Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, Leslie Mendelson, premieres her third single, “I Need Something To Care About,” from her upcoming album If You Can’t Say Anything Nice...expected this spring via Royal Potato Family.
Her latest single reveals itself on the more intimate side of the forthcoming record, co-produced by longtime co-writer Steve McEwan alongside Lorenzo Wolff.
“I Need Something To Care About” absorbs a well of emotions that weave throughout the album. Light, airy instrumentation contrasts with Mendelson’s painfully candid lyrics. The words reveal raw footage from her struggles with depression and anxiety. For the first time in her musical career, Mendelson faced her demons in the recording studio, uncovering a confessional honesty throughout her song. Though it tells a heart-wrenchingly relatable story, there is still a positive message.
“We are inundated with the 24/7 news cycle and the media in our face constantly. I have anxiety about that. Between that and when I am feeling my lowest, it can be hard to get it together and get your day going. You need a reason to get out of bed sometimes,” Mendelson explained.
“Not all is lost, though,” she continued, “I am a hopeful person at the core of it. Even at my lowest, I am looking to try to find something positive and inspiring. Some days are harder than others. The song came from the feeling that at least the want is there. The wanting to feel better and get out of bed and feel inspired, it’s the one little thing that you need.”
Considering the defining gun violence, opioid crisis, and hatred in the news and media in the last decade, Mendelson felt this record was her opportunity to speak out. When future generations listen to music, she hopes they will gain insight into what was going on in the world at this time. Drawing parallels from her days as a student, she explained that it was much easier to learn about history through art and music than it was by facts and dates. “The art classified the eras a little more clearly for me,” remarked Mendelson.
“Medication,” deals simultaneously with her mental health as well as an outward-facing perspective of the current drug crisis we face as a nation. “Would You Give Up Your Gun?” poses a question to Americans to consider how willing they are to protect innocent lives.
“I think it is harder to write the broader songs because you don’t want to sound trite,” Mendelson expressed. “You don’t want to sound too on the nose. I like to be subtle about it, but also explain what I am trying to say without being too vague.”
Her career as an artist began under the guidance of legendary producer, Joel Dorn. His inspirational mentorship led Mendelson to her first record deal with Rykodisc. Devastated by Dorn’s death in 2007, Mendelson was unable to complete her debut album, Swan Feathers, for almost two years.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” Mendelson thoughtfully described her journey since her first record in 2009. Between then and the upcoming If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…, the singer-songwriter-turned-artist has encountered many career shifting stops and starts. Living in London from 2012 to 2014, Mendelson was under the same management as The Who. Since then, the iconic group has asked her to open two of their performances at Madison Square Garden. “It was pretty epic,” Mendelson shared humbly, underplaying the gravity of the experience.
Mendelson finally released her stripped-down sophomore album, Love & Murder, in 2017, produced by Mark Howard, who she described as “brilliant.”
Another serendipitous start came at a house party Mendelson performed at in Red Hook. After her set, she was approached by film director and screenwriter (‘Crash’) about collaborating with Jackson Browne on an end-credit song for a documentary he was making called ‘5B.’
“I didn’t expect to hear from him, and then I did,” she laughed. “Steve McEwan and I sketched something out, and we sent it to Jackson. Jackson liked what he heard, so we got together in New York, and what he added to it was just stunningly beautiful.”
The song, “A Human Touch” closed the documentary about the first AIDS ward in San Francisco that opened at the height of the crisis in the 80’s. The film focuses on the nurses who took a chance on their own life to help these patients, without a cure. “They took off the hazmat suits and gave these patients love and care before they even knew how it might affect them. They are real heroes and the movie is beautiful,” Mendelson shared.
“Jackson Browne is one of my all-time favorites. A hero for me. Getting to work with him that closely was a dream,” Mendelson shared. “Then he invited me on tour with him last summer after the documentary, so I got to sing the song with him every night. It was a wonderful experience that I will cherish forever.”
This record started coming together at about the same time last year. Some of the songs are new; some are older and “needed a home.”
“All the songs felt like there was something connected. One of the songs, “Speed of Light,” I wrote about 8 years ago. I’ve recorded it four or five times. With a band, without a band. Finally, we tapped into something, and I feel like we captured the real essence of it. It just fit sonically and emotionally on the album, so I’m glad we were able to put it on the record.”
In the wake of the shock the entire world has faced over the last few weeks, Mendelson circled back with the following remarks:
“Well, since we’ve last spoken, things have really changed. Up until two weeks ago, I had a pretty good spring lined up: Three more gigs opening for The Who, a concert at The Town Hall, and a tour with Jackie Greene, which have all been either postponed or canceled. My record is still coming out next month but I’m having to rethink everything. We all do. I’m playing my first live stream concert this weekend. I feel like people still want and need music, so if this is the way forward, for now, I’m in.”
Listen exclusively to Leslie Mendelson’s latest single, “I Need Something To Care About,” now carrying more weight than ever. Pre-save her upcoming album, If You Can’t Say Anything Nice… and RSVP for her live stream concert this weekend.