Interview: Miranda Lee Richards

"The planets all aligned for music in the sixties."

Beauty can be a mixed blessing, especially in the case of a female singer-songwriter with a past in modelling seeking serious consideration as an artiste. Miranda Lee Richards, who recently visited Japan to promote her impressive debut album, The Herethereafter, is certainly familiar with this problem. Although, as she points out, it tends to be more of a Western phenomenon:
"I try not to talk about my modelling background too much in the American press, the Californian singer confides. "But in Japan I can talk about it freely. It's much more idealized."
Indeed, while external beauty is often viewed automatically as a sign of internal vacuousness in the West, the fact that she's a beautiful young women only helps her case in Japan. Her modelling past, a popular topic with Japanese music journalists, is treated with reverence, although there are many more interesting facets to her, such as a Bohemian childhood in San Francisco growing up in a milieu that included legendary counterculture cartoonist Robert Crumb, and a 'friendship' with Metallica's Kirk Hammet when she was in high school.

The heavy metal guitarist even gave her the occasional guitar lesson, she remembers, although her muse took her in a very different direction as the soft, psychedelic-tinged folk rock of The Herethereafter makes clear. Her musical homeland, she explains, is the Sixties.
"I really truly believe that the Sixties was the golden age of rock and pop music," she affirms. "It was a combination of really good melodies with interesting sounds and a good message."
Then with a characteristic poetic touch, she adds, "The planets all aligned for music in the sixties."

With a soft, sweet, sirenesque voice that is both sensual and relaxing, adorning beautiful melodies, her music has obvious appeal anywhere, but how do her wistful and intelligent lyrics face up to the language barrier?
"I've heard from Japanese people that my lyrics and subject matter translate quite well into Japanese," she notes with evident pleasure. "Also, when I write, I don’t get too specific or personal. I try to say things poetically so people can interpret them as they like."
This approach definitely helps her words blend with the delicate aural textures of her music and voice. But while Richards melodies are mellifluous there is also a strong strain of melancholy in them. The hypnotic Folkin Hell, she reveals, is about a woman who is so strong and self-reliant, but it leaves her ultimately lonely. While the hardest song for her to write, the wrenching Seven Days, was her attempt to write about "drug addiction – not necessarily your own – in a way that didn't seem preachy."

Unless you're lucky enough to think life is a beach party, a beautiful blonde chirping away cheerfully about the joys of life can become irritating, so the element of melancholy in Richards music strikes just the right balance.
"I'm much more inspired by melancholy than I am by pure, dopey happiness," she admits. "I think that almost all the best songs have that melancholy factor."
Light enough to be uplifting, but with enough dignity and sadness to anchor it to the real world, her music represents an achievement that many a more experienced musician would find difficult to pull off. The Herethereafter goes a long way to disproving the popular theory that equates beauty with airheadedness.

Colin Liddell
International Herald Tribune Asahi Shimbun
27th April, 2002
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