Week in Pop: Friendless Summer, Jay Stone, Lady Lazarus

Sjimon Gompers

The perpetual rise of Lady Lazarus's own Melissa Ann Sweat; photographed by Marina Cohen.

Lady Lazarus

The influential & inspiring Melissa Ann Sweat, aka Lady Lazarus; photographed by Marina Cohen.

The current era legend of Lady Lazarus has graced the world with holistic & heartfelt songs now for over the course of eight plus years and counting. The moniker of Melissa Ann Sweat, her repertoire has gifted the world with a wealth of home recordings, the lauded & inspirational releases All My Love in Half Light, Mantic, …And It Is All Right, Miracles & more; Melissa’s music always highlighted the inner reflections of the human spirit whilst finding her way through travels across the states. From a San Jose, California home base that saw stints in Savannah, Georgia to Joshua Tree and currently based out of Austin; Sweat today announces the glorious resurrection of Lady Lazarus with the world premiere of the beautiful & personal piano ballad “I Recall July” (demo) with news that Melissa is currently in the processing of penning her first ever book.

“I Recall July” reflects upon former feelings & thoughts from the past together with the state & nature of matters of change that are acknowledged in the present & now. Recollections of previous storms, lightning strikes & broken skies are sung by Lady Lazarus in a solemn yet sincere style that seeks an endearing kind of closure that observes the roads previously traveled & events experienced & shared with a former lover. Featuring just Melissa along with the acoustic resonance of the piano keys, all the aspects of emotions & endearment are recalled upon with a somber sense of affection for what was with a respectful wish to see a previous relationship for what it was after the storms have passed and the proverbial dust has settled. Futures that were formerly crashed are recounted with an honesty that seeks a genuine form of closure that reconciles what once was with an empowered & inspired outlook for what wonders will follow. The magnitude of such a previously powerful shared bond is recounted for all it meant then & what it means now where the only requited form of reconciliation is the power to move forward & onward with the growth & strength that comes along with the life lessons that relationships show us both about ourselves (and others).

Melissa shared the following insights with us about her new Lady Lazarus song “I Recall July” and the earnest inspirations behind its inception:

Two summers ago, I moved from the desert in Joshua Tree, CA to Austin, TX after a difficult breakup with my ex-boyfriend whom I was living with. Though tumultuous at times, it was the most meaningful relationship I’d ever had and I experienced so many high points (as well as low points) along the way.

“I Recall July” describes my looking back on this stormy relationship, and I feel it was inspired by the summer thunderstorms we experience in Austin. We had one just the other evening actually as I was practicing the song and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Melissa Ann Sweat, otherwise known as Lady Lazarus; photographed by Marina Cohen.

I was also inspired by Tom Waits’ classic song, “Martha” about calling your ex-lover after many years apart and wanting to not so much rekindle the flame, but acknowledge the power of what you both had. That’s also what “I Recall July” aims to do: honor the love with the knowledge now that it was not meant to last.

The infinite styles of Lady Lazarus, aka Melissa Ann Sweat; photographed by Marina Cohen.

Melissa also provided us with the following excerpt from her forthcoming book that shines a light on her own personal/musical journey:

For the first time in my life, I don’t know where to go: Part 2

Melissa June 28, 2017

Back again in my hometown of San Jose and staying at my folks’ house, I recovered quickly from the insomnia I developed while living in San Francisco. I was still working the same non-profit job in south city and commuting on 280 mostly or sometimes Caltrain.

Having to move back home at the end of my 25th year and just about to turn 26, definitely felt like a regression in my independent, adult life. But it also freed me. Like many, I’d gone from over a dozen years of institutionalized learning to then attend college, get my degree, then enter the workforce. Nothing ever slowed down. Everything moved for the sake of the next grade, the next achievement, the next level of success.

I tried to not take being home for granted, though looking back maybe I did. I know not everyone has that luxury to go back home if they need to, and I was lucky that I had that option. I also knew that I had to do something different — that I could no longer live my life working 40 hours and commuting ten hours or more each week and try to make my art and bring my creative ideas to life. It almost made me go out of my mind, and I had to find another way.

But first, I had to just get lost. I needed to wipe the slate of my life as I knew it clean.

Looking back, I’m not sure how I got this mysterious idea exactly, but I decided to quit my job and bought a 30-day Amtrak pass and left on a train trip across the country that took me from the East Bay to Winnemucca, Nevada to Salt Lake City to Omaha, Chicago, and DC, then down to Greenville, South Carolina and finally to my last stop, New Orleans. It was the most freeing thing I’d ever done in my life, and it changed the way I would continue to live it.

When I got back home after my trip, I knew I couldn’t go back to a 9-5. But it was 2009 and the economy was shit, and I had just given up a well-paying job to travel across the country on the train and couldn’t find a part-time gig for my skill set. So, I got creative, and I went back to what may have very well been my first entrepreneurial effort: I became a babysitter. Well, a nanny that is. And though I felt some shame at having a degree and going back to work in childcare, it couldn’t have been a better fit for me and more rewarding at the time.

It also enabled me to move out, and I got a cool place downtown with some awesome creative friends around. I played my very first show out as Lady Lazarus, and I felt so much more balanced and whole from having time now to devote to music, creative projects, and just plain taking care of myself. After a few months, things started happening with Lady Lazarus, and following my passion led me on from there.

Music took me all around the West Coast and Southwest on my first small tours, then all the way to Savannah, Georgia where I could live cheaply in a creative community and make headway as a young musician touring up and down the East Coast and the South. It took me back to San Jose for a bit, of course, then down to L.A. for some of the most insane, dream-come-true-moments I’d experienced so far in music.

Then love came into my life, a big love that coupled now with the music journey I’d been on for the last five years. We moved out to the Mojave desert, to Joshua Tree, where we could live cheaply, create and make things, and enjoy life outside of cities for awhile. I now had someone to go on my musical adventures with me, and for awhile, it was truly one of the happiest times of my young life.

I put my all into our relationship, and I put my all into my last record, Miracles, which in part was inspired by our love. When it ended, I fell into disillusionment (which I’ve learned now can be a kind of miracle, in itself). I was lost again, but not entirely by my own volition. As for where to go? I knew I couldn’t stay in the desert, but I knew I could not go home. I’d grown up too much now for that.

Austin, Texas called me liked its called so many recently in this city’s exponential rise. I came here to earn money, become more independent, to meet new people, and yes, to make music, although I haven’t done as much of it since being here.

I feel that Austin had a different plan for me, and that plan was to heal. To really look at all these pieces that were broken—not just from my relationship, but from my past—and pick each one up, dust them off, and put myself back together, bit by beautiful and complex bit.

I’ve been creating things of course, though not as fervently I was before, and I’ve felt some guilt in this. But one thing that I’ve learned is that you have to go with the flow of life, and the flow of your own creativity. You can’t force things, and beneath the activity of creating, at the end of the day you just have to take care of yourself. Make sure you are all right, have good people around, and that you’re creating joy in life—not just art.

Austin will be the longest run I’ve had at living in a place since turning eighteen. I don’t know what that means exactly, other than it’s done me some good. Or maybe it’s just my age that’s slowed me down. Still, I can’t help but feel that restlessness in me wondering, Is this where I’m supposed to be? Isn’t it time to explore somewhere new?

For so long I’ve been called and compelled to go this way or that, by music, by following my bliss and the beating of my own heart. But right now, at this moment in my life, for the first time in a long time, I don’t know where to go. And maybe that’s where I should be, for now.

Read Part 1 here.

Listen to the entire Lady Lazarus discography via Bandcamp.

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