Woman of heart and mind

Mar 31, 2004 at 12:00 am

On the morning of the write-up/I was on my way to the darkest room in town/and my reputation was about to take a dive below the ground. I’m not a liar/I’m not a liar.

—“The Write-Up” by Mascott

When asked about the significance of these powerful words, songwriter Kendall Meade of Mascott replies plaintively, “I don’t want to say.”

Having just released her second album, Dreamer’s Book (Red Panda), her history as an ego-free songwriter precedes her. It’s unlikely that she’ll expound too much on the virtues of her own words or songs. Besides, she just raced home from work on her bicycle to grant us this interview and she’s pooped. She’s modest — so much so that it seems as though I might be talking to the wrong person.

After listening to the unsullied sounds of her music nonstop for the past month, I find Meade’s casual demeanor a little unexpected. She should be otherworldly, her words covered in fairy dust. It turns out — she’s just a gal.

After moving from her hometown of Grosse Pointe, to Brooklyn, N.Y., in the early ’90s, Meade started up the grrrly punk/pop outfit, Juicy. “It was sort of in the joke vein,” she explains of the all-female rock band. And even though Juicy had their own underground heyday, their split in 1997 was the just the open door Meade needed to pursue her natural attraction to the softer sides of popular music. Not unlike the path of ex-’til tuesday crooner-cum-singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, Meade’s musical prowess was much better-suited as romantic. Post-grrrl-band breakup, she would proceed to tour with and learn from such indie rock worthies as Helium, Spinanes and Sparklehorse.

When it came time for Meade to break out a solo effort, it would take more than her road-experience to put together a collection of songs. She would take a yearlong sojourn back to her parent’s place in Grosse Pointe to write the album. “I went home because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen … living in New York was becoming stressful for me, and I began to feel that [New York] was running my life …” she admitted in a November 2000 L.A. Times interview.

The result would be Follow the Sound on Le Grand Magistery — and with the help of Ladybug Transistor’s Jeffrey Baron and Chicago-scene godhead, Jim O’Rourke — this lovable freshman effort would be adored by music journos everywhere. They would christen her “breezy” and “elegant” — her voice a new leaf.

But it was while on tour with the brilliant Sparklehorse, that she met the producer who would help her to complete her sound: Al Weatherhead. “Al and I would switch back and forth off of keyboards and bass and I loved the way we fit together,” Meade explains. Certainly the seemly union had a lot to do with the loveliness of Mascott’s second album, Dreamer’s Book. Simmering with catchy hooks and joyous bridges, Meade uses feathery keyboard work and a near-impossible concoction of whispers and vibrato to create a sound that is accessible and profoundly memorable. And she’s quick to give credit where it’s due — she makes a point to mention that one of her favorite songs “Turn Off/Turn On” on Dreamer’s Book, was co-written by pal Doug Derby.

Meade now lives with a friend in Manhattan, but when talking about home she admits that leaving Detroit for Brooklyn might have impeded the course of her music career.

“For a lot of reasons … I should have stayed in Detroit,” she says. New York City’s high cost of living saddles most aspiring musicians with day jobs, and Meade is no exception. She juggles her job as a copywriter for a fashion catalog with her music career.

There’s no doubt, however, where her heart is.

She explains that her sweet and whimsical songs — often as vulnerable as lullabies from a new mom — happen naturally. “I never try to sound like anything — this is just what comes out,” she says.

Right on.


See Mascott at the Detroit Art Space (101 E. Baltimore, Detroit) with the Naysayer, the Sugarcoats and Electric Bear. Call 313-664-0445 for further information. Sunday, April 4.

Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].