Made For Each Other: A Husband-and-Wife Creative Powerhouse
A few years ago, during a friend’s Argentinean asado cookout in upstate Maine, we heard the angelic voice of Melaena Cadiz and we were hooked on her unique sound. Now, as a husband-and-wife duo, photographer Mikael Kennedy and folksinger Cadiz cocreated an album and photo-zine under the same title, Deep Below Heaven. As Cadiz wrote songs, she would send them to Kennedy to hear, and at the same time he would be on location in a remote part of the country and send her pictures of what he was looking at when he heard her music. Through these intertwined creative moments, they produced their respective works but under the same working title. Mikael & Melaena are on the road for a month, stopping at gallery and retail locations of their friends in multiple cities from Nashville to Portland, including our very own Alchemy Works this past weekend. As she sings her beautiful folk melodies, his large landscape images are her backdrop, eluding to the overlapping inspiration to each other in the words and photos.
Cadiz’s new album (her second from Wild Kindness Records) is a series of portraits of the people inhabiting the edges of the world. “There has always been a cross-pollination between my songwriting and Mikael’s work,” Cadiz explained. “While he was on the road, he would send me photos of where he was, looking at these unreal, epic landscapes, and there was a sense of peace in his photos that the characters in my songs longed for.”
Apolis: What is the inspiration behind this project?
Melaena: Mikael gave me a book by Sam Shepard called Motel Chronicles, and in there a quote really stood out to me. The character was riding on the back of a motorcycle and he fell off. As he was flying through the air, he said, “The tallest sky he’d ever seen. The sense of being deep below heaven.” I think this resonated with me at that time and now because I think for everyone we have that common struggle of always reaching for something and at the same time knowing we are far from grace, deep below heaven.
Mikael: As I was on the road for almost a year shooting photos for personal work and commercial jobs, I always tried to find the empty parts of America. I wanted to feel isolated, alone, and peaceful. Having grown up on a farm in rural Vermont, then moving to New York City, I needed this space. I would send her photos from places where I was and it would inspire parts of songs for her, and vice versa in my landscape and big-sky images playing off words from her melodies. During our time in New York, I realized we were framed into this tiny space within a large city but everyone was crawling over each other creatively and there was inspiration in that for us both.
Apolis: As a married couple, how do you challenge each other, creatively and artistically, and still remain together?
Mikael: We don’t allow each other to get away with anything, we constantly push each other to be better and think deeper. With our intertwined works, it inspires us to never stop trying and be better together than apart. I have never met anyone who I am so amazed at what she creates, and that is worth it all.
Apolis: What is your advice to someone starting an album or magazine in this new world of digital publishing?
Melaena: I think that as an artist, I can do this my own way now, and I think there are less restraints on musicians and artists, photographers, designers, etc. now than before. It is most important to follow what inspires and excites you, and that comes through in your work. Last year I released one single per month, called The Singles Project, and that year helped me to see that there isn’t a right or wrong way anymore, just finding art in where you are at that moment.
Mikael: I have found new art and inspiration in many outlets now, and it’s fun to not have boundaries. I can clearly tell when someone isn’t being sincere, so I strive for that in all I do. As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently said, “No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.”
Photos: Courtesy of Apolis