Leslie Mendelson on Gram Parsons

MacEagon Voyce
October 21, 2020
Leslie Mendelson (credit: Shervin Lainez)

This piece is part of the Algorhythms project: artists telling stories about music they discovered from humans. Because where we discover music is an important part of its impact, and not all music is discovered through an algorithm.

“The best time to make a rock n’ roll record is when you’re broke and pissed off,” said Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson. “I deal with depression and anxiety, and I’ve never really sang about it before. So, I got into a room with my demons and we hit record.”

That record, If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…, arrived a couple weeks ago, rounding out a catalog that includes her grammy-nominated debut Swan Feathers and its acoustic follow-up, Love & Murder. Over the course of her career, Leslie has collaborated with Jackson Browne and opened for The Who, and the new album can be found somewhere between those preeminent reference points — the deft songwriting ability of Browne meets that more visceral Who aesthetic. Not a bad vehicle for a demon-channeling rock n’ roll record.

For her Algorhythm, Leslie shares a story about a mixtape from a friend and the panoply of music it unearthed for her…

I miss mixtapes. It was truly a whole other thing from playlists. Maybe it was the tactile nature — the time it took to transfer each song to cassette. It was a bigger, more thoughtful commitment than dragging and dropping tracks into a playlist on a screen. I’m glad I got to be a part of that culture. I remember getting a mixtape from someone in high school who had excellent taste. The first song was Chrissy Hynde’s cover of Gram Parsons’ “She.” Not only did it turn me on to that gorgeous version and fantastic tribute record, but it also introduced me to Gram, Emmylou, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and The Byrds. From that day on I became a convert and Gram Parsons became a religion.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice… is available now on vinyl, CD and digital formats via Royal Potato Family. Give the record a spin — and listen to our full Algorhythms playlist here.

Interested in finding a new music-based religion to convert to? We can help with that. Grey Matter is a community platform with new ways to discover music and support creators. Learn more and join the community here.

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