Out Artists on the Rise

photo by Rachel Riche
Marni & Melissa
The folksy, softly sweet, poetic rambling sound of Marni & Melissa is intensely soulful and mature, belying the duo's youth. Likened to Shawn Colvin and the Indigo Girls, a love of nature, simple living, and spirituality connects these 24-year-old Montreal, Quebec singers.

Marni Kellison, originally from Ottawa, took up guitar in middle school, partly as a coping mechanism to survive teen angst. "I remember my first song at 13 was about all that sort of catty drama involving preteen girls," she says. "It was mean, it was gritty and angry. When I got an electric [guitar] in high school, I thought I was the shit." She honed her warm alto voice performing in coffeehouses around Montreal, and met Melissa Drysdale at a friend's potluck in 2004. Organically, says Drysdale, "I started singing with her right there, and we didn't interact with any other guests for the rest of the night." A month later, the duo started performing together.

While Kellison's songs recall a bluegrass twang, Drysdale's conjure true folk. Comparatively, "I use more metaphor, and I'm more detatched," says Kellison. "Melissa's more of a poet. She uses really strong imagery. She's got a lot of feelings, that girl." Writing independently of each other, they each add harmonies and instruments to the other's compositions. Their richly textured songs draw comparisons to Ani DiFranco, and like her, they've never contemplated the closet. "We look pretty dykey," says Drysdale. "I don't think we have to say it. People just assume. And then, they shrug."

For their self-titled CD, visit myspace.com/marniandmelissa. –MW

Free Life Campaign 10/27