Heather Maloney Band
Free or $5 under 21
255 N. Front Street • 5/6, 9 p.m.
Part indie, part folk and part soul, singer-songwriter Heather Maloney’s music crosses genres effortlessly. Her sophomore album, “Time & Pocket Change,” released in April, can easily be categorized as one of the best of 2011 thus far. It would be shameful for Wilmingtonians to miss her live performance at the Soapbox on Friday, May 6.
Maloney brings a delicate balance of harmony, grace and instrumental depth to every track on “Change.” “The Hollow” relishes in a languid pace, light with guitar strumming, and gains momentum 30 seconds in, transforming the chorus and entire song into cheery musicality. “Be Satisfied” offers airy, acoustic, poetic prowess, while the title track of the album mixes folk with jazzy trumpets. Maloney’s naturally sweet vocals energize the songs with enunciated force.
In fact, her vocal talents and range can be attributed to her formal musical training, where the New Jersey-native studied classical vocals in college in hopes of one day becoming an opera singer. Yet, her first gig was moonlighting as a jazz singer. Like many musicians, she began singing at a young age, but did not start writing her own material or songs until about two years ago. To Maloney, “Change” conveys personal depth and shows pieces of her ongoing life journey.
“I think about it as an era album,” she says. “It came out of an era of sacrifice; quitting our day jobs and jumping into the unknown. Losing things that were familiar and comfortable. All of the songs have been written in this landscape of settling; into this lifestyle of trying to make a life out of being an independent artist and everything that comes with that.”
“Change” highlights the challenges and difficulties that go into a recording. Every lyric is truth. In the chorus of the title track, Maloney sings, “I say I’ll trade my benefits for time; I’ll trade my comfort for time; I’ll trade my jewelry for time,” which she actually did.
“It was a sacrifice of sorts,” she remembers, “but it’s also full of hope and making room for something that I absolutely love to do. Sort of a reflection of the past year and half that we’ve really been at it, and all the songs are experiences that have happened within that, whether they be on the road or wherever.”
“Nightstand Drawer,” a dreamy, lullaby-ish ballad, stays close to Maloney’s heart. The gentle song features only acoustic guitars over Maloney’s vocals. “It’s inspired by being in a relationship and wanting the other person to know that they can open up,” she says. “That I’m not gonna judge you about your secrets or about the things you don’t want to expose about yourself to anyone else. That person, whether they be your lover or friend or whatever, they are with you and they are safe. The ultimate analogy in the song is the nightstand drawer, and that’s always been where I’ve put my journals and things like that. Give me your secrets; give me your longing; give me a chance to hold these things.”
As a newer musician to the contemporary scene, Maloney cut her first album, “Cozy Razor’s Edge,” in 2009 in just five days. Though her approach to “Change” was a little different, taking eight months to complete, the time allowed her a deeply creative and enriching experience.
“This one was a very organic process, very spontaneous,” she says. “There’s a lot of space there to be created in the studio, which I’ve never gotten to do before. I just learned so much about recording. Things came up that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do with the first record. You go in the studio one or two days a week, and then three or four days go by, and you haven’t been in the studio, so things are settling and you’re going back thinking about what you did. Maybe you’re going back and listening to the rough tracks. There’s space for ideas to come up.”
And they definitely did. Maloney found the record’s distinct sound with quirky objects made to create textures not usually obtained by normal instruments. “No Shortcuts” transforms a children’s toy into an audible treat.
“My guitar player goes, ‘You know, I think I hear a Slinky on this song,’” Maloney explains. “He had one of the old-school metal Slinkies, which has a very distinctive sound. So the next week he brings it in, and they figured out how to use it.”
Depending on the venue, Maloney varies from solo to duo performances with guitarist Joe Boyle. Sometimes, she brings in ‘90s grunge drummer Patrick Murphy of Dinosaur Jr. and Lemonheads fame.
Currently on an east coast tour, the singer has high goals for her career. She’s already processing her next step.
“I have new ideas for the next record already,” she says, referring to complex classical arrangements, “or horns or strings or whatever. I want to be not just a songwriter, but a composer down the line. I want to keep growing.”
Doors for the Soapbox show are at 9 p.m.; admission is free except for ages under 21, $5. For more information, visit www.soapboxlaundrolounge.com.