Front Country’s new single “Amerikan Dream” encourages citizens to look back at the founding principles of America and to be vigilant during the upcoming presidential election. The band is composed of multi-talented musicians, composers and songwriters: Melody Walker, Adam Roszkiewicz and Jacob Groopman.
Lead singer Walker has played piano since she was a toddler. In middle school, she picked up the guitar during the era of Lilith Fair, and tried to emulate the artist’s hyper-feminine yet feminist style.
Walker was 13 when she played an acoustic guitar while singing sad sack songs about her very limited romantic experience. She said that’s what she thought she was supposed to do. The artist always knew she was a songwriter, but she didn’t know what she wanted to write about.
“My teens and early twenties were mostly practice — learning to play, sing, perform — and going through the motions of crafting songs. Once I knew what I wanted to write about, I would have the skills down,” Walker said.
She continued, “I really don’t think I found my songwriting voice until recently. Touring full-time, getting to sing my own songs to clubs and festivals and hearing what songs I wrote mean to people, have all brought the purpose of it into sharper focus, and I’m finding it easier to figure out what I want to say.”
Walker mentioned that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s song “WAP” has been stuck in her head and has been her current shower jam — and that the only cure is to keep listening to and fully memorize the lyrics. “I think it might be my favorite song of the 21st century so far,” Walker pointed out.
Popular songwriting in the recorded era (the last hundred years or so) has a form. The artist said that, just like the sonata-allegro form before, there are standard parts musicians agree that define a song — verse, chorus, bridge.
“It is incredibly arbitrary, and yet, having one strict limitation can often allow for max creativity in every other area. I think of it kind of like a basic essay form: the chorus is the thesis and the verses are the supporting paragraphs,” Walker said. “Those rules are also nice to have, so you can break them and make something that still ‘works’ even when it shouldn’t.”
The singer started writing “Amerikan Dream” in Jan. 2017, right after Trump got elected. She wasn’t able to finish it, though, postponing recording for two years.
(Photo: Front Country)
“I think a lot of people can relate to the past few years bringing a lot of things to the surface, about the founding ideals of this country and whether we will ever live up to them,” she revealed. “I think a lot of writers have been processing the urgency of the current moment, as well as the history that got us here, and our own role and complicity in all of it.”
The song started out as an anti-Trump song, but as a songwriter, her job was to dig for the truth. As she listened and discerned more, Walker realized that the problem didn’t start with the president, and it won’t end when he’s gone either.
The repetitive refrain reminded the singer of a mantra or a mind-control program — making the rote, relentless accompaniment fit the message. The drone breaks only when the correct question is asked: “What will the people do?” And Walker’s constant question these days: “When will enough be enough?”
“When I settled on the line, ‘Free to Believe in the Amerikan Dream,’ I really liked the contradiction within it — that you’re free to bow down in unquestioning obedience to this dogma — which is to say, not free at all,” Walker pointed out.
The millennial said that the song connects with her generation, as she experienced the drawbacks of graduating during a recession, oft called “lazy” for not thriving.
“Honestly, I credit the recession with pushing me toward a full-time career in music, because there literally was no ‘practical’ choice for me. I was working several part-time jobs — as a prep cook, a music shop clerk, a waitress, a substitute teacher, guitar lessons, barista, you name it — and they were all so shaky because of the dire economic circumstances. The so-called ‘American Dream’ just wasn’t a reality for me and my generation.”
Walker urges people to consider what they will do when they are called to push back against fascism, inequality and injustice.
“A lot of people have made the point that what you are doing right now is what you would do. I think that’s probably right. We should all sit with that — and then get off our asses,” she said.
To all the aspiring singers out there, Walker advised them to be curious about finding their authentic voices, to explore what feels good, rather than their conception of what “sounds” good to them or what they think others will like.
“Singing is not so much about what is ‘beautiful,’ but rather what is musical, authentic, connected and emotive. Healthy, fully embodied voice technique is key to getting that depth of vocal expression,” Walker said. “Don’t let your ego get in the way of finding your true voice — a voice that might surprise you and captivate others.”
Contact Ron Rocky Coloma at rcoloma ‘at’ stanford.edu.