Melanie Fiona Interview
|Next Project:||The Bridge|
|Twitter:||Melanie Fiona on Twitter|
|Website:||Melanie Fiona's Website|
At its best, pop music is about making connections, whether between individuals of diverse backgrounds, between genres, or between the modern day and eras past. Born to Guyanese immigrant parents, raised in Toronto, and professing a love for such varied artists as Bob Marley, Sade, and Patsy Cline in addition to the classic soul greats, Melanie Fiona is poised to do all of this and more with the forthcoming release of her debut LP, The Bridge.
After hearing the rising soul star bridge the gap between late-‘60s rock and modern R&B on her “Time of the Season”-sampling debut single, “Give It to Me Right,” fans in and out of the Booth are eager to see what other surprises Fiona has in store on her first studio album. Scheduled for a late spring/early summer release, The Bridge is sure to kick off a long and fruitful career for the creative up-and-comer.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Melanie Fiona steps into the Booth to discuss the “Cinderella story” of her discovery, the experience of touring Europe with Kanye West, and her ultimate goal of inspiring the next generation with her musical legacy.
Listen to the Interview
Melanie Fiona Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Toronto singer whose soulful voice will serenade your ears for years to come. In preparation for her late spring, early summer release of her debut album, The Bridge, please welcome the beautiful and oh-so-talented Melanie Fiona—how are you?
Melanie: Wow, thank you! I’m well, Z—how are you?
DJ Booth: I’m wonderful. It sounds like possibly I made you blush there on the introduction; did that happen?
Melanie: You actually did! That was very kind of you.
DJ Booth: Thank you for joinin’ me inside the Booth.
Melanie: Thank you for having me.
DJ Booth: You grew up in Canada in a West Indian household—not the backstory I hear from most artists, but since you’re certainly not most artists, detail the impact that your childhood had on your current position as a recording artist.
Melanie: Growing up in Toronto, it’s a very multicultural city, and my parents are first-generation immigrants to Canada. I got a really broad perspective, being raised in two different cultures, being in the traditional West Indian household and growing up in North America. I really had my eyes open to a lot of different things in life, and I always had a love for music. My dad played in a soul/reggae/calypso band on the weekends, and my mom just had a love for big-voiced singers, and that really influenced me to pursue music, because it’s been a passion in my life since I was a young child. And it’s really given me the drive to want to see the world, having such a diverse upbringing.
DJ Booth: Melanie, let’s say hypothetically that your mom was a nurse and your dad was an engineer; are you still a recording artist?
Melanie: [laughs] Absolutely, I think this is definitely a gift. It’s given me a lot of fantastic opportunities.
DJ Booth: Mel, for some artists, the story of their quote unquote “discovery” can either be an amazing tale or a boring bar story. So, what is more accurate in your situation?
Melanie: My situation kinda feels like a Cinderella story; I was in Toronto recording, and I was part of production and writing teams, and the relationship kinda just fell apart, and I had to start from scratch, and at that moment, feeling really down and out and having to start all over in the music industry in high school. It was a scary time. I met my manager, who’s also the executive producer of my production company, Title9. Her name is Carmen, and she was in Toronto, and a mutual friend introduced us. She brought me down to her arsenal of producers in the States, and really helped me become developed as an artist, and work on exploring my creative side with different types of producers and different genres, and I couldn’t even believe that a small-town girl from Toronto would grow up and be here, between all these different cities all over the world. It’s really fantastic.
DJ Booth: Playing off of your Cinderella story, has the glass slipper stayed on since the signing? Has it all been magical, or have there been rough spots along the way?
Melanie: Everything is going well for me at this point. It didn’t come without a lot of hardships and struggles and obstacles, frustrating moments—you know, having to leave home and travel all over the place to pursue a dream. You just want to sing, you want to make music, and then there’s a business side of it, and you have to learn. And people always have their opinions and try to tell you what they think you should be doing. I encountered that a lot; I encountered a lot of people telling me what kind of music I should be making or shouldn’t be making.
DJ Booth: It’s interesting that you should say that; I was watching your video, “EPK,” and in it you said, “I know what I want, and I’m going to get it.” Mel what specifically do you want, and what is your plan of action?
Melanie: I really want to be a new artist that reminds people of a time when music was deeper. For me, personally, I just wanted to make classic, timeless music, and that’s really what I think I’ve done on this album. I’m just really looking forward to sharing it with the world, and I want to leave a legacy of starting a trend of good music for new artists that are coming out. That’s really what my plan of action is. And the single is coming out this month, actually, and the album’s set to come in May. And then eventually just keep making more music and more music and have a career, hopefully.
DJ Booth: Not hopefully—you will.
Melanie: Okay then, definitely! [laughs]
DJ Booth: That’s the confidence I like to hear. You said that the key is the transition of timeless music from one generation to the next, and nothing is more evident than in the single you just alluded to, “Give It to Me Right,” which samples the 1968 hit from the Zombies, “Time of the Season.”
Melanie: That’s right.
DJ Booth: Let’s say someone sampled Melanie Fiona the artist—what would they be able to work with? What would they be able to sample from your palette of talents, if you will?
Melanie: In the sound I’ve worked on for this album, there’s a lot of live instrumentation, pretty much on every song, so I’m sure anybody who would be sampling this sound would definitely be covering the horns that I have on some of these records, and some of the great basslines, and I think a lot of the vocal arrangement on the album is kinda cute; it’s got a lot of ear candy. I think, if anybody were to sample the album in the future, it would be a good album.
DJ Booth: The title of it is, as I mentioned in the open, The Bridge, so would it be correct to assume that this project, based on its title, makes a complete connection from the artist—that’s you—to the listener?
Melanie: I absolutely think so. The Bridge is really special to me, ‘because I feel that, everything I wanted to represent as [a new artist] is reflected in that album. It’s very strong. I think that it’s relatable. You know, the thing we all have in common is human emotion, and I really think that the album does a fantastic job of tapping into that. I put myself out there through my own personal stories, through things that I’ve witnessed people around me go through, and I just think it’s something that people relate to, and they want to hear.
DJ Booth: You worked extensively, I read, with Andrea Martin, who’s penned hits for countless acts: En Vogue, Angie Stone, Leona Lewis… Describe the musical chemistry the two of you had.
Melanie: Andrea Martin is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. My manager introduced me to her, and I was a fan of hers from when she had had her albums out and her music, and I knew her work. She said, “You know, you guys should meet, ‘cause you guys have very similar styles in the type of music you love to make,” and I was like, “Okay, fantastic!” So I met her, and, ironically enough, she is Guyanese as well, so immediately it was this cultural bond, it was this musical bond, and it was a match made in heaven, literally, as cliché as that sounds. The first day I did three songs with her, and it was incredible. She brings out the best in me. I’m happy to be a humble student and have her take me under her wing. Most new artists have to wait till maybe their second or third album to really find that producer or that writer who really helps them make the best music they can, and I’m fortunate enough to have worked with Andrea on the first one.
DJ Booth: Because of this amazing situation, because of the bond that the two of you share, do you feel spoiled almost?
Melanie: [laughs] I feel like it was kinda destined to be. I feel like things were always supposed to work out the way they do, so I can’t complain—I’m happy.
DJ Booth: If I played a Melanie Fiona song for you, how would you best describe her work?
Melanie: If you played a Melanie Fiona song, I would say that it’s very strong, I think it’s real, I think she has a great voice… [laughs] and I love what she’s saying and I love what she stands for.
DJ Booth: At this year’s Grammys, pop-soul singer Adele won the Best New Artist award. Melanie, what do you think the chances are that, at this time next year, we’re going to see you nominated in that very same category?
Melanie: Wow… I would hope so, I would absolutely hope so. That’s really what I’m going for. I would really love, not on a personal level to be recognized for this but just musically, that would be the greatest honor, to be nominated for Best New Artist. I think every artist strives to do that: make something that will last and leave an impression on people, really move them. I think it’s very possible.
DJ Booth: When you win, and you’re up on stage, and you’re reading your speech, who are the first three people you thank?
Melanie: First three people… it’s definitely going to be my parents, it’s going to be my production team, and my management team.
DJ Booth: Technically you just broke the numbers rule, ‘cause that’s like six or seven people, right?
Melanie: [laughs] Actually, yeah. I can’t lie: I have a good team of people, a real family situation on all ends, so there will be a few, I can’t just [give you a] top three.
DJ Booth: How do you think Mom and Dad feel about being clumped into one?
Melanie: [laughs] They’re kind of a package deal—I guess that’s what happens when you’re married. They’re gonna have to get the package deal on that one.
DJ Booth: Well, in addition to recording the debut, you’ve also done some extensive touring. At the latter point of 2008, you joined Kanye West on his European tour. What was the experience like overseas?
Melanie: Oh, man, Z, that was definitely one of the biggest highlights in my career up until now. One of my dreams in doing music is to see the world, and to meet a lot of different people ‘cause I feel like music is a universal language that people love everywhere. I was really excited to get over there and be involved in European culture and share the music and see how receptive they would be to it—it was amazing! And having the honor of opening for Kanye, he was amazing; he’s such a phenomenal performer and artist, and I got to watch him every night and see how he was able to move people, and it was really, really inspiring. So I can’t wait to get back out on the road again.
DJ Booth: Later this year, when you’ll undoubtedly be touring as a headliner all across the country, who would you want to bring along as your opening act?
Melanie: Wow… that’s a crazy one. I have no idea—I can’t imagine having somebody open for me! But it would have to be, if it was a new artist coming out, I think it would have to be somebody who feels as passionately about making similar, soulful music as [I do].
DJ Booth: Okay, that’s the politically correct answer; I’m gonna need a name.
Melanie: [laughs] Okay… I would love for Common to open. I would love to go on tour with Common, period—I have a crush.
DJ Booth: I’m sure, with a few phone calls, you might be able to make that one happen. In my research, I read that, when you were growing up, the first song you ever sang with your folks was Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.”
Melanie: It was.
DJ Booth: Okay, so, this is gonna be fun here—roll with me: for even a split-second, have you given though to the idea that someday, the first song that some little girl sings will be “Give It to Me Right” by Melanie Fiona?
DJ Booth: I’m serious!
Melanie: That’s awesome, I think that’s awesome! “Give It to Me Right,” why not? I think it’s a really strong song from a woman’s perspective, so it’ll instill those strong values from [a young age]. My three-year-old niece, she sings that all the time, and it’s the funniest thing, it’s the cutest thing.
DJ Booth: See, it’s already happened! What do you hope that this album is able to do for the start of your career?
Melanie: I really hope that this album will help me establish myself as a bona fide artist in this record industry.
DJ Booth: Give everybody a website or a MySpace page, something so they can find out more about your debut, coming up this spring.
Melanie: Absolutely, you can check me out on myspace.com/melaniefiona.
DJ Booth: Great. Melanie, thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, and the best of luck.
Melanie: Thank you so much, Z.
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