“Cancer changes everything,” Melanie Krahmer muses, “even when you try not to let it. But those changes have made me who I am today—as an artist and a person. I’ve learned a lot from it and gotten stronger because of it.”
The impassioned singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has defeated cancer … twice. Her last diagnosis meant more than a three-month hiatus from her rock-pop-soul duo Sirsy with husband Rick Libutti. When her doctor gave her the OK to make music again in 2018, she wrote the title track to their 2019 album “Like a Drum.”
“[It’s] about celebrating life,” she offers, “feeling the joy that comes from doing that thing that makes you feel alive and sharing it with other people. The most powerful thing in the world to me is to be able to play a song we’ve written and look out at the joy on other people’s faces. It’s the best feeling in the world: to bring joy to someone’s life, even if it’s just for a short time (like the length of a live show).”
Krahmer (drums, bass pads, flute, vocals) and Libutti (guitar, pedal bass) always have been productive in the studio, with more than a half dozen projects since 2002. In fact, they recorded the five songs for “Like a Drum” in a week. However, their robust touring schedule likely will keep them out of the studio in 2020.
Nevertheless, Wilmington will hear several songs off of “Like a Drum” for the first time this Saturday night at Satellite. Folks will hear a collection of Sirsy’s older songs, too; though, Libutti hopes they have transformed for the better after so many years.
“We’ve been doing a longer jammed-out version of a song from our first CD called ‘Wishless’ at our shows and I’m loving that,” he notes. “The studio version sounds flat now when I listen to it. We’ve also been doing a stripped-down version of our song ‘Brave and Kind,’ which gives me the feels every time we play it.”
Fans of Showtime’s “Shameless” always look for Sirsy’s “Cannonball,” which was featured on the show. Other songs are standouts live because of Krahmer’s energy on drums (“Crazy”) or her flute solo as heard on “Revolution.” Though sometimes it’s hard for her to sing, Krahmer says they’ll definitely include the track “Satellite” off the same record.
“‘Satellite’ is about the loss we both felt during the process of dealing with the cancer,” she explains. “It’s an incredibly honest, bare and emotional song for us.”
For almost 20 years, the couple has navigated marriage and music, which folks almost always assume is a disastrous combination.
Most people can’t believe two people could work, live and tour together without straining the relationship. “They typically think being married makes it harder to be together all the time,” Krahmer explains. “I think it makes it easier! Rich is honestly my best friend, and everything in life is better when I get to do it with him.”
The two rely heavily on their trust in each other, especially when it comes to writing and recording songs. They’re brutally honest with each other, making compromises along the way but never to spare the other’s feelings. “We tell it like it is and we get a better song out of it because of that,” Krahmer says.
“We’ve worked with so many music industry professionals over the years that had so much advice,” Libutti adds. “Not that I didn’t learn anything from them, but in the end I realized they didn’t know any more than we did.”
The two spend 99% of their lives together, so they’re drawn to a lot of the same styles, sounds and energy in music, too. Think Band of Skulls, Motown, Lizzo, Gary Clark Jr., Muse, Black Keys, Bowie and the Beatles.
“Not that we sound like any of those bands,” Libutti quips, “but listening to them inspires me to want to write songs. I’d say the biggest inspiration for me is seeing other bands live. . . . There’s nothing like the visceral impact of seeing music live. It’s one of the joys of life.”
While they both chose this life because music makes them happy, playing it with each other brings out their best, both on- and offstage. They gush, even, praising each other’s talents, thoughtfulness, quirks and fandoms… (Libutti’s a big “Star Wars” fan and started his wedding vows with “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … I met a girl and fell in love.”)
“Rich is amazing,” Krahmer adds. “He makes me laugh every day; through the hard stuff, the scary stuff and the fun stuff. He’s romantic and kind and talented and generous—and so many things. He also has the best smile.”
“Melanie made me a better person,” Libutti inserts. “I feel she brings out the best qualities in me as a person, husband and musician. She’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, although she doesn’t see that in herself. Plus, she’s one badass singer/drummer/bassist/flutist. . . . And she’s the one who has the best smile!”