a way. There is kind of a dichotomy between the songs that are about, you know, relationship stuff — the really relatable, personal things that everyone goes through … and the songs that zoom out a bit and look at more grand issues that are less personal and more political.
I like to think of things that are political, not in terms of candidates or government issues, but, instead, political as in a woman’s inability to walk alone on a street alone past midnight. That’s a political issue to me, and that is the kind of thing I like to write about. Or the fact that when I was in college, I was scared of being shot on my campus. That’s a political issue, and it’s something that we all have a stake in and we are all worried about and we all want to fix. Those are the things that are important to my music: things that matter. Sometimes things that matter are life and death situations, and sometimes things that matter are when I can’t communicate properly in my relationships. Making those statements in these songs was really important to me.
This has definitely been our best treatment of a recording setup that we have ever had. The crew is so accommodating and patient. The energy in here is amazing. There is such a beautiful ambiance, and the availability of the gear they have here is like nothing we have been able to access before, so from that standpoint it’s been incredible. But also just the feeling of being in that cathedral with stained glass light coming through. And, of course, it sounds amazing.
From a sound perspective, the EP is a marriage of the different sides that this band has been developing over the past few years. We definitely have one foot in really classic rock roots, blues, and delta music roots, coming from our guitarist, and then we have the more modern roots of my childhood musical influences and now. We are continually inspired by music being put out and indie rock influences. So certain songs are more in the classic rock tradition, and certain songs are in the modern. Our goal has been marrying those ideas within each song, and within the whole EP, showing that these two things can coexist to create something that isn’t derivative of classic rock or just another indie rock band. We are paying homage to the historic greats and constantly taking in new musical influences and applying that as well.
For more about Mel Bryant and the Mercy Makers, visit the band’s website. Stay tuned for updates about the new EP release via NewSong Recordings in 2020!