For both the residents of New Orleans and for Gardot, finding a balance between reflecting on past events and putting those painful memories behind is sometimes difficult. "Because I've written most of these tunes from personal experience, some of them can be quite difficult (to perform live). It takes a lot out of me and it also calls upon a need for me to go back to a place where it was a very real thing that I faced on a daily basis," she said candidly. "In some ways I find it beneficial to look back in order to learn from what we've done, but in other ways continuing to look back is not allowing you to look forward. It's hard for me to constantly go back there."
(Above: Rockwood Music Hall, Photo Credit William Kates)
Gardot considers performing to be a cyclical experience. She drives an equation for her daily routine that will allow her to gear up for the duration of the show. The physical and emotional demands of a live show can be a draining experience, but she finds that her cup is once again filled by the gratitude of her audiences. While Gardot's music certainly stands exquisitely on its own merits, against the backdrop of her journey back from physical devastation it is understandable that the appreciation for her performances is acutely heightened.
She recalled the last of three sold out performances in Montreal where the audience's response was somewhat overwhelming. "We all lined up on the stage to bow, and I had this pain in my heart," Gardot described. "The only thing that I can liken it to is the way you feel on Thanksgiving, when you've eaten so much that you can't move. I had that in my heart from everyone being incredibly generous and so appreciative of what we were doing."
As New Orleanians and as human beings, we all lost something through the Katrina experience and its aftermatha loved one, a home, a neighbor or a neighborhood, a business, our possessions, an heirloom of sentimental value, our innocence, our faith in our leaders, our serenity, or perhaps a way of life. Yet every day since is a struggle to provide a mental framework for those events that will allow us to make sense of the tragedy. And we must move forward in a way that channels our energies toward a future of renewal and hope, or those sacrifices will have been inconsequential.
Melody Gardot has been changed by the events of the last four years. Her newfound success comes with a greater appreciation through the lens of her recovery. The deliberate pace of her day brought on out of necessity is seen as a blessing compared to the frantic pace of her life before her accident.
With the citizens of New Orleans owing such a debt of gratitude toward the citizens of the world for their assistance, it is comforting to know that participants in our recovery find inspiration in our spirit. In my conversation with Melody Gardot, the reciprocity of our shared appreciation for our parallel recovery experiences was evident throughout.
"I love New Orleans and I hope it is continuing to rebuild and regrow and regenerate with the same spirit that I saw when I was there," she said in closing.
We wish those same sentiments for Ms. Gardot.
Melody Gardot, Worrisome Heart
Melody Gardot, Some Lessons
(Self Produced EP, 2005)