TEXT BY ISADORA SPILLMAN-SCHAPPELL ('17)
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MOLLY BALSAM ('14)
It’s hard to talk to Molly Balsam ('14) and feel anything short of lazy. During the course of our hour-long conversation, the former Philosophy and Music double major let it casually slip that she not only sings and plays keyboard for her band, Molly Rocket, but also books all the shows, writes all the songs, and designs all PR. And if holding all these titles weren't enough, the songstress also admitted she wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to do kickboxing in a heated room for fun.
Along with her band's drummer, Atticus Smartwood (’14), Molly moved to Nashville after last summer following her graduation. The move was in part a deliberate choice to avoid the Wesleyan to NYC pipeline after growing up in the city. “The scene in New York post Wesleyan was what I wanted to avoid," she explains. "I felt that the music scene at Wesleyan didn’t highlight the right people and it wasn’t going to do so afterwards."
Calling from her new house in Nashville, Molly admits that there are parts of Wes that she misses. “Being at Wesleyan definitely made me think the general population was much more on the same page politically,” she reflects. “The real world is like jumping into a ice cold lake when it comes to that.” Nonetheless, the alum is quick to discuss what Wesleyan could do better. “It's such a small environment it’s so easy to feel competitive. Plus, it was easy to feel that there was so much going on you didn’t end up doing anything," she notes. "Sometimes, none of my friends would end up going to a show because pregames lasted till midnight. Here, if my show is at eight people come at eight.”
One thing we both agreed upon was how male dominated Wes' music scene is. On most weekend nights, concerts are 90% male. Molly's advice is for us non-male identifying musicians to be louder. “Its great that we all play, but unless you throw it in their faces they wont notice because that's the way things have been,” she explains. “It’s hard to turn peoples heads without physically turning them." Today, Molly is part of the Nashville Feminist Art Collective and the Nashville Riot Grrls. She also makes a concerted effort to play shows that have other female fronted bands on the bill.
Listening to her debut EP, I found the rising star's songs to be both catchy and earnest, like Dolly Parton meets Liz Phair. This bluesier effect she credits to Nashville, which also encourages her to focus more on the performance aspect of the work. “The whole honkey-tonk, larger than life, aspect of Nashville has affected my performance and my music,” she says. “It’s a spectacle as well as great music.”
Over the course of our conversation, she name checks Jenny Lewis, Ben Folds, and Bruce Springsteen as influences on her writing and performance. What brings together these artists is longevity. Molly looks up to artists who have developed artistically yet maintained their following. Of Lewis’ music she says, “It’s very empowering to see an artist change her sound and maintain their following. Her sense of self is so powerful that the music may sound different but you know it’s still her.”
In the past, Molly’s lyrics have been based on personal experiences. Today, she's trying to expand. “Writing confessional songs might create great music, but career long artists don't just write like that, they have skill and talent at their craft," she explains. "You have to be able to get to a point where what you want to say can coincide with what you feel but it doesn’t have to be your story.”
Today, METHOD is thrilled to present Molly Rocket's first video for their song “Bad Habit," directed by Caroline Conrad (’14). To see more of Molly Rocket, like them on Facebook, follow her on Instagram/Twitter, and listen to her Bandcamp.