Six months ago, in the dead of winter, folk singer Melaena Cadiz left New York City to go out West. “I was feeling closed in by New York City, and the desert was a place to escape to and write,” said Cadiz on a recent call, as she was preparing for a second—this time permanent—move to California with her husband. “When we were in the desert this past February, I realized our lives could be totally different.”
Reminiscing about her month spent out in Joshua Tree working on her third album (set to be released in March ’16), the artist, whose voice and prose are at once earthy and ethereal, wistfully recalls the sound of crows flying by. “You could literally hear the wing flaps,” she says. “There’s not a lot of outside distractions so I could inventory my thoughts and reflect on the last few years.” The trip resulted in a rhythmic solo album, driven largely by her steel-string guitar playing. The songs have a brushy, hazy quality to them evocative of the vast open space and brittleness of the desert.
Below, Melaena takes us on a photo tour of this otherworldly time in her life, all while wearing the Zero + Maria Cornejo Pre-Fall 2015 collection of airy silks, easy convertible jersey skirts, knit striped blanket tweeds, and one stunning Japanese indigo cocoon-like bomber—all inspired by a trip Maria Cornejo herself recently took to Joshua Tree.
“We got in this schedule where we were waking up at 5:30 a.m. to go watch the sunrise and then read or write before getting to work. Mikael would go out and take pictures and I’d work on music. When he came home, we’d go for a walk around the mesa, make dinner, watch the sunset, and go to sleep. We were truly rising and falling with the desert.”
“I was home alone a lot working on the album. Trusting myself, following my compass…I feel really proud because it’s exactly how I want it to sound. There are a few moments where my voice cracks and I was thinking of redoing the vocal tracks, but I feel like there’s an honest, intimate feel to those imperfections.”
“The desert has a brittleness to it. It goes through phases of silence and native noises. In the early morning, you can hear the owls burrowing under the cactuses and sometimes you simply hear nothing at all.”
“Near the entrance of Joshua Tree, there are piles of jumbo rocks, almost like doorways, and I’d climb up there and just sit to take it all in.”
“Before I left for the trip I met with Maria Cornejo and she told me about her own time spent in the Mojave Desert—a journey that greatly moved and inspired her as well. The print on this gown was taken from an image of rock formations photographed by Maria while on a hike in Joshua Tree. The yellow in some of the photos was so vivid, she didn’t have to manipulate it at all in the design studio.”
“I’ve always loved her line. The Zero + Maria Cornejo textiles are beautiful and feel nice on the skin. When you wear Maria Cornejo’s clothing you feel comfortable and magical all at the same time. You don’t have to think about it, yet somehow all the careful drapery and geometry falls into place when you slip on one of her pieces. It’s exquisite—like wizard apparel!
“Listening to some kinds of music, reading books, even wearing certain clothes takes you out of the minutia of the everyday.”
“The whole album reflects a place where there’s more space and time. In New York City, everyone’s always onto the next thing before that thing has even happened. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey closer to nature and being a bit more at peace in the moment.”
Exclusive: Listen to Melaena Cadiz’s first single, ‘Last Night In My Dreams’ from her upcoming untitled album on Misra Records.
Produced by Joe Rogers at Room 17 studio.