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Premiere: Michelle Malone Slows Her Roll on “1977”

By Hank Adams

With more than thirty years in the music business, Michelle Malone is no stranger to the process of writing an album. In fact, by her estimate, she’s released at least fifteen studio albums, with live recordings often sandwiched in between.     

“I tend to make a record every two years now… I just stay busy,” she said during a recent phone chat.

But her new album, 1977 (SBS Records), is a bit of a departure due to the circumstances surrounding its creation. Today, Country Queer is excited to bring you the exclusive premiere of a new track from the disc, “Know My Name,” in advance of its full release on Friday, April 22.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Known as much for her road-dog pace of touring as for her rocking guitar style, Malone became grounded from touring and performing—like so many musicians—because of the pandemic. Suddenly, she found herself at home for the longest stretch since she was a teenager. “I slowed down, my music slowed down, and both became more introspective.”

With this unexpected time at home to rest and write what ultimately became 1977, Malone said, “I feel like I got back to my roots.”

Life is different off the road, and Malone felt that difference manifest itself in the way she wrote the songs that comprise the new album. 

“I’d come home [from touring] and write fast songs, like for a bar band, where you’re competing for the attention of the audience. Writing and not thinking about playing these songs in a bar, I was able to just do what I wanted.”

Growing up around musicians meant early exposure to a variety of genres, from folk to jazz and back. This has led her to generally eschew genre-related labels for herself and her music.

“No labels sit comfortably with me, never have,” she said. “I play a little bit of everything.”

The slower pace of living off the road, combined with the innate creative freedom that comes from being divorced from genre-related constraints, has resulted in an album that explores the past while still being firmly set in the here and now. By sitting more quietly with herself and with her art, Malone had time to think about the people that defined her earliest days. 

“There’s a lot of family in there, and I think of my mom a lot when I sing… because she was a pop singer in the 70s.”

1977 also bears the influences of popular singer-songwriters from that era like Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt. The 70s were a crucial decade for Malone, who began playing guitar the same year that she chose as the album’s title. It’s a thoughtful and sometimes deceptively sleepy collection, indulging her contemplative mindset. 

“I think normally my records fluctuate around different vibes,” she said. But this one sat in the same pocket, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

“I don’t want to call it a pandemic record,” she continued. “It’s just more I feel like I got back to my roots because I was so still and I could hear myself think. When I tour I tend to slip into survival mode, and that’s what the songs [I write] start to sound like. This record is very relaxed… I’m pleasantly surprised. It makes me feel good to sing these songs.”

The life of a touring musician is often disheveled. Time at home gets spent just watching the clock for the next long-distance drive. The change of pace, while unexpected, is something Malone has fully embraced. After years on the road she’s learned, at long last, that “we don’t need to devote all our hours to doing, doing, doing.”

“I’m kinda taking it a little at a time. Something I’ve really gotten in the past two years is a lot more patience. Slower life is wonderful.”

While the road will soon lure her out with its siren song, this time away from the harried, hurried world of touring has been nothing short of a revelation, one that 1977 explores with slow, easy confidence. And, yes, patience.

Hank Adams is a writer and photographer, country music fan from the way back, and an overalls enthusiast. They are based in Central Pennsylvania.