“I like to think of this album as a collection of real talk love songs,” says indie soul-pop artist Pamela Machala (pronounced “MOCK-uh-luh”). “The term ‘love song’ calls to mind rainbows and unicorns, but I think it can encompass a more honest kind of song. The happier, upbeat songs on this album aren’t bubblegum - they acknowledge that pain is a natural part of loving relationships, and human life in general. There’s a song about career disappointment, and how much it hurts to consider giving up something you’re passionate about. Even the breakup songs are love songs in a way, paying homage to past love.”
The Boulder, Colorado-based singer/songwriter calls her latest album Something Simple. It’s a milestone artistic feat that has one foot in the lyric-focused Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter tradition and the other foot tapping the grooves of Motown and R&B. Pamela strikes an earthy yet elegant aesthetic balance with influences ranging from jazz and soul to musical theater and folk. Signatures of Pamela’s songwriting include sprightly hooks, effortless vocals, subtly complex chord changes, feelgood funky grooves, and boldly vulnerable lyrics. Pamela’s songs would fit comfortably on a playlist featuring artists such as Sara Bareilles, Carole King, and Lake Street Dive.
The past few years have been a creative watershed for Pamela as an artist and songwriter. The soon-to-be-released songs on Something Simple have already earned her some accolades: the esteemed publication American Songwriter awarded Pamela an Honorable Mention in their July 2018 lyric contest for her original song "Cardboard Cutout”, and her song “Bleeding Me Dry” received the Grand Prize in the 2019 SongDoor International Songwriting Competition. Tony Zotta, President of SongDoor, says, “Pamela's song was a runaway winner...It's the largest margin for a winning song we've ever had, a real testament to the songwriting ability of Ms. Machala.” In addition, Denver’s Westword nominated Pamela for “Best Pop Act of 2019.”
Pamela is a native of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, and grew up in a family of professional classical musicians. When asked about how she started playing music, Pamela recalls, “It’s like that joke where two fish are swimming along and an older fish asks them how the water is. One fish turns to the other and says, ‘what the hell is water?’ In my family, music was always around and part of everyday life. It was just what we did.” Hours of practice time was the norm in her household. In fact, Pamela’s twin brother is featured on the album playing strings on “Leave You Alone.”
At Oberlin College, Pamela nurtured her nascent gift for songwriting, and began to perform at open mics. She ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and later went back to school to earn a master’s degree in music. “What do you get when you cross a philosophy major & a music major? A songwriter,” she jokes. Studying jazz opened her up to new harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic possibilities. “I went back to school in service to my songwriting,” she says. “I wanted more tools in my toolbag, particularly developing my understanding of music theory and harmony, so that I had a broader sonic palette to work with.”
Pamela’s third full-length album Something Simple, produced by Longmont, CO-based artist Julian Peterson, is a coming of age story of truth and clarity. The title track features a tender, almost James Taylor-like song structure perfectly balanced on a funky, R&B-flavored underlay. Here, Pamela’s vocals are soulfully gentle, singing: Can I love you and not wanna own you/Can I love you and let you go free/Can I love you and not try to change you /Can I let you be you and let me be me. Pamela says: “I wrote that song near the end of a long-term relationship. I call it my relationship prayer. Not in the sense of praying for a new relationship, but an anchor to remind myself of how I want to treat other people, and specifically my partner. It’s nice to have a reminder of what we realistically can and cannot do for others. You can’t make someone else happy. But you can tell them a joke and make them laugh. And sometimes those little things mean a lot. I wrote that song with the intention of singing it to my future husband on our wedding day, and I did just that last September.”
“To Open Yours” is Pamela’s self-described “anti-FOMO” song—it’s a celebration of missing out to devote quality time to something or someone you love. The hook declares: I would shut these other doors, just hopin’ to open yours. The fragile ballad “Leave You Alone” features stingingly vulnerable lyrics: I’ll leave you alone now/I won't call anymore/I'll leave you alone now/I won't linger by your door/I won't tap on your window/I won't light up your phone/I'll think of you every day/but I'll leave you alone. The album winds down with a jaunty ode to weed, “My Little Green Friend,” and closes with the gently searching, “Ain’t It Grand.” The song’s final refrain seems an apt one for 2020, ending with: Hey baby ain't it grand, nothing's turned out like we planned/But hey baby, won't ya stay awhile.
Something Simple is a broadly resonant collection of lived-through songs gathered from years of seismic self-growth and life changes. “I’ve learned that the more honest you are as a songwriter, the more you can connect,” Pamela says. “My dearest hope is that these songs will find a home in someone else's heart and provide them comfort in hard times, just as my songwriting heroes have done for me.”