Singer/songwriter Malea McGuinness is known for her powerful, sensual voice and intimate lyrics. (Take a listen below!) The Korean-Irish American sang opera and on Broadway before turning to her true musical style — an amalgam of pop, rock and country. She shows off her skills — and bares her soul — in her latest album Close As Air, where she sings of the loneliness she felt as a child. Malea spent the first two years of her life with relatives in South Korea before moving in with her strict grandparents in Long Island. She sings of that transition in her song “Stars”: “There’s a wild and lonely child in the airport/Standing there with tears in her eyes.”
Here, Malea lets us in on one of her fondest memories on tour.
This year I was invited to come back and perform at Summerfest, the world s largest musical festival, in Milwaukee, Wisc. It s like being a kid in a candy store. You might have Tom Petty, Train, The Roots, and Kid Rock all performing on different stages the same night! Needless to say, I always have a blast and look forward to it all year. This year I played the Harley Davidson Stage. With all the Harleys mounted and displayed on stage, playing some of my songs, some Allman Brothers covers, I always have to pinch myself.
What makes this show the most fun for me is the audience. I was halfway through my set when I noticed this adorable little Asian girl wearing one of my T-shirts smiling at me. I smiled and sang to her. Though there were thousands of people, I think she knew I was singing to her.
After the show, I went over to my merchandise table, where I get to meet and greet my fans. It is probably my favorite part of the show. It’s a lot of fun to answer questions about my music and get a chance to thank my fans for their support. The little girl from the audience came up to me — her name was Lulu. She had a card and gift for me. I was so blown away, so touched that she had thought of me. She made me a card with her picture, which is now up on my bulletin board, and a pair of earrings I’ll always treasure. After spending some time with her I took down her address from her mom. As soon as I arrived home, I opened my jewelry making case and made something special for her and her mom.
And that’s what music is all about. Making people happy. It doesn’t get better than this.
– Malea McGuinness
Malea McGuinness’s star has been steadily rising, ever since her second single “Sweet Light” off her debut album True Believer hit number three on the adult contemporary top 40 music charts in 2007. We first featured the Korean-Irish-Scottish American in Audrey‘s Aug/Sep 2008 “Indie Music” issue. And now the singer-songwriter is out with her second CD, Close As Air.
Since then, she’s completely revamped her look as you can see below.
And it’s not just her look. Her sound’s been amped up as well. It’s a lot more rock, but there’s still that intimacy that makes Malea so addicting. Like in her song “Stars.” You see, Malea was born in Fort Hood, Texas, to a Irish Green Beret father and a Korean mother. After living two years in Seoul, Korea, Malea, then 5, and her younger sister were sent to live with her paternal grandfather and step-grandmother on Long Island. She says she wasn’t allowed to listen to much music or watch TV growing up.
You can hear that aching loneliness and isolation in the song: “There’s a wild and lonely child in the airport/Standing there with tears in her eyes.”
“That was me at 5,” says Malea, “waiting to be picked up my grandparents.”
Or like the title track which pays tribute to one of her close friends and personal musical mentors. “It’s about having faith in something you can’t necessarily see or touch — a higher calling, a higher being,” she says.
You’d never guess that Malea got her start studying opera at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, before landing a featured role in the Broadway revival of The King and I. Her warm, sensual vocals has a hint of country twang, a nod to her inspirations ranging from Linda Ronstadt, Crystal Gayle, Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow to more R&B-flavored singers like Roberta Flack and Elton John. Here’s a taste:
And now we’re giving away five autographed copies of Malea’s new CD Close As Air. All you have to do is comment below by Friday, May 28, 11:59 pm, and we’ll pick five lucky winners!
Wanna hear more? Check out Malea at these hot spots in June:
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Breast Cancer Fund Raiser at Dakota Music Lounge, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 393-8200
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Brixton, Redondo Beach, CA, (310) 406-1931 (She’s opening for Crash Test Dummies)
Find out more at Malea’s official website.