- Evan Laslo
Adam Melchor’s Lullaby Hotline, by Eleanor Prytherch
When the world ground to a halt over a year ago, being an independent musical artist changed drastically. Musicians, whose primary source of income and occupation came from playing live concerts to rooms full of hundreds of people, suddenly had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and virtually no reliable source of income. Over a year later, most of us have found ways to return to at least some of our normal activities, but nothing much has changed for performing artists. Some have taken the time to write new music or to take part in virtual ticketed shows or benefit concerts. 24-year-old Adam Melchor ended up having a label contract, a mixtape, and a new way for fans to enjoy music to show for an especially creative quarantine.
The New Jersey–born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter learned to play guitar at 16, and got his college degree in opera performance. He released an album in 2017 and an EP in 2020; inbetween, alongside English artist dodie, he performed a tour in America. One night in February of 2020, Melchor spontaneously hosted a livestream on Instagram from his hotel room to play original songs on guitar and casually banter with viewers in the live chat. About a month later, he went live again, this time to provide comfort and community for his fans as things took a turn for the worst.
These lives quickly became a routine for the first several weeks of lockdown. Like clockwork, nearly every evening Melchor would log on from his home in Los Angeles and play his folksy, fingerstyle songs on his acoustic guitar. Viewership tended to top out at around a hundred viewers, making for a personal and intimate performance experience. Melchor would sometimes play continuously for fifteen or twenty minutes, seamlessly transitioning between originals and covers based on requests. He played old favorites as well as unreleased songs, which fans soon came to know and love simply based off of these acoustic bedroom performances.
Even before the pandemic, Melchor was trying out creative ways to connect with fans remotely. In February, he kicked off the Melchor Lullaby Hotline, which used a text service to send subscribers a new unreleased song in the form of a link to an unlisted YouTube video every Sunday evening. After the first few weeks of lockdown, the livestreams became a bit less frequent, though he still went live each week to play the latest Hotline song and connect with his fans.
A year after launching the hotline service, Melchor announced Melchor Lullaby Hotline Vol. 1, a mixtape of produced versions of the original hotline’s greatest hits, released on March 19. The mixtape features under-the-radar co-writing credits from some of the industry’s brightest, including FINNEAS and Marshall Vore, a frequent collaborator with Phoebe Bridgers. It consists of newly produced songs as well new versions of old favorites, a voice memo style track, and a tender cover of My Chemical Romance’s I’m Not Okay. True to its name, the Lullaby Hotline is dreamy and ethereal. Melchor layers his signature fingerstyle guitar with whimsical bedroom pop elements to create a project that presents a take on the folk genre to appeal to today’s young listeners.
Along with the mixtape, on the year anniversary of the hotline, Melchor phased out the weekly texts in favor of a podcast format. Inspired by late night livestreams in which he would play with the intention of helping his viewers fall asleep, Melchor has been uploading 15–20 minutes episodes of himself playing whispery mashups of his songs on the same weekly schedule. The podcast is not meant to be listened to, but rather to fall asleep to, like lullabies.
With the light at the end of the pandemic (seemingly) in view, Melchor is one of few artists who have optimistically yet cautiously begun planning a return to live shows. He has embraced the idea of socially distant concerts—he played a couple of “car shows” last summer—and planned a small U.S. tour for this upcoming summer. This past February, he signed with Warner Records off the back of his success in 2020 despite COVID. He still goes live once or twice a week, and still uses the text service to send updates and messages of appreciation to fans. Even though he’s still a relatively small artist, Adam Melchor has been one of the most creative musicians when it comes to adapting to the circumstances this year, using technology to promote his music and connect with fans in ways that not many other artists have managed to do. Times are still tough, so check out Melchor Lullaby Hotline Vol. 1 if you’re in need of a break, and show your favorite small artists some love while you’re at it.