Whenever I write a novel, certain albums sweep into my life and take my breath away. These albums become soundtracks for the novel, and I do not believe in coincidence in the world of music; I believe in fate, intention, and destiny. How else can I account for the way Melody Gardot understands the characters in my novel and brings them to life through the sultry sound of her voice?
Gardot was born in 1985 in New Jersey, although she is now a Philadelphia native. She began music lessons at the age of nine, and by the age of sixteen, she was playing four-hour piano sets at the local Philly bars. Her life changed drastically when, in 2003, she was hit by a car while riding her bike. The accident caused serious damage, including head and spinal injuries, as well as a broken pelvis. Gardot was confined to a hospital bed for a year, and she forgot how to perform simple tasks like brushing her teeth and walking.
Because of her head injuries, she was left hyper-sensitive to light and sound. No longer would she be able to play loud piano bars in downtown Philadelphia. A doctor suggested music therapy. Unable to sit at a piano, Gardot learned to play guitar while lying on her back in her hospital bed. She listened to Stan Getz and discovered new forms of music—quiet, peaceful music. Then, she found her voice.
She has released three albums since her accident: Worrisome Heart, My One and Only Thrill, and her most recent Grammy-nominated effort, The Absence. I received My One and Only Thrill for Christmas this year—my first experience with Gardot—and as I said, her music has joined the complicated plot web of my current novel.
I love Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, and the beautiful Carla Bruni. But those girls have nothing on Gardot. She utilizes full symphony, like the jazz singers of yore. Her music is soft, gentle, and perfect with a glass of wine—usually consumed in a bubbly bathtub. Her vocals are like an eardrum massage. You just want to sit back and go, “Ahhhhh.”
The highlight of the album is its namesake, “My One and Only Thrill”—a song that sounds melancholy but is not, thanks to lyrics that transform her lover into a lifelong, living idol. Most of her songs are melancholy, though, the lyrics circling around broken love or love that just ain’t right. But that’s jazz. Jazz is twenty percent chipper, eighty percent pain—much like the life of Ms. Melody Gardot.