Not a single facet of music creation slips through musician Mélanie Venditti’s fingers. While her album Épitaphes (2019) unfolded like a long, calculated, and precise farewell, her self-produced and self-released EP Projections, released on April 30, 2021, offers six unique pieces that unfold like scattered slices of life, that can be understood together or separately.
“These songs came slowly, in no particular order, over the course of two years,” says Venditt. “My album was very cerebral, as if I was writing a book, but this time, I wrote what I was living, no matter what it meant.”
Epitaphs brought us to the heart of Venditti’s mourning of her mother, in a calculated, dutiful remembrance. “This time around, it’s the opposite,” she says. “I let the music come to me.”
Obviously, 2020 was the year of pandemic self-isolation, but the stormy return of the waves of #metoo, in July, is also part of the collective memory of the past year. Regardless of what this movement evokes as a memory, trauma, or vague feeling, we have all, in one way or another, experienced or witnessed significant discomfort. “When I read some of the testimonials, I realized that it stirred a lot of stuff that I had experienced,” says Venditti. “It’s at the very heart of this EP, it truly fed my creativity.”
The result is sensitive, and she delicately underlines important observations that bring us back to the basis of the movement: the incoherence of a victim’s speech is legitimate. “It’s normal for someone who’s been abused or harassed to be unclear,” she says. They’ve experienced a trauma.” There are undeniably things that someone can never explain, understand, or judge unless they’ve experienced it themselves.
In her ethereal interpretation, Venditti addresses our relationships with others through what we love and what we hate about them. “I think that what bothers us in ourselves, we perceive more in others, and it’s the same for the things we love,” says Melanie. “It’s basic human nature to reproduce what we’ve experienced, whether it is good or bad. I was greatly inspired by that creative vibe.”
Even if it’s mainly due to lack of budget, and to benefit from the solitary time offered by COVID, that she chose to self-release her EP, Venditti doesn’t deny that there’s a “this is what I’m capable of” aspect to her decision. Producing is a another task at which she’s very adept, and she hopes to be able to do it for others in the future. “I’m competent enough to do that,” she says. “Women have a hard time saying they’re competent. And as women, we’re not afforded the opportunities to do so very often. I’ve also realized, recently, that I lack role models. There are very few women who do what I love – producing, creating songs for their project, playing on other people’s projects, and arranging.”
Venditti considers herself a musician first, and feels most comfortable in that role; songwriting came later. For “Projections,” she chose a starting point that she considers more “academic”: the piano. “What’s fun about this process is that it’s not the vocal melody that dictates the chords,” she says. “Everything starts with the music. You can see your chords more clearly on a piano. In university classes, we use the piano to understand all kinds of music theory. But if I grab a guitar, it’s often a no-brainer. With the piano, music isn’t just wallpaper for the lyrics: it has its own language.”
And when it’s time to say things and name them with words, Venditti likes little phrases that say a lot. “I’m very inspired by Philémon Cimon, who has complex ideas supported with simple words,” she says. “That way of writing touches me, and that’s what I try to achieve with my writing.”
While all the strands in the complex arc of music-making appeal to her, Venditti believes that there’s still a lot of work to be done so that women have the same opportunities as men. The chance or audacity to try things, to make mistakes, and to change course, isn’t given to women, and isn’t innate, either. “Early in their careers, guys are much more likely to say ‘yes’ when asked to work on a project, even if they don’t feel they have what it takes,” she says. “I hope that women, in the next few years, will have more confidence in themselves, and that they’ll be given the visibility they don’t have yet. And that’s the responsibility of radio stations, big productions, and festivals, among others, because a woman who dares and speaks loudly is usually perceived as hysterical.”
The leap into the creative zone must become automatic for women, and large projects must, according to Venditti, offer a certain number of opportunities. “We need to stop hiring women to copy notes that a man has recorded,” she says. “Women need to be involved in the creation from the start. The results will be different. The creation will be that much richer. It’s time.” Indeed, it’s time.