Melissa McClelland Gets Her Kicks On Route 66

With the summer concert tour season in full swing Canadian songstress Melissa McClelland recently began her unusual summer tour with an intimate sold out show at The Living Room on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Melissa McClelland with husband Luke Doucet and Victoria Day Album Cover.

The steady rain that fell in misty waves throughout the day didn’t dampen the warm sound played by McClelland, her front man and husband, Luke Doucet and bass player Rich Lebeck who plays with both McClelland and Doucet.  The American born Canadian raised McClelland treated the audience with tunes from her just released third album on Six Shooter Records, Victoria Day.

Backing up husband, Luke Doucet.

The album, a mixture of bluesy country and jazz tunes, and the first release Glen Rio, conjures up vivid imagery of both springtime and a southwest country life; a life so removed from the lifestyle she and her husband of three years lead that her inspiration for the lyrics created a natural inquisitiveness.

After her gig McClelland, whose music has been featured on the hit ABC television drama, Gray’s Anatomy, discussed with Splash Magazines NYC Entertainment and Lifestyle Editor Janet Walker touring, inspiration and life on the road. The intimacy of the venue set a scene, reminiscent of the earlier MTV Unplugged series sets, and created a welcoming accessibility for the audience. 

Melissa McClelland.

When we talked about the process and inspiration for her work and especially Victoria Day she explained that she had taken a Route 66 trip a couple of years ago and it, “inspired a few songs.” She went on to explain, “The road is a great source of inspiration because you’re in a different place meeting different people. Springtime is a theme that seems to run throughout the record.” She paused, “all sorts of things, dreams, I write a lot about my dreams I try to write them down when I can. I like to put a lot of imagery into my song writing and try to make it as cinematic as possible so people can actually see something as they’re listening.”

Melissa McClelland center stage.

For those who aren’t aware Route 66, known as The Mother Road, carries iconic imagery of Americana and the flight to freedom of the 1950’s and 1960’s when, looking for the place where talent was nurtured, dreams would live or the promise of a new life would begin, many a thirsty soul found the inspiration to breathe life into their hope through the road trip that leads west to the gold rush of California and found themselves on Route 66.

Off the beaten path historical Route 66.

The inspiration of songs and lifestyles of the old two lane highway, a victim of modernization, is still traveled by the creative types and others longing for a bit of nostalgia or inspiration or maybe a glimpse of the days gone by. Beginning in Chicago the highway travels southwest with the ultimate destination of Los Angeles. 

As the long forgotten singer and never forgotten lyrics of Bobby Troup once sang,

“If you plan to motor west,
Travel my way, the highway that’s the best,
Get your kicks on Route 66.”

Get Your Kicks On Route 66.

The first release from Victoria Day, Glen Rio paints a springtime portrait of new life in a south western town. When I asked about Glen Rio, she laughed, “Glen Rio is a Route 66 song. It borders Texas and New Mexico. We stopped in a lot of Ghost towns and just wandered around because they’re really eerie; they’re really interesting. Everything is preserved and covered in dust and you can look through windows of old diners and there are still the cash registers and the table and chairs. It’s like people just got up and left town.”  The complete lyrics for Glen Rio seem to paint a very different portrait as she took the framework of dusty old town and added her own brand of newness creating a portrait of life and new beginnings.

Melissa Mcclelland with husband, Luke Doucet.

As we continued she spoke of her childhood and the violin training that ignited a passion and explained the distinctive difference for her creative soul, “The violin was a really great start for me and gave me the technical information on how to approach music but my mom had to force me to practice the violin but she couldn’t tear me away from the guitar.” She paused and added, “I was allowed to be creative on the guitar and on the violin I was just learning pieces of music; with the guitar I was making up songs and that’s my passion and I’ve always had that. As young as I can remember I’ve been making up songs, making up melodies.”

Her youthful appearance is confusing as she speaks with a spirit of an old soul. She laughed when I mentioned the aged wisdom of her words and explained, “I think touring makes you feel older. It certainly makes time stretch out because there is so much going on. I look back on one year and it seems like a lifetime in one year. All the places I’ve been, and the things I’ve done and the different kind of people that I’ve met and all the surprises in life.” She went on to add, “on the road it’s really amplified everything is to the extreme and sometimes that can be really hard and most of the time it is inspiring and it keeps the adrenaline going.” 

Melissa McClelland and husband, Canadian singer/songwriter, Luke Doucet pausing.

What’s next for her?  “Well,” she began, “I fly to Chicago tomorrow to start the trip with my mom. (They're taking the Route 66 Trip together.) I have a show in Chicago, San Francisco and LA. Then we spend the summer at home for the most part. Then Luke & I are going to Africa in August!” She paused, digesting the reality of her words, “It’s a really an incredible opportunity,” she added, “That came up out of nowhere. We played a festival called POPCOM in Berlin last year. It’s a showcase type thing where you play and there were bookers from around the world and someone was there who books shows and festivals in South Africa and they invited us to go. We’re going to be there for almost a month. It’s going to be life changing.”

The expectation of life changing and images already racing of Serengeti Sunsets can only build into another great album in the future of Melissa McClelland. She is a gifted story teller and can create imagery of real people, real emotions and real feelings and with the skill that a master creates life from a blank canvas.  The lyrics for Victoria Day are laced with Springtime hope, life and love and reflect a modern culture. One that dismisses the notion of chivalry and the idea that a capable, independent and strong woman still has the expectations of chivalry which, like Route 66, will end up being lost to modernization and result in disappointment.  

For more information on Melissa McClelland:  www.myspace.com/melissamcclelland.

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