Malena Cadiz is no stranger to moving between worlds. In the last seven years, the internationally raised singer-songwriter uprooted her life, left New York for L.A., became a mother, juggled odd jobs — and crafted the songs on her just-released fourth full-length Hellbent & Moonbound. On this heaven-sent set of subtle, supple and superb folk-pop gems, the singer-songwriter is a lady of the canyon waylaid at a suburban strip mall, acutely aware of how romance shines through even in moments of grit and desolation. Even with all that on her plate — not to mention an upcoming album-release show and tour dates — she still made time to wade through my ridiculous questions. Ah well, we all make a wrong move now and then. Let’s see how it went:
Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
I’m a musician and songwriter based in L.A. I grew up between Michigan and Singapore. I’m a Capricorn with lots of freckles.
What is your musical origin story?
I always loved singing from an early age and when I was 14 my dad brought home a classical guitar. He taught me a couple chords and I was immediately obsessed, I wrote tons of sad teenage songs. I took a break for a few years and came back to music after a painful breakup when I was living on my friend’s fold-out sofa in Harlem.
What’s your latest project?
My new record Hellbent & Moonbound that just came out. I’m focusing on playing lots of shows this year and touring it. Then I have another song cycle inspired by the BBC Witch that I’m starting to play with ideas for.
What truly sets you apart from other artists?
What I love best is lyrically driven music that surprises me and has a lot of heart. I hope my music embodies some of that.
How will my life improve by listening to your music?
My friend said my songs make her want to smoke weed and make love — and that’s good for anyone’s life.
Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
The first song I wrote was in high school, it was called The Raven and very dramatic and goth.
What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen?
I saw Hurray For The Riff Raff play a warehouse in New York ages ago. There were trash-can fires indoors and I remember a grandfather clock was crowd surfed across the room.
What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
Leonard Cohen or Patti Smith — I’d mostly just love to talk with them about life and art.
What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
I love country-pop. Some of it’s trash, but when it’s good, it’s so good and the storytelling is air tight. Right now I’m loving Luke Combs, Ashley McBryde, Zach Bryan and Miranda Lambert. There’s a new song by Alana Springsteen I love. And ’80s and ’90s classics like Keith Whitley, Mel McDaniels, Tim McGraw, George Strait.
What words do you hope people use when they describe you?
Kind, joyful, silly.
What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
I’m a pretty good cook.
Who can you do an impression of?
I’ve become pretty good at doing Ron Weasley after many hours playing Harry Potter with my daughter.
What do you collect?
I’m obsessed with vintage and antique things, especially clothing and dresses. I’ve outgrown my closet and now have a rack in my studio just for show dresses.
If money was no object, where would you live?
I love California so much, I don’t ever want to leave. I’d probably buy something up in the hills with lots of space for lots of dogs and a dreamy sunset view.
What would you like to be reincarnated as?
What’s your idea of perfect happiness / total misery?
A place with lots of nature in a thriving, loving community all supporting each other with lots of dogs. Total misery, maybe a fluorescent-lit sterile environment where you’re doomed to carry out soul-sucking repetitive tasks again and again.
What are you afraid of?
Sharks, motorcycles, riding a bike on a busy street. The classics.
Who should play you in the movie of your life?
Jennifer Connelly please or Clea Duvall.
What’s your motto?
Do what you want, don’t be a dick.
What’s the silliest thing you believed as a child?
My cousins and I spoke to our deceased grandmother on a Ouija board and she spelled out H-E-L-L when we asked where she was. She had that kind of sense of humor though, it might really have been her.
What was your favourite class in school and why?
I loved English. I’ve always loved reading and pulling from literature to feed my songs. And I had some really great teachers who inspired me.
What was the worst job you ever had?
I used to lead French-language Sex & The City bus tours in New York City. We’d drive a bunch of French tourists from the Plaza Hotel down through Soho and I’d be at the front of the bus with a microphone, playing clips from the show and saying things like “Et voici Monsieur Big et Carrie…” This wasn’t the worst job I ever had, but was really difficult because I kept getting motion sickness at the front of the bus and having to sit down to recover. My worst worst job was working at The Gap.