Moncton musician Mel Keith has been an integral part of the local music scene over the past decade and on June 9 her newest CD, Mel Keith and The Strombachs is hitting stores nationwide.
“On many dates of that tour, I would show up to Venue X to play a show by myself and the promoters would more or less be looking for my band,” she laughs. “And here in the Maritimes, I play a lot of solo shows, so adding my name in conjunction with that of The Strombachs made sense.”
The last record Keith was involved in was in 2004 with songwriting partner Robin Anne Ettles. The duo named themselves The Ettles-Keith Project.
The CD Imitating Hercules was a collection of eclectic songs which were pitched to film and television with some pleasant success: One of the tracks off of that CD as well as one of the songs on the newest disc were placed in surf videos with a production company based out of Australia.
So here we are five years later and Keith is finally getting around to releasing her sophomore record. It’s been a long journey for her though.
“I went into the studio and made my record but when we arrived at the mixing stage,” she explains, “the engineer had determined that the tracks weren’t usable.
“We spent a lot of time trying to make things work and get the situation resolved without having to spend a lot of money rerecording everything. But ultimately, it couldn’t be resolved and we more or less ended up having to scrap that record.”
Scrapping a record isn’t something you hear of often, especially in the world of independent artists. To boot, the scrapped sessions had received grant funding from the Province of New Brunswick, making the situation that much more bitter to swallow.
To Keith’s credit though, she doesn’t seem bitter about the situation.
“I truly believe that everything happens for a reason,” she explains, “and having the opportunity to make the record a second time was good in a few different respects.
“The most noticeable difference between the two recordings is that the first time around, the record had a pop-rock type of vibe to it. When it came time to record again though, it was more of an Americana vibe running through the songs.”
Having been described as a meld of Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams, the Americana tag suits Keith well, especially since she is the first to admit that she is inclined to write pop-songs first and foremost.
“When we started making the record again, many of the songs had slightly morphed and evolved from the versions we made the first time around,” she says. “Ultimately, it helped me find my own sound, so maybe it was all for the best.”
“When I realized that the record was going to be delayed, there was a huge sense of panic,” Keith admits, but as time progressed, I realized that I was the one making myself panic.
“Then I worried about the songs sounding dated by the time the record was going to eventually come out and again, I had to take a step back and just be confident that the songs would sound as good two years down the road as they did then.”
Ettles produced the artist’s new record, wrote one of the songs and co-wrote another track.
She was a most valuable contributor, says Keith, playing all the instruments on the record except for the drums, which were recorded by Al Bourgeois.
“Robin Anne did a stellar job with this record; her guitar solo on ‘Don’t Walk Away’ is fantastic! And I can’t say enough about her patience with this project given the delays we faced,” Keith says.
Back in February of this year, Keith attended the East Coast Music Awards in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Although Keith admits the environment there is right for the musician who is simply looking to party it up all weekend, she had her battle plan drawn up prior to hitting The Rock.
“Once you decide what you want to get out of the ECMA weekend, it can be a very useful resource,” she says.
“I had planned on doing a whole lot of networking and handshaking and that became a reality for me this past year.
“I made a lot of great contacts that I’m in touch with regularly; I also had the luck of being at the right place at the right time on more than one occasion which turned out to be a huge benefit.”
Keith’s schedule is about to pick up significantly with some touring around the Maritimes this summer and also has a major showcase opportunity coming up with Contact East this coming fall.
Contact East assembles talent buyers from all over Canada, the U.S. as well as the U.K.
Keith and the Strombachs were one of only 45 showcase applicants who had applied for a showcase who are actually receiving one. To be picked to showcase among 200 applications has as much to do with the strong material she brings to the table as it does luck.
This good fortune is not lost on Keith
“I’m thrilled for the opportunity!”
Promotional efforts for the record are starting to ramp up as well. Keith already has one video from the record completed; You Shine was shot and directed by Colleen Furlotte at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre while plans are in the works to shoot a video for Don’t Walk Away soon.
And as far as Keith is concerned, she has got all the time in the world to promote her new record.
“The record has been so long in the making,” she says.
“I will be happy to have it out and grateful for every opportunity we have come our way. Long gone are the days of records having a limited shelf-life.”
Limited shelf-life need not be a concern of Keith’s. These songs will stand the test of time well and are bound to bring her success, whether it be one month after the record’s release or one year.
After all, good things do come to those who wait.
The Mel Keith and The Strombachs CD is on Keith’s own MerleSong Records, distributed by Fontana North/Universal Music Canada and is being launched by the band Thursday June 11 at the Empress Theatre, located behind the Capitol Theatre on Main Street in Moncton.
There’s a parking lot behind the Capitol and the Empress entrance is off adjoining Robinson Court. Admission is free! The celebration runs from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Visit www.capitol.nb.ca for more information.