Duality and individuality are overriding themes in the music of MACEDO, the surname of twin sisters Michelle and Melissa, who have taken a lifetime of creative energy and talent to produce their emotionally compelling, richly textured music. Creating electrifying Alternative Pop tunes with empowering messages, MACEDO is gearing up for the release of their new, emotionally driven album, “Ghost Town.”
Their story starts simply enough. They grew up in Pasadena, California in a very musical household. Family gatherings always consisted of everyone getting together, singing and playing instruments. Although they were born into a very musical family and had it ruining through their blood, the prospect of being professional artists was ever considered an option as a career path but more of a hobby. However, Melissa and Michelle were determined to make it happen. As kids, Michelle and Melissa were extremely shy and had a hard time connecting with other kids at school. Looking for an outlet, Michelle began to write poetry and by age ten, the girls started to put the poems to music that they were composing. In 6th grade, the sisters began writing songs together and found a calling in the ability to tell stories through their lyrics. Finding inspiration through incredible songwriting and the telling of impactful stories, MACEDO cites artists such as Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Claude Debussy, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday and Radiohead as some of their biggest influences. It wasn’t long before the duo was hitting the local music scene and starting to play live around L.A. when they were 16 years old.
While away at school on the East Coast, Michelle honed her songwriting producing a solo LP “La Luna” in her first year and in a subsequent flurry of creativity, wrote the bulk of the 2011 album “Flags & Boxes.” Armed with a full album of distinguished songs, their first single to radio was the full band edit of “Caught” produced by Khris Kellow (Christina Aguilera), mixed by Mario Luccy (RealSongs) and mastered by Randy Sharp (Dixie Chicks). With their undeniable talent, MACEDO went on to receive massive radio play both all across the country and internationally. Their recent EP, “Paper Doll,” was based on the soulful tones of Michelle’s grand piano integrated with their breathtaking vocal harmonies. The sound is heavily based on their live shows, which include cello, violin and organ. “Paper Doll” featured a live and raw sound that one rarely hears in today’s music. Specializing in the harmonies, the duo was able to work as a conducive, creative team. Every instrument adds a layer of texture to the soothing vocal blends that Michelle and Melissa provide.
Delving ever-deeper into their songwriting, the twins build upon their extremely unique connection which often involves one twin getting ideas based on a situation the other twin is in. The girls are opposites in nature and temperament, yet are connected by the inexplicable, emotional bond only shared by twins. Never knowing when inspiration will strike, one sister can start a song and the other can finish it. Their upcoming album “Ghost Town” came from a difficult time Michelle faced when struggling with depression and anxiety. The album’s theme of a mystical creative utopia reflects the musical chemistry the girls are lucky enough to experience. All twelve songs (written by Michelle & Melissa) were engineered and produced by MJ Denton. Wurlitzer parts were recorded and played by Khris Kellow. Ultimately, MACEDO’s goal is simple. Michelle and Melissa hope to connect and empower audiences all over the world with their relatable lyrics and captivating melodies.
It’s important to remember that Michelle and Melissa Macedo’s talents are limited to the realm of music! In fact, this truly dynamic duo is already making quite an impact in the worlds of television and film. The sisters are currently appearing on Netflix’s GIRLBOSS. They will also be hitting the silver screen starring as the leads in an upcoming James Franco film titled “Blood Heist.” Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Michelle and Melissa to discuss their blossoming careers, their hard work and dedication to their craft, the process of bringing their upcoming album, “Ghost Town” to life and their philanthropic endeavors with RAINN and USC’s Visions and Voices.
How did you first start getting involved with the arts?
We come from a very musical family. Our dad introduced us to music in every genre imaginable. Our childhood was filled with everything from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding to Debussy to The Beatles. Our maternal grandmother played piano and our Dad plays as well. We both grew up playing piano and some violin. Michelle started playing guitar when she was about 11 years old and has been playing ever since. Today, Michelle plays the piano in the band and we both sing. We have sung together for as long as we can remember. We were always harmonizing and writing songs together. We grew up hitting up the local music scene and started to play live around L.A. when we were 16. We would also always be putting on plays for our parents and filming movies for fun with our dad’s video camera. We had so much fun writing songs and putting on plays, we both knew we wanted to pursue it.
Music has played a big role in your lives. What are you first memories of music?
Our earliest musical memory is sitting at the piano with our dad. It was this amazing antique piano that my mom inherited, it has this beautiful, haunting quality to it. We still write on that piano sometimes!
What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice as young artists?
It has definitely been a journey. Much of the process is finding the space to actually pursue your vision and to create work in alignment with your values. Everyone has their own opinion on you and it’s so important to find the courage to listen to yourself and decide what kind of artist you want to be. We are both so different so it’s also been a process to figure out how we work well together and how we work best apart. We’re both trained actors and musicians yet the stories we want to tell and the artists we want to become are similar in some ways and different in others. It’s exciting because finding your creative voice is something that constantly evolves and changes.
Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?
Good question! There are so many people who really shaped and influenced us. Some of those people are the people that challenged us. So much of our growth has come from creating art out of difficult situations. The songwriting of Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Claude Debussy, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday and Radiohead were huge influences. We really appreciate amazing songwriting and we feel like all of those artists tell a story in the most impactful way. They are real and honest and can structure a song so effectively. The first time we heard Tidal by Fiona Apple we were completely blown away. It was like she was singing our lives and feelings especially “Never is A Promise”. We knew that’s what we wanted to do, to be so honest with ourselves that we had no choice but to feel connected.
At what point did you realize music was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
We always knew it was something we wanted to pursue. Growing up we were both always singing and writing songs together. Being singers and musicians was just something that happened naturally. We started writing together when we were about 10 years old. We were always equally committed to acting and music.
Dedicating yourself fully to your art is a big step. Did you ever have any reservations about taking the plunge?
It is a huge step. We both are incredibly hard working and give ourselves fully to anything we do so we always knew it was going to be all or nothing. Of course we had reservations and some family members tried to warn us against it but we were focused and had each other for support. As an artist, it’s incredibly important to have a support system filled with people who want to uplift each other.
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
Yes! We are very driven. Some days it’s tough to stay motivated when there are so many factors, it can be a long time before you see any results. What really keeps us motivated is seeing other art, sometimes in other mediums. That really rejuvenates us. It could be a song, a live show or an art exhibit. We’re so lucky to live in LA. There are artists everywhere. You never know when inspiration will strike.
You recently released your single “Supernatural.” What can you tell us about the song and what it means to you?
Supernatural was created as an anthem to tap into that witchy, feminine power all women have. When writing this song, I wanted to create the feeling of being lost in a haunted house in the verses and I wanted to be the haunted house in the choruses. This song itself was empowering to write. The ghosts in this video signify the inner demons everyone faces.
You also put out a great video for the single. What can you tell us about the process of bringing it to life and the challenges you might have faced?
Thank you! We absolutely loved making this video. We did it all in two overnight shoots which can be tough. But the house was so incredible. The director, Nathan Hertz, knew the owners of the house and they were so generous and kind. It was built in the early 1900’s and is next door to the ‘American Horror Story’ house from Season 1 (designed by the same architect). The house had that perfect spooky quality we wanted to capture.. We loved working with Gavin Stenhouse in this video, he’s a great actor and we really wanted to get that vintage/silent film style acting. We wanted it to feel like we were the spirits trapped in the house forcing him to face his own demons.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
We feel like the songwriting process is like alchemy, turning pain into something beautiful and honest. Melissa will see me experiencing a relationship and she will get an idea about a song and then we can finish it together. Michelle has always written poetry as a way of expressing herself and so experiences naturally come out in words. It can be very therapeutic and cathartic. As sisters and as musicians, we are so deeply connected that one of us will supply what the other one needs. That is just a part of who we are, our relationship is integral to our art.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
Michelle started writing poetry when she was about 9. We both were playing music at that point. Then, when we were about 10 or 11 we started writing songs together and singing. We would just do it for fun and as we developed more as songwriters, it came naturally. We would play each other ideas and give each other notes. When we separated for college we would send each other songs for feedback. Then after college we decided it was what we both wanted to pursue.
Was there ever any doubt that you would perform and collaborate as a duo?
No, Michelle had released her own solo album in college but the plan was always to continue making music together as soon as we both were in the same city.
As songwriters, your music can be very intense and personal. Was it a difficult process to get to a point where you were able to bare your soul?
Yes, definitely. When I (Michelle) write lyrics I have to imagine that nobody will ever hear them, otherwise I get too self conscious. “Ghost Town” emerged from a really difficult time. It’s a reflection and exploration of the ghosts that we all have and the ways in which we are haunted by our past. This album is a reflection of memories that became a part of our identity. In essence, how we’re each being haunted, in good and bad ways. It was a very raw experience to write, there was no holding back.
Do you feel being siblings and twins brings an advantages when it comes to the creative process for your music?
Yes, definitely. Michelle is really strong with lyrics and Melissa will add a melody to it, but it can be switched as well. We sort of go with the flow depending on the song. Every song is so different. Michelle does a lot of the writing in general. We wrote the song “Sea of You” together based on a melody idea that Melissa had, then Michelle flushed out the lyrics added some melody onto the edits of it. You never know when inspiration is gonna strike. When I (Michelle) was going through health problems, Melissa was my protector and comforter. When I (Michelle) go to Melissa with new lyrics or a melody, Melissa will add a great harmony and more melody. We know how to communicate with each other so well that it’s really easy to work together to create the best song possible.
You will soon release a new album titled “Ghost Town.” What were your goals or aspirations for this record as you started into the creative process?
We really hope our music connects with people and helps people to empower themselves. We hope it helps people if they are feeling isolated or disconnected. I think the message of the music is to accept imperfections and that humans are incredibly resilient and beautiful as they are. If the song speaks to one person or helps one person connect to themselves in a way they haven’t before, I think it’s worth it.
How does “Ghost Town” compare and contrast to your previously released “Paper Doll” EP?
“Ghost Town” emerged from a really difficult time. I (Michelle) had just ended a very long relationship & was experiencing health issues. I felt so terrified and alone. I cut myself off from the world for about 6 months just writing constantly. That utter isolation (besides from Melissa) brought about Ghost Town. It is a reflection and exploration of the ghosts that we all have and the ways in which we are haunted by our past. I think the music since “Paper Doll” has grown because the themes of this album go much deeper. This album is a lot about the past and our relationships. We’ve grown and developed more as artists since our last EP.
What inspired the title of the album?
The album title was inspired by the desert. One day, we were driving through it and it was so full and beautiful yet lonely and isolating. It felt reflective of how I was feeling at the time. It just made sense.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in bringing the album to life?
The biggest challenge has been staying true to our vision. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to really figure out what it is that you want and then stick with your vision. This album is about putting out what we want and representing our true selves.
I am sure some songs come easier and some are harder to nail down. Was that the case with this session as well?
We definitely made changes as we went along. We wanted to stay true to what we had imagined the songs to be. Personally, our favorite songs are “Ghost Town” and “Take Back the Night”. “Take Back the Night” is an important song about sexual assault. So many people experience it but there is so much shame and silence surrounding it, that it’s not often talked about. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about and we wanted to give people the courage to share their stories. I couldn’t get through the song without crying. We only did one take on the vocals for that one.
Many people will recognize you from your roles on Netflix’s ‘GIRLBOSS.’ How did you get involved with the project initially and what intrigued you about the role?
We had so much fun working on ‘GIRLBOSS’! We play a band in the show which was a blast. It’s such a badass show about female empowerment. What we really loved about the project was that it portrays real women who are flawed and messy yet tough, women who we recognize in real life. The cast and crew were incredible to work with, it really was a dream to work on.
How do you compare and contrast with the characters of Stacie and Stephanie on the series? Do we see any glimpses of your personalities shining through?
We play a band on the show called “Animated Discussion”. We are the lead singers/guitarists of the band and Johnny Simmons (Shane) is our drummer. Mostly, we are playing music in the show but we get a few really fun scenes. I think we both connected to our characters and some glimpses of our personalities came through. We think Stacie and Stephanie are badass ladies doing what they love and working hard at it, although there was a small moral lapse of judgment on Stephanie’s part.
What do you feel you brought to these characters that might not have been on the written page?
We brought our experience as musicians to the characters and that really added a layer of reality that is so important to the story.
The series features a great cast. What was the highlight of working alongside this great team, both in front of and behind the camera?
We have always had a girl crush on Kay Cannon (Creator/Writer of the show) and our favorite moment was just watching her work, she was so professional and kind. We were trying to play it cool but we are huge fans of her work. Britt Robertson and Ellie Reed were so wonderful to work with, it could not have been a better experience. Being on set just felt like we were hanging out with friends all day.
You have another project on the horizon with “Blood Heist” with James Franco. What can you tell us anything about your role and being a part of the project?
We were leads in a film starring and produced by James Franco called “Blood Heist”. We absolutely loved the rest of the cast which includes Edy Ganem, Carlitos Olivero, Shakira Barrera and Dakota Love. It was an incredible experience and we can’t wait until it comes out. We play sisters in a strong family who will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams.
James Franco is a another example of an artist who acts and does music. Any chance you got to compare notes as musicians?
We were shooting constantly so we had no time to compare notes!
You have produced quite a body of work. How do you feel you have most evolved as artists since you first started professionally?
I think we have evolved as artists by trial and error. I think we can now really feel confident in saying what we like and what we don’t like and we are able to let go of things that don’t align with our vision of the music. It’s been a process to get there.
When it comes to music, what are the biggest challenges you face as an independent artists?
As independent artists it feels like it’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle. I think a huge challenge is to try to stand out without the backing of a major label. Also, being a woman can be a challenge in the entertainment industry. It can be difficult to endure the pressure and expectations placed upon women. It’s vital to find our own voices and be unapologetic. Having each other is a blessing. We really support each other and move each other forward. That is what gets us through the ups and downs. As long we are true to ourselves and compassionate, kind people we’re able to keep things in perspective.
What do you consider your biggest milestones along the way?
On the music side of things, I think we’re proudest of this upcoming album, we really stood up for what we believed in and worked hard to make every single song what we wanted. In terms of the performing side, the privilege to work with James Franco in ‘Blood Heist’ and all of the fantastic people on GIRLBOSS, Kay Cannon, Britt Robertson, Ellie Reed and Johnny Simmons. We’re very proud of those accomplishments.
As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites about the music today?
Music is so exciting because one genre can encompass songs with completely different sounds. We love how many risks are being taken today and how creative people are getting with the technology available to them.
Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — with short and long term?
We want to be creating art as much as possible. We would love to go on a world tour with our music and continue acting in films. Our ultimate goal is to continue to do what we love, in both music and acting.
What is the best way for fans to help support you at this stage in your career?
The best way to show support would be to follow us on social media and keep sharing our music! We are so grateful for everyone that does!
We would love to help spread the word on any causes or organizations you support. What is closest to your heart at this point in time that we can help shine a light on?
We feel very strongly about women’s issues. We have always supported RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) and Melissa used to be a Rape Crisis Counselor for them. We interviewed hundreds of women and men and co-created a theatrical show called “Dirty Talk” with our theatre company (World Kin Ensemble) about the spectrum of violence against women, ranging from catcalling to rape. We acted in and toured college campuses around the country with that show. We also performed it as part of USC’s Visions and Voices. We feel strongly about any organization that supports and empowers women. It’s exactly the message that we try to infuse in our art. We think as artists it’s important to empower people who feel marginalized and silenced.
You can serve as a great inspiration for so many aspiring artists and young people. What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?
Well, thank you for saying that. I think most importantly, it’s to keep going, believe in yourself, and not to pay attention to the naysayers who are operating out of fear. Always make decisions out of a place of love and be kind to yourself and others.
Where are the best places for us to following you continuing adventures online?
Please feel free to check out macedomusic.com or any of our social media pages @macedomusic. Our individual accounts are @MichelleMacedoM & @MelissaMacedoM. We are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat!
Visit the official website of Melissa and Michelle Macedo at www.macedomusic.com!