Known for her storytelling and attention-grabbing voice, Malena Cadiz has released her new album, Hellbent & Moonbound, on October 20th. This is Cadiz’s fourth full-length album, following Rattle the Windows (2010), Deep Below Heaven (2014), and Sunfair (2016).
Hellbent & Moonbound marks a new streak of creativity for Cadiz, expanding her songwriting prowess and exploring new production frontiers. The two singles off the album, “Easy” and “Call It a Night,” are accompanied by captivating music videos, showcasing Cadiz’s unique vision in pairing her music with resonating visual storytelling. Her songwriting is a mix of grounded and freewheeling, endlessly searching for — and ultimately finding — the beauty in simplicity.
Having grown up between Michigan and Singapore, Cadiz is no stranger to change. “I always felt rootless, not quite belonging to either place,” she says. Currently living in Los Angeles, she continues working on evolving her sound and performing.
We got to chat with the Cadiz to learn more about her as an artist, the new album, her music videos, and more.
So how was your 2023? Any notable highlights?
It’s been great! Prepping to put this record out has been a real highlight. I’m pretty elated that it’s out in the world at long last. I also did a writing trip down to Nashville, which was so fun and inspiring. And some family adventures, day to day joys like walking my dog and having fireside hangs with my family.
So you dropped your new album, Hellbent & Moonbound, a few weeks ago. Any overarching themes or motifs in this album?
I would say the central theme is about moving towards light, letting go, and trusting. The title “Hellbent and Moonbound” was inspired by Ada Limón’s poem “Drift.” The phrase “moon-bound and hell-bent on defying the usual gravity of this spin” really stuck with me. To me “moonbound” means moving towards whatever lights you up, often through darkness and “hellbent” is with a deep commitment and determination – defying the gravitational pull of anything that might hold us back. This became the spine of the record and I like to think of each song almost like a rib, connecting to this central idea from a different angle.
How might it compare and contrast to your 2016 release, Sunfair?
I wrote Sunfair mostly in Joshua Tree on a writing retreat while I was living in New York. A lot in my life was feeling misaligned. I was feeling depleted living in the city and ready for a change. The central theme of Sunfair was definitely also about choosing light – that we all have the power to change the trajectories of our lives if we’re feeling stuck. So Hellbent feels like a continuation of that journey. Springsteen says we tell the same stories again and again and I guess that’s true.
What was the process like as a whole from writing, recording, and beyond? Any major hurdles or pivotal moments?
I took a long time to write these songs, as I had just uprooted my life, my husband and I moved across the country, and I had a daughter. I went through long periods of self-doubt about what I was doing artistically and what the next step was. During the pandemic, like many of us, I found myself going inward and finding solace in being creative.
I had met Andrew Lappin, who produced the record, a couple years before we began recording. We would hang out and talk about art and music, and then in 2020, decided to track a few songs together. It felt so easy, we were always on the same page about where the songs should go, so it felt natural to keep going until we had the full record. Andrew is such an incredible collaborator, he really understands how to get to the natural logic of a song and lift it up in surprising ways without getting in the way of its essence.
The music video for your single “Easy” has such a bright, relaxed feel. Can you talk about the concept of the video and vision behind it?
My friend Julie Goldstone and I ran around with a Super 8 camera for a couple days. Anna Ash (another phenomenal songwriter & singer) helped out by dressing up and being another character and Danielle Armstrong did props. It felt like we were all just playing and it was a real joy to create all together.
All the songs on Hellbent & Moonbound are so visual. What made you choose “Easy,” “Shatter” and “Call It A Night” to become music videos?
“Easy,” “Call It A Night” and “Shatter” are the ones people seemed to connect with most when I sent out a survey to friends to find the singles for this record. I love making visuals for every song though, and have a few more videos in the works.
“Child Again” is such a striking way to end the album. What was the decision like when it came to picking it to end the album?
Thanks for saying that, I think it’s my favorite song on the record. It’s a song on memory, growing old, reincarnation. It was inspired by a party in rural Vermont after a festival we’d played. The immediacy of a party with all our friends & walking through the moonlit snow. I think those instances of being so in the present quickly lead to thoughts of how fleeting every moment is. I remember lying in the snow under a full moon thinking about aging and mortality. I started this one in Molly Sarlés songwriting workshop through School of Song. We tracked this at Bryan Senti’s studio with him on felt piano and kept the vocal really dry and raw.
My producer suggested it for the final track and I agreed immediately. I love how the album ends on this bare, vulnerable note. And the idea that “someday I’ll be a child again,” leaning into the unknown about what comes next felt like the right way to end the record.
What are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist?
Every time someone tells me my songs helped them through a moment of darkness it feels really affirming. So often as songwriters we create our art alone – at least the songwriting part – to process our own pain and joy and sorrow. When that connects to another person’s experience, lifts a little weight from their heart – those moments make me feel like I’m doing something meaningful.
And building community – that’s not one specific moment, but when I’m part of something with my musical community and look around and see all their faces I’m so filled up by it! Those are really pinnacle moments of this artistic journey.
What plans do you have for the rest of this year and into 2024?
I have my record release show in a few weeks (Dec 3rd at Gold-Diggers in LA) so I’m getting ready for that. In 2024 I plan to tour the record around the U.S. and hopefully do a few Europe dates.
Featured photo by Mikael Kennedy