“Go for it. Now is the time.” That’s the advice that musician Mindy Amelotte has for us during these pandemic days.
“Start something new, whatever it may be. I think that keeping your mind occupied and getting even the smallest things done each day is good for your mental health. It keeps you out of that Groundhog Day mentality—bad state of mind, but a great movie, btw.”
Mindy, a multi-instrumentalist who explores R&B, neo-soul, and pop, joined us to talk about changes in her life and the music that she’s been listening to.
I want to start by thanking you for having me on here to share what I’ve been up to. Long before the pandemic began, I was working on my newest EP at home in my kitchen with my laptop sitting on a box for elevation to compensate for my chronic back pain (pain that has been so intense at times that it cost me a year of productivity). I was super focused on my work. Recording and creating is my happy place and it fuels me with energy like nothing else. So much so that the energy sometimes converts itself into food because I forget to eat at times!
I am a creator first and foremost. I used to make and release music under my stage name Dynamite Motel (an anagram of Mindy Amelotte). But, as my creative paths have headed in new directions, I decided it was time for that to change. I now make music under my own name. It feels like a brand-new day! Between my last release in 2017 (Lift A Little Dark) and this new EP (Full Blast) I’m starting to feel free and weightless more than I ever have before. I feel like I can just make whatever ideas pop into my head. I never worry about whether I can recreate it in a live setting. I just want to keep having fun making my music and art.
Performing has always been tough for me and I think of it as a secondary part of my life. I prefer playing gigs that are as uber-relaxed as possible and those can be very tough to find. But I got my wish! I was playing every Thursday night for the dinner crowd at Stoneface Dolly’s on Riverside South with my trumpet-playing friend Ed Krull. I started that gig in April 2019 and I very much enjoyed it. I also had a part-time job as a crossing guard to take the pressure off making gig money so that I could focus on home recording.
“This is such a surreal time in history for us all and every day I feel so lucky to be living with the two loves of my life: my wife and my dog.”
That leads me to my life during this pandemic. This is such a surreal time in history for us all and every day I feel so lucky to be living with the two loves of my life: my wife and my dog. I’m also grateful to be in a better mental and physical place. Some people aren’t so fortunate, and I sympathize with them. I’m also happy that I was already an introverted DIY music nerd, so I was already primed to deal with the situation. But a few things did change. My crossing guard job ended with schools in Ontario being shut down. Because of the pandemic, Stoneface Dolly’s also had to close their doors permanently and my weekly gig is officially over. My heart goes out to them as well as all the frontline workers.
For me, this pandemic feels like I have extra and yet precious time on the clock. I feel so strongly that I can’t waste a second of it. Before all this started, I figured I would finish the new EP and make a couple of music videos. But during the quarantine period I’ve ended up making a music video for each new song, as well as a few videos for songs from my previous album. I’m also working on my social media sites and music pages, updating everything from my previous music life as Dynamite Motel and entering this new creative chapter as Mindy Amelotte. It’s a challenge but I feel up to it.
Let’s talk albums, which is what this is all about! Lots of stuff rushed through my mind. I just can’t do two, so I thought I’d focus on these four albums that I’ve been continuously listening to these past few months while walking my dog.
Tank And The Bangas – Green Balloon
This band from New Orleans quickly became one of my favourites! I discovered them when they won the 2017 Tiny Desk contest, and I got their debut 2013 album Think Tank. Then they came out with Green Balloon in 2019, and outdid themselves again! Their style of funk, hip hop with jazzy frills, and spoken word has it all. Tarriona Ball is a hurricane of talent like nothing else I’ve ever seen. She does spoken word, raps and sings. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous and morphs from a serious to a playful tone. She’s a big influence on me. I’ve always loved hip hop and rappers like Jean Grae, Atmosphere, and Lauryn Hill, but I think it was Tank’s spoken-word stuff that gave me the push to also try my hand at a little rap or singing rap on my new EP. Her lyrics really make you think outside the box. Lots of fun! And live… boy, do they give you a show. Check out their live streams!
Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Oh Billie! So my wife and I had heard her name so much at one point that last year we were like “all right what’s the deal with this young girl.” I hate to say that we were skeptical due to what we thought might be over-hype, but then decided to not be judgmental and give it a listen. By the first song, we were hit with fresh beats that we couldn’t sit still to. Billie’s voice could only be described as that of an angel sending shivers up your neck! As the songs flowed along, we realized this was a stellar piece of work, not only musically but lyrically as well. It almost made me want to throw up my hands and say “well, she is 17 and she’s done it, what else should I be doing instead.” Haha. In all seriousness, it’s just inspiring me to start building better beats for my next project.
Andy Shauf – The Party
Andy is my most recent discovery—I found him while in a YouTube hole. He’s a Canadian singer-songwriter from Saskatchewan. I saw his video “The Magician” and thought, this is gorgeous! I found his album and got right into it. He plays several instruments and has a way of setting a scene in each song and takes you inside with him. He has a soothing voice and shows brilliance in song crafting that is reminiscent of Elliot Smith. I later found out he was one of the performers announced for a Polaris Prize in 2016. That would explain my addiction to this album!
Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun
She has never left my playlist since I discovered her back in ’98! We all know her and love her. She is an innovator, performer, creator of all thing Badu! She created and produced all of her videos and keeps on evolving. My greatest influence of all time. I’ve been enjoying her live streams too.
About Tank And The Bangas – Green Balloon
Tarriona “Tank” Ball said that “Green Balloon is every version of myself that I’ve met so far.” Atwood magazine wrote that the album is “full of love and light, and you can’t help but come away from it feeling a little more whole, somehow.”
About Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Pitchfork wrote that the album was “as widely collagist as a teen’s bedroom wall.” NME glowingly said that, “this is a memorable and game-changing debut record… a remarkable effort from an artist whose sound has come in danger of being camouflaged by hype.”
About Andy Shauf – The Party
NPR said that Shauf “sings with a wallflower’s remove and knowing specificity,” while Exclaim wrote that the album is “like the soundtrack to a particularly devastating film noir.”
About Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun
Rolling Stone said that “Mama’s Gun finds Erykah disrobing emotionally, shedding the self-righteousness and goddess posture that marked Baduizm.” BBC wrote that “at times, it resembles an out-of-focus Sly Stone jam; at others, the best songs Joni Mitchell never recorded.”