Music for jazz singer/songwriter Melody Gardot is more than just a creative impulse. Music-writing, for her, has restorative qualities, particularly since she got into an accident that could have killMusic for jazz singer/songwriter Melody Gardot is more than just a creative impulse. Music-writing, for her, has restorative qualities, particularly since she got into an accident that could have killed her when she 19 years old.
In November 2003, as she biked in her native Philadelphia, Gardot was hit by a car that blew through a red light off of the highway, which knocked her body "wherever a body gets knocked when it gets T-boned by a car," she tells Billboard.com. She sustained a TBI (a traumatic brain injury) and her cognitive thinking abilities were deeply affected. She was became sensitive to sound and light -- she constantly dons a hearing aid and sunglasses -- and at first could only sit up for only 10 minutes at a time.
As Gardot and her doctors discussed alternatives to heavy medications, it came up that she used to play piano. "But I was devastated. I didn't have the wherewithal to even use my sit-bones beyond punching out 'Chopsticks,'" says Gardot, now 24. "I thought it was hopeless but the doctors suggested I use music to heal. My mom though I might play guitar instead because I could play it in bed... from there I started pulling notes out by ear."
She began composing and singing songs and crafted recordings from her bedside, though she admits that her "facilities weren't ideal for learning a new instrument." A friend came by asking what she was up to and she allowed him to hear the songs. He asked for a copy of what was the EP "Some Lessons - The Bedroom Sessions" and a week later he came back to tell her he started her a MySpace page
Fast forward and, after an onslaught of positive reactions from people who heard her story, she was invited to play World Café for a south Asia tsunami benefit. WXPN DJ/programmer Helen Leicht added her songs to the rotaction turned out XPN. Grammy award-winning producer Glenn Barratt began asking her repeatedly to let him engineer her full-length effort. She eventually obliged.
The result, "Worrisome Heart" (Verve) was released earlier this year and has earned Gardot her way onto five Billboard charts, including the No. 172 peak so far on The Billboard 200. "I get a lot of inspiration from love," she laughs, "and the lack of it."
Gardot's precise vibrato reports through slow and fast-paced modern jazz tracks, led by guitar and piano. She views her writing as "self-soothing" and has a good sense of humor about her "masochistic" live performances, considering her sensitivity to light and sound. She performs sitting down, her cane by her side and says she "feels like the cool kid getting picked on a kickball team" with all the demand for her live performances.
She's been back in the studio with Barratt in California, there on a one-way ticket in consideration of moving to the sunnier coast. "The cool thing is, in L.A., everyone else is wearing sunglasses, too."