BECKET-- In order to make noise, Heather Maloney had to learn to be quiet.
The New Jersey native moved to central Massachusetts a few years ago to work and live at a retreat for silent meditation. A lifelong music lover, she had taken private lessons in operatic singing during two years spent at college, but wasn't aggressively pursuing a career in music.
"I just started getting vocal ADD, and I started doing jazz scat workshops and got interested in classical Indian music and started taking some lessons in that," she said in a telephone interview from Northampton, where she now lives. "It was kind of scattered at the time, in many ways. I think that my interest in meditation really came at a point where I was ready to be focused on something."
It was during her time at the retreat center -- a stint that included a 10-day stretch of silence -- that her intention to write and perform her own music came into focus.
Maloney will play tonight at the Dream Away Lodge, with her road-tested rhythm section in tow. Emerging Northampton band Darlingside shares the bill.
Her 2009 debut, "Cozy Razor's Edge," was her first batch of original songs. She described her more assured follow-up, released two years later, as a document of her first year making her way as a professional musician. As a singer-songwriter writes quiet but energetic songs, informed by a pop sensibility, that showcase her fluttering voice and distinct lyrical perspective.
A third record, due in March, will feature her touring band of drummer JJ O'Connell and bassist Ken Maiuri, who also co-produced the record and wrote some songs with Maloney.
"I feel a lot more comfortable as a songwriter than I did in the first two records. I think I'm starting to feel kind of sturdier and more confident," said Maloney, who celebrated her 27th birthday this week. "We've been playing a lot of these song throughout the past year so they felt really produced already. Not only did they feel strong when I first wrote them alone in my room, but they felt even stronger because they were built and tested on audiences."
She said the new collection will continue the habit of encapsulating a specific period in her life and rapidly evolving career.
"I definitely sense how each record came out of an era, and this one is no different," she said. "This one feels a little more world weary in a way, but not heavy. World weary in, probably, a positive way. I think there's a sweetness to arriving at a truth even if it's a bitter one."
Maloney, who signed to Northampton-based record label Signature Sound Recordings for her third effort, has already become a familiar face in Becket; this year she played as part of the Dream Away's Nouveau Revue festival, and she performed in the music inn just last month. She was also tagged as an emerging artist to watch at this year's Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
Dream Away proprietor Daniel Osman said she's become a welcome addition to the venue's circle of repeat performers.
"She's got an amazing voice," he wrote in an email. "She writes smart, relevant, delicious songs that one relates immediately to, and she holds a room in the palm of her hand. We here in Becket think she's pretty special. We love Heather Maloney and think she's one of those artists who really shines in the intimacy of our music room."
This year has seen Maloney on the road more than she ever has been, and one goal is to continue that trend in 2013. Her recorded and live work has attracted lots of critical enthusiasm, and she's looking forward to "expanding the radius" of her touring with several shows in Canada next year.
The touring is still new enough to her that the simple pleasures of travel rank among the fringe benefits she's come to appreciate. A maiden tour of the United Kingdom is a specific goal she's aiming for.
"I love to travel. But I think that the combination of getting to explore places that I've wanted to go for a long time and getting to play music would just be kind of dreamy," she said.
Less than four years into her incarnation as a performing musician, Maloney clearly seems to be on the right road.
What: Heather Maloney with Darlingside
When: Tonight (Thursday, Dec. 6)
Where: Dream Away Lodge, 1342 County Road, Becket
Admission: Dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Musicians play for dinner and tips
Information: (413) 623-8725, Visit www.thedreamawaylodge.com for the Dream Away's performance schedule, Christmas Eve dinner and New Years Eve party with Bella's Bartok