When the Telstra Road to Discovery competition crowned Kurri Kurri’s Melody Pool as its Songwriter of the Year in January 2013, it lived up to its name. Fast forward less than a year and Pool has a publishing deal with Mushroom, a recording contract with Liberation and has just toured through Europe. With a captivating stage presence and knack for penning instant country-folk classics, Pool’s talents have been forged since around the age of eight, when the singer would join her father Alby on stage.
But she is no longer Kurri’s best-kept secret. Pool’s European support shows with Californian folk duo The Milk Carton Kids, saw her play to hundreds of people in each venue. Cities on the tour included Munich, Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Utrecht, Frankfurt, Hamburg, London, Manchester and Glasgow.
“It was pretty special,” Pool says. “It was really cool to play all these amazing churches, and cathedrals and town halls across Europe. I think my favourite venue was Union Chapel in London. It was this insanely old, huge chapel and was just stunning. There were beautiful audiences all around Europe – they’re very attentive. And with the Milk Carton Kids it was the right crowd as well – it demands an attentive audience.”
A particularly atmospheric evening in France’s romantic capital stands out as a highlight for the performer. “My favourite show was definitely Paris, which was unexpected and very cool,” Pool says. “It was a tiny little bar, but it had a second story with a balcony. I really liked it because there were these two big gargoyles up on the balcony staring down at the stage. I look up quite a bit when I play and all I could see were these two gargoyles, which was cool.”
Pool also returned to Nashville where she performed at the Americana festival. Here she brushed shoulders with some famous faces. “I think my highlight was actually meeting Jakob Dylan,” Pool swoons of her encounter with the Wallflowers vocalist and son of Bob. “I was very excited for that.”
Pool also met actor Ed Helms, known to many for his role in The Hangover franchise. But while some celebrities made an impression on the 22-year-old, Pool quickly gained her own fans.
“I sold a bunch of CDs and people were really lovely over there,” Pool says. “I’d only played in Nashville before and never played in a country where my native language wasn’t theirs. I had to get used to it, because I’m Australian and I talk really fast. I understood the Germans better than I understood the Scottish people – they speak so fast. I’ve had a lot of interaction with some of those people through Facebook since, which is awesome.”
Pool wants to return to Europe in 2014, as well as play another show at Nashville’s Americana Music Festival and Conference. That American city holds a special place in Pool’s heart – it is where she recorded her stunning debut record, The Hurting Scene, with producer Jace Everett and Brad Jones.
The songwriter hopes to return there to record her second record around September 2014. “At the moment I’m just demoing a bunch of songs to send to all ‘my people’,” smiles Pool, referring to the team behind her at Liberation and Mushroom Publishing. “I’m lucky because last year I had Jace and my parents telling me whether my songs are alright. This year I’ll have Jace, my parents and Bill Page from my publishing company who is an amazing song man. At Liberation they’re all music lovers, so it’s good to have a wider range of opinions about [my music].”
While The Hurting Scene was a break-up record, and contained devastatingly emotional insights into love and loss, its sunny production and upbeat arrangements often subverted those feelings. Pool plans for album number two to be darker.
“Most of the songs are in minor chords,” Pool says. “I have a violin and cello player, who played with me at Lizotte’s [in August], and I want to try and get them over there so they can record with me as well. Then we can capture that [sound] live when we play over here.”
Although there is already maturity in her music, Pool feels there will be further growth evident on her sophomore effort. “I think it is going to be more of a ‘growing into a woman’ album – without doing the whole Miley Cyrus ‘look at me, I can have sex now’ thing,” Pool says. “Everyone is aware that the first record is very much based around one person. I think the second record will be about moving on from that and breaking away from ‘the hurting scene’. It’s more about me learning from situations, or even not wanting to learn from situations and being stubborn. There will be life issues and not just love issues.”
Despite being an award-winning songwriter, Pool is very humble about her process. “I write very impulsively – I can go months without writing if I don’t feel a song coming on,” she says. “But when I feel it coming on I’ll write five songs in two days. It’s very much a purging.”
Pool explains that a song can appear in many ways. “I can only describe it as rambling,” Pool says. “If I have a good line come to me first, then the rest can fall out of me. It’s surprising how when you’re writing a song you can get to a hook line and think, ‘Well shit, that just gave five dimensions to the song and I didn’t realise – and I was just rambling.’ It makes me feel like I’m clever and I don’t feel like that very often!”
Pool’s self doubt has been more than balanced by the enthusiasm shown by the team at Michael Gudinski’s Liberation records, who courted the songwriter for “three or four months”. “I had a vibe from Liberation and they were in the same headspace as me,” Pool says. “I was very sure about [the record deal] and the people, so it didn’t feel like I rushed into anything and grabbed the first thing that came along. I am really protective of myself and my songs. It’s important to have people around me who are passionate about my music and can protect it as much as I protect it.”
Hunter fans have a chance to see Pool live this Sunday when she performs a co-headline show with Tasmanian songwriter Christopher Coleman at the Royal Exchange, Newcastle. Coleman is this year’s winner of the Telstra Road to Discovery’s performer category. Their show is also raising awareness for men’s health issues.
“I haven’t done many collaborative gigs where it’s not me supporting someone or them supporting me,” Pool says. “So we decided to do this as a co-bill and not have anyone supporting anyone. We both really respect each other’s music. He has only done one show in Newcastle, which was a house show, so I want to introduce him to the scene here because he’ll go down really great. We’re going to do some of our originals, where we’ll sing on each other’s songs, but we’re going to pick a bunch of covers as well – some of our favourite songs that we can have a bit of fun with.”