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FANTASY LEAGUE FOOTFALLS – MELODY POOL STEPS BACK INTO THE GAME


Photo by Henry Diltz

ABOUT A YEAR AGO Melody Pool broke a long silence, a long absence from music, with an EP of quietly stormy songs that felt like Bill Callahan and Tori Amos had merged in the years since Pool’s second album, 2016’s Deep Dark Savage Heart.


Barely there sonically at times, as if hers was a voice finding its way through a deep night of scattered discoveries, the songs on Lost In Time were filled with admonitions (“So stop starting tomorrow, it’s only adding to your sorrow … start starting today”) and realisations (“Love is not an inhale; love is an exhale”) that spoke of intense self-reflection and post-therapy frankness.

Most of all, those songs spoke of the end of fear and its replacement with, well, not so much certainty and confidence but at least a space where those might yet settle.


“The scariest thing I did was quit music, quitting with no idea of what else I can do, [and] I didn’t know if I would go back to music, says Pool today. “I’ve been a musician my entire life and I’ve never really done anything else – I had no idea who I am without this. I wanted to find out who Melody is without being Melody the songwriter or the musician or the singer. That seemed really exciting when I first quit but after a while still being, ‘I have no idea’, it took years.”


It was in this environment, these at first tentative and then more certain steps forward, that new songs emerged which made sense of the years. Songs like Fantasy Girl, released this week as the first taste of a new album, the first exploration of a richer, elegantly elevated sound, and the first real look at the Melody Pool reshaped by time.


“I am the fantasy girl,” she says. “It was written at a time when I was in the transition period of the break from music and starting to involve myself again in music and write and play the occasional show. I still didn’t quite fit like I was in the right space but I had so much yearning, I felt a little bit haunted by it. I had all these ideas in my head, dreams I suppose, ambitions of playing and being on stage and putting on shows that were immersive experiences from start to finish. I would daydream about all this stuff and do absolutely nothing about it because I had no idea how to get there.



“So Fantasy Girl came from the place where daydreaming about it was so enticing and all-consuming as well. I was simultaneously stuck and not able to make these goals and these dreams a reality, but also so terrified of what it takes to action the reality that I prefer to stay in the fantasy.”


She found herself hating the idea and yet unable to let it go.


“Because it’s so wonderful in my head until I realise it’s just in my head,” Pool chuckles ruefully.


There is a line in Fantasy Girl that stuck out on early listens, “I cannot find the resolve, and any song I’m writing always seems to roll into something I’ve heard before”. There’s a temptation to say to her, jeez, be nicer to yourself.


“That’s a really regular thing that I feel. When I wrote Fantasy Girl and I was writing those lines it was almost a joke to me. I was writing about my frustration at feeling like I get in my own way when writing sometimes. It’s been a really big lesson for me to recognise that the way I write comes from a Muse. I’ve always said that songs feel like they’re written through me, not by me, and I know that I’m not letting that through when I feel like I’m writing songs rolled into something I’ve written before. That’s where that line came from.”


It clearly is tied to that period of intense self-doubt and suspicion that this wasn’t what she should be doing with her life. Has she had to learn to stop questioning the very basis of her art and recognise that actually she can write a good song?


“That’s right, and recognising that I fear that when I lack confidence I start imitating,” says Pool. “That perfectionism, when I get into that comparison mode, I start thinking about what do other people want to hear? And then I start writing songs that have already been written because they are already there in the world. I have to stand out of my own way.


“The goal for me is not to lose that but to learn when to listen to it and when not to listen to it. Because I think once you think you are the best at something, then you will probably stop being the best at it. If there is nothing to strive for, and if there is no doubt then there is no learning.”


I tell her that the problem with talented people compared with the rest of us is that they keep reaching for their high standards and if they fail, they beat themselves up, while we go through life recognising we’re very ordinary so there is always the possibility of being surprised by a brief moment of quality, but disappointments are fewer.


“I actually had a therapist once who told me I needed to be more comfortable with feeling ordinary,” she laughs. “I was like, fuck off.”


Yeah, it sounds like Pool is on the way to sorting herself out.


 

Fantasy Girl is out April 19 and available on streamers now.


 


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