Adam Melchor wrote “Last Time” mere weeks before the global pandemic took hold. Energized by its indie-folk markings, the LA musician fully intended to perform the moody tune on tour, which would have begun with a much-coveted SXSW showcase. But it was canceled. Everything was canceled.
What started as a song about saying goodbye at the airport morphed into a soul-crushing plea for human connection in all its forms. When he first wrote the song, he had been in a long-distance relationship, and in drawing upon such ache, he now turns in a moving, evocative performance. Melchor also pulls tender strings on missing his family, who reside on the East coast, and the constant existential crisis. “Every time I leave all of them I think ‘What if my plane crashes? Did I tell them I love them enough?’ It’s a little bit dark but hard not to think about whenever there’s turbulence,” he says of the song’s emotional core.
“The airport is such a wild venue for emotions. It amazes me how many people are feeling the highest range of emotions at every gate, and this is a song that sort of pays tribute to that range,” he continues.
Once live events were canceled for the foreseeable future, he began to realize “not only will I not see my friends and fans… but also my grandma… my parents… my sisters. This song kept me a lot of company and made me feel a glimmer of hope,” he tells American Songwriter. “The last line of the song really does it for me, because the whole song is uncertain, and then you get to laugh about it at the end.”
The accompanying visual, directed by Murial Margaret, finds Melchor meandering through Minneapolis farmland, sullen and alone. Margaret’s eye for style, color, and mood is on full display, focused around the setting sun and a descending darkness that engulfs the performer. “Muriel is one of those people where you give her a match, and she turns it into a star. From the first day I’ve worked with her, I’ll mention the smallest glimmer of an idea,” says Melchor, “and 30 minutes later she will have a full treatment or location or outfit. It’s really amazing, and I am so lucky to have her vision.”
“I think we knew we wanted big skies and vast fields,” he adds. “A lot of what Muriel and I like to do is with instinct, so we sort of follow our gut on most of the visuals we explore.”
“I’m takin’ a picture of this in the back of my mind / Cuz every time I go I’m scared it’s gonna be the last time,” confesses Melchor over an acoustic/electronic mix. The beat pulses at the center, and his voice oozes the kind of loneliness we all felt in 2020.
“Last Time” anchors Melchor’s forthcoming Melchor Lullaby Hotline, Vol. 1 and signals “where I’ve been and where I’m going.” With co-producer Elie Rizk, he “wanted this to feel acoustic but futuristic and also lo-fi at the same time. I think it has a bedroom-folk kind of feel to it and the whole [project] is more of the same. Lyrically, this captures the portrait of the year for me, and this mixtape is a reflection of my year in recording. It’s basically the mantra I’ve been telling myself: that it won’t be the last time I see you all.”
Last February, Melchor launched the Melchor Lullaby Hotline and asked fans to text/email him to hear new tracks. It allowed the singer-songwriter to write, record, and find even a sliver of solace in his craft. Along the way, he learned how “necessary” human connection is. “Facetime only gets you so far.  also made me realize that human connection is the reason I play shows. Without shows and the people who come, I lose about 90 percent of my human connection.”
“That’s the biggest reason I go live so much and give songs to people every week through the lullaby hotline,” he continues. “It’s basically my way of saying, ‘Hey, what’s up? I miss you all and I’m wondering how you’re doing.’”
In his work, he has found greater “intention in lyrics,” he notes. Melchor has always prided himself on such an approach, but 2020 pushed him further. “There’s no time for bullshit anymore; everyone can see through it, and why would anyone want to put out something with just filler in it anyway? I feel like I’ve been slimming down my lyrics and cutting the fat, so to speak, on the meat of them.”
He also realized “that if you’re not clear in your message, it can be mistaken for something else,” he adds. “Life’s too short for songs that aren’t authentic to you, so say what you wanna say and keep truckin’.”
Melchor first moved to Los Angeles in 2018, and in three short years, he has managed sessions with everyone from Charlie Puth and The Chainsmokers to Finneas and Rachel Platten. He has released a string of streaming hits (“Real Estate” and “I CHOOSE YOU,” among them) and several EPs on his own, including 2020’s SUMMER CAMP.
Taking a moment to reflect on his songwriting journey, Melchor says it all comes down to the art of collaboration. “Collaboration makes me a more real version of myself. Also, collaboration and sessions are rarely about the song; it’s the relationship you make with the songwriters. Some sessions I have, we don’t even take out an instrument or sing a note. Those are the best sessions because getting to know someone is also getting to know their artistry.”
Photo by Muriel Margaret