Austin-based singer-songwriter Melody Chebrellan isn’t one to mince words when it comes to her lyrics, whose topics run the emotional gamut from self-doubt to self-empowerment, with a refreshing emphasis on real-life, messed-up relationships. On recent single “Who Are You Driving To,” Chebrellan paints the portrait of a woman dealing with the heartbreaking juxtaposition of love and emptiness that comes with being the “other woman” to a married man, prompting KNACK magazine to call Chebrellan “truly a poet” whose “alluring, beguiling” voice is “unexplainably hypnotizing.”
Continuing in that reflective vein, Chebrellan’s debut LP, Comets and other drifting bodies, is an eclectic exploration of the spaces between us and the vastness within us, with hints of the little bits of magic that seek to bridge and fill those unnamable distances. Lead single “Upside Down” closes out the album with a bouncy, airy take on what it is like to feel out of step with your place in the world, yet somehow know that better days are ahead. On the other end of the spectrum, lead track “Sometimes” approaches a similar subject with a more subdued, deeply emotional approach, with Chebrellan’s haunting voice calling for help with lyrics like “Remind me it’s worth surviving/ Remind me why I’m striving/ Talk me through this ’til I’m thriving.”
Elsewhere on Comets, Chebrellan shows the breadth of her songwriting on the album’s eight sometimes-disparate tracks, experimenting with genres like the dark, swirling waltz of “Whisk Me Away” and the tortured, sultry jazz of “Scattered Dust.” She goes full-on lounge crooner on “I’ll Never Fall Apart”—complete with some playful vocal scatting for good measure—and even throws in a bit of bonafide, guitar-fueled indie-rock on the psychedelic-bordering “Signs.”
Growing up the daughter of a street musician and singer-songwriter, Chebrellan’s playground was the practice session, and the live show her lullaby. By the time she entered the second grade, Chebrellan was doing commercials for Apple Jacks and improvising on stage with B.B. King’s daughter at grade-school assemblies. In 2013, she moved from New York City to Berlin and began singing in an eight-piece soul cover band, playing venues like the famed Clärchens Ballhaus. After a year of performing some of her favorite Motown hits—from Smokey Robinson to Diana Ross—she shifted her focus to writing and recording original music.
In 2015, Chebrellan independently released her debut EP, Often Unrequited, written and recorded in her bedroom closet in Berlin. She then teamed up with singer-songwriter Caitlin Cook to form indie-folk duo Little Hermit, and together they released Thanks Mangled Brain in 2016.
After a number of years solo writing and recording, Chebrellan enlisted the help of friend and producer João Marcos Libório Fonseca to assemble a formidable lineup of Berlin-based musicians to transform her raw demos into what would eventually become Comets and other drifting bodies. These musicians—hailing from Bolivia, Israel, Germany, the Philippines, Portugal, Brazil, and Hong Kong—brought with them the sonic textures of their homelands, helping Chebrellan create the album’s expansive musical palette that draws on rhythms and genres from all over the world.