If you go
Who: Heather Maloney
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Lemon Grove, 122 W. Federal St., Youngstown
Info: call 330-744-7683
110 W. Federal St., Youngstown
By John Benson
There is a certain depth and maturity to Heather Maloney’s sophomore album, “Time & Pocket Change,” that belies the fact this singer-songwriter has only been playing in front of live audiences since 2009.
However, what a two years it’s been for Maloney, who not only released her debut effort, “Cozy Razors Edge,” but also shared the concert stage with Caravan of Thieves, Jeffrey Gaines, Jill Sobule and Jonny Lang. In fact, the latter act promptly invited Maloney to open three more dates after seeing her show.
Maloney’s appeal stems from her honest lyrics, which find her riding, well, a cozy razor’s edge.
“My writing depends on whether I’m doing it because I have to or doing it because I want to,” said Maloney, calling from her Massachusetts home. “Sometimes it’s just for the fun of it and I’m writing something I want to be fun or funny or just to write a song, and other times there’s an issue or something that’s poignant or significant in some way that has something to do with a relationship or conversation. It’s just something basically that I want to understand. Something that happened in my life inside or outside that I want to have a better understanding of, so I’ll sit down with the intention to comprehend what happened and have it go through a filter in myself and have it come out in a neater package like a song.”
Sure, in a broad stroke, catharsis through perspective is basically what fuels all artists. But Maloney’s self-therapy offers alluring insight into the human psyche. Songs such as the dynamic “Fifty Lines” and the acoustic “Be Satisfied” epitomize how this artist has matured in such a short time.
“The first album was the first batch of songs I had ever really written,” Maloney said. “I went into the studio for a 13-hour-a-day type of a session, where the band knew exactly what to do and we laid down the tracks in a very live kind of feel. Whereas the newer album, I’ve been writing songs for a little longer now, and I guess it’s a little bit more detailed and nuanced. I have maybe more confidence as a songwriter to take chances and to kind of go in different directions and embellish in different ways. I would say it’s richer, and it sounds like an album that someone would have spent a little bit more time on.”
So far, Maloney is garnering a wide array of comparisons, ranging from Regina Spektor and Feist to Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos. None of the above may be a stretch for the singer-songwriter type of music she’s become known for, but a recent comparison still has her baffled.
“I guess the most head-scratching moment I had came after a live show when somebody said I was like a female Robert Plant,” Maloney said. “I love Led Zeppelin but I never really saw myself as that kind of a singer.”
So this means she won’t be covering “Black Dog” or “Stairway to Heaven” at her Youngstown debut Sunday at the Lemon Grove?
“You know, maybe I should think about it,” Maloney laughed. “Maybe I’ll pick up a few of those tunes before I get there.”