It’s a long way from a visit with your kids to the Country Music Hall of Fame to a music video depicting a flirtatious game of strip poker, but that’s just where Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell lands: in the middle of a one-on-one card game, shedding her clothes and her inhibitions in her quirky black-and-white clip for “Someone to Love Like You.” A delightfully melodic waltz tune that expresses the longing for that special someone, the song is just one of the delicate treasures waiting to be unearthed on Mandell’s upcoming album, Dark Lights Up, due July 24th on Yep Roc Records. And although the sunny climes of her California home can certainly be felt in some of the LP’s material, a family visit to the hallowed Hall of Fame proved to be the inspiration for much of album.
On tour at the Nashville museum with her two young children, Mandell was significantly inspired by the artifacts on display and began reflecting on her own classic country music influence, especially her affinity for songwriter Roger Miller, whose humor-filled tunes were a reference point for such songs on the album as the finger-popping “Cold Snap,” which owes an obvious debt to the spirit of Miller’s “King of the Road.”
“I was really struck by how simple his production was, and how central his voice and how open the sound was on the record,” Mandell says of the left-brained genius behind other iconic tunes, including “Dang Me” and “England Swings.” “It was really organic. There aren’t a lot of layers, and the melody and his voice and the words were more beautiful for it. It made me want to de-clutter and strip away and make something simple that still sounded full and beautiful.”
With that goal in mind, Mandell produced Dark Lights Up with longtime collaborator Sheldon Gomberg, recording it live at Gomberg’s Silver Lake studio in California in a mere four days. The LP marries Mandell’s rich, textured vocals to vintage melodies and instrumentation. While there’s a great deal of love shown for country tradition throughout, there’s no denying the LP’s fresh, modern approach with such tunes as “Baby, Don’t Call,” a playful, bouncy number that wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility for Patsy Cline and a male harmony singer (in spite of the provocative line in which Mandell declares, “I’m a screamer, baby.”)
On July 14th, Mandell kicks off a 15-city tour that will hit Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York and Boston, among other cities. Dark Lights Up is available for pre-order now, which includes an instant download of “Baby, Don’t Call.”