We caught up with Malerie Day from Townman Charged about her transition into the lead-singer-songwriter role in Wildlife, the challenges of coming to music as a "late bloomer" and how Against Me songs drove her to her current shred state.
Purple or green?
Ocean or mountain?
Mountains on the ocean?
I want both together, I want it all!
Country or futurist?
Country all the way.
Gold or silver?
What's the first instrument? Tell me about how you started in music?
Piano, I played piano when I was a kid for around seven years. I wanted to do it but my parents forced me to practice all the time and it got to a point where it was just stressful and I didn't enjoy it anymore so I stopped. I was twelve.
I learned the Suzuki method: which is where you learn by hearing and doing. Your teacher would sit on a bench with you and literally teach you what to play. She'd record me and send me home with a tape to rehear myself.
Malerie is a quiet force with a patient way about her. Much like her music she'll unexpectedly burst from her reserved persona with bright enthusiasm. She looks up from her hands to add:
And so when I taught myself how to play guitar I did the same thing, I play by hearing, by what I feel. I want to get more technical, because, like I said, the way that I learned wasn't technical at all, and now I'm at a place where I need more technical skills to move forward. Voice lessons or on my list too.
When did you start playing music again?
I taught myself guitar one summer when I was home from college, I was about 19; kind of crazy what I late bloomer I was in life and in music. (She laughs.) I wanted to learn "Against me" songs to play them with my friends. I started playing the banjo when Fritz, the singer of Townman Charged and my boyfriend at the time, got me one for Hanukkah, the most perfect gift ever, and that's when we started playing together. Before that I was in his band The Smokey Barrel band where I provided back up and played the tambourine: that was my role. It was really fun.
I didn't start writing music until I was about 22-23 here in Newport and my songs weren't very accessible for a band, and I didn't really know how to jam or how to collaborate really, except if someone else had a song. I was writing very ethereal dreamy folk music which you can still find on Sound Cloud (Malerie Day). I knew how to provide accompaniment and how to create harmonies so that was the easiest way to get into it, which is what I did with Townman.
With my new act Wild Life it is the very first time I'm fronting a band. I was reluctant but convinced by my best friend and drummer Matt Reinhardt (Townman Charged and Wild Life) and I was like "i don't know, they're folk songs, I don't know how to make them work" and he urged me to "feel what it would feel like with a band." When I plugged the guitar and pedals every thing changed. My whole writing style shifted and I just took it from there, writing a bunch of new songs; I can't turn back!
What happened with Townman Charged?
The band broke up. Playing with music with a partner is an amazing thing, its' an amazing way to bond and connect and to share your togetherness, but sometimes it doesn't always work out. But, I don't' think it's good to have any regrets in life at all, about anything, so. You just have to appreciate it for what it was and how it helped you grow.
How is vulnerability exhibited through the music you play with Wild Life? How does it feel to be a female lead?
Vulnerability huge in terms of song writing. If anyone has seen me perform they'll know what I'm talking about. Because a lot of my songs are very emotional, and personal, and it took me a while to get used to the thought that I'd be sharing that kind of stuff in front of people.
My experience hasn't been unique in that a lot of my insecurity was coupled with being a woman and anticipation of being treated differently because of that. You really do get a sense that the music biz is a man's world but I can feel that changing. With Wild Life I bring what I have and it works out, thats what matters. It helps a lot that I have so much trust with my bandmates Matt and Nick. It means a lot to me to have that kind of safety when working on material, turning something emotional into something totally fun and full of energy. They're super supportive. It's good to be in an empowered position and feeling the confidence. This [is reflected not only in the] material but the way I perform it; the way I present it is very raw. It's just what comes out naturally and that's what I value about being a musician.
I think about all the influential artists that I look up to and I channel that; they don't hold back and I realize that that's what art is all about. Artists like Angel Olsen have taught me to move towards what inspires you; even if that is album after album about heart break as it is in her case. I'm like: "I know what you've been through oh my god!" Big Thief is a big influence for me too; Adrianne Lenker is amazing and she's got that kind of like raw power but is very sensitive and I feel I like I can relate to that.
That's awesome. So what's next for Wild Life?
We just finished recording a 4 track EP at Big Nice Studio in Pawtucket, it was my first full studio experience and I learned so much. It felt good to just jump right in to the process with a sound engineer that really got us. We're going to release that EP this spring; probably in April. Then go on a Northeast tour around May!
CATCH WILD LIFE PLAYING LIVE AT JIMMY'S SALOON ON JANUARY 27th, 10PM-1AM