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Premiere: Melody Duncan’s “Lonely”

Last updated on March 3, 2021

A picture of Melody Duncan against a green fence
Photographer: Katy Herndon

Melody Duncan’s “Lonely” starts off with elegant fingerpicking and whistling that evokes iconic western soundtracks. It isn’t a country song, as the song expands into a dusky, folky, orchestrally-ornamented space for the verse and chorus. Yet the song can’t shake its starkly dramatic Western underpinnings, both in returning to the whistling and in lyrically accentuating the titular loneliness that is common to so many country songs.

Duncan’s lyrics are plaintive and earnest: the chorus lines of “I’ve been feelin’ lonely / Such a matter of the head that really messes with my heart” are undeniable statements that many of us have been feeling over the past year and change. The song itself is short: few lyrics, sub-4 minute runtime. But in that short span, Duncan’s lyrics and arrangement create a space that balances yearning for community and acceptance of the difficulties of community (“We can choose to be different, you and I”). There’s a lot packed into a little; the economy of this song is one of the things that sells it.

Duncan’s voice is the other thing that sells it. Her lush alto range is elegant, her straightforward delivery is disarming, and the vocal nuance she puts on lines is compelling. Her vocal performance isn’t ostentatious, and that lack of drama ironically gives the song that much more emotional heft. This is a tune for the lonely by the lonely–not the theatrically lonely, just someone who actually is lonely.

Ultimately, it’s a beautiful song.

We were lucky enough to get a Q&A with Duncan about “Lonely”:

What prompted you to write this song? Is there a story behind it? What is the message you wanted to convey or the tale you wanted to tell?
I actually started writing this song earlier in 2020, but the lyrics came together during the first few months of the pandemic. It expresses having feelings of emotional isolation but deciding to reach out despite them. I think when we’re low, it can be life-giving to reach out to someone else, even when it’s difficult.

You recorded everything yourself. Was that a daunting thing, or did you feel like you were completely in your element? How so?
I really enjoy the recording process. It can be extremely difficult, but it’s that much more rewarding when it finally comes together in a way that feels complete. I enjoy learning new recording techniques and experimenting with different compositions. The most challenging thing about recording in a home studio is dealing with outside sound. My studio isn’t completely sound-proofed, so there were times I couldn’t record due to the noise of lawn mowers, rain storms, neighbors talking outside, etc. However, it is also the reason I was able to capture some really cool nature sounds on several tracks.

And related to the last question, what was the easiest part of the recording process? The hardest? How was this song in particular to record?
There are a lot of great perks to recording in a home studio. I was able to set my own timetable, experiment with different ideas, and spend a lot of time in between takes with my dog, Atlas. The hardest part about recording this song was trying to record without the noise of a large generator in the background. Someone was doing construction in my neighborhood, so after several takes with too much noise, I actually moved my entire studio to a different room, sound-proofed the new room, and started over.

If you had to describe your music using only five words or adjectives, how would you describe it?
My dog really likes it. 🙂

Time to share: what is a secret about this song, or about your album, that you’d like to tell our readers that they can’t learn anywhere else?
I was originally going to use a different guitar on this song, but one of the frets was slightly warped. After many hours and several attempts at trying to force the fret in tune, I changed the entire setup for the song to fit the guitar used in the final recording. However, I’m really glad it worked out that way, because I like the final result.

Wolf Song comes out March 12. Catch Duncan at her website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram.