As Melanie Fiona gets ready to release her debut album, ‘The Bridge,’ she already has music heavy hitters paying close attention to her. This artist who is inspired by so many artists across multiple genres of music is what some may consider a complete songstress, Melanie took time out of her schedule to speak with The Rhythmic Soul, giving us a glimpse into who she is as an artist, a woman and as an optimist.
Rhythmic Soul: For those who haven’t heard of Melanie Fiona, can you tell us about yourself, where you’re from and about your style of music?
Melanie Fiona: Melanie Fiona is a singer/songwriter signed to SRC/Universal Motown Records. I’m originally from Toronto but my family is Guyanese so we’re from the West Indies. Big ups to all my West Indies people! I was born and raised in Toronto. My mom and dad listened to a lot of fantastic music when I was growing up. Being first generation immigrants to Canada they really brought over the traditional music of Reggae, Soca, Calypso and groups that they grew up listening to back in the day which was a lot of old soul [music].
My dad used to play in a band and I’ve watched him and his band rehearse; listened to music that was played around the house that stemmed from great soul artists like Sam Cook and Bob Marley. So I grew up listening to fantastic music with my family playing music and growing up in North America listening to Pop, Hip Hop and R&B and what not; it really influenced the type of music that I do today. I’ve been traveling and working hard the last few years to come to the States from Toronto. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been rewarding so far. I’ve had a lot of producers and executives who really didn’t understand what type of record I was trying to do. I met Steve Rifkind in 2007 and now I have my record deal and my first album is coming out this year called ‘The Bridge.’
Rhythmic Soul: Why did you name the album, ‘The Bridge’ and does it have a specific meaning?
Melanie Fiona: When making this album, I wanted to make music that was classic and timeless. Music that didn’t just fit into a box of what people thought music was supposed to be or like one genre. What I wanted it to do for people was join the things that separate people such as gender, age and ethnicities. I named it “The Bridge” because I wanted to bridge the gap, which means things that are separated and that’s really what I hope it will do.
Rhythmic Soul: You work with singer/songwriter Andrea Martin, whose also worked with Monica, Toni Braxton and others. How did that meeting come about and how influential was she on your project?
Melanie Fiona: One of my executives from my production label has known Andrea for a long time. He always told me that he really wanted us to work together and I’ve wanted to work with her for a while. We were introduced and it was an instant connection. She’s also Guyanese like I am and she’s so amazingly talented and creative. We got to know each other very very well after meeting professionally and personally. I’m so honored that she really took me under her wing and helped me craft the album that I wanted to craft. She really helped me get my story across. I’m really thankful to have found an amazing teacher and mentor on this album.
Rhythmic Soul: When writing and recording songs, is there a certain formula that you use?
Melanie Fiona: I feel most (and a lot of people don’t know this) at home recording in small studios. The studio I work in where I’m recording a lot of the album is a very small studio. I just like to have fun and record at night. I don’t like the daytime at all. I think I do my best work at night. I just like to go in there and have fun and work until its right. If I have to, I’ll do all nighters. But I usually just try to have a lot of fun. If something isn’t working, I’ll just go back to it another day but when it comes to songwriting I feel like if I’m inspired and passionate it’s usually my best work. I just write based on what I feel or if I have a story to tell I just find the right track that I think will tell the story best.
Rhythmic Soul: The song, “Give It To Me Right” samples The Zombies hit “Time of The Season.” Have you always been a fan of theirs and why did you choose that song to sample?
Melanie Fiona: The Zombie’s record is amazing. It’s just a classic that leaves so much room to make a fantastic record. When I heard that record it really felt like the perfect match between something old and something new. Because the bass line is so classic and you know just putting the new modern day spin on it; it just felt good. It was kind of like magic when it happened. I was like “Oh Man. This is kind of crazy.” I’m actually very honored that I was able to do a new song over such a classic hit. It’s pretty cool.
Rhythmic Soul: As a woman, are there any issues that you feel you need to speak to in order to reach your target audience?
Melanie Fiona: Absolutely, I feel like as a woman and as a female artist I really want to target women first and foremost just because I feel like it’s important that I speak to women and young girls so they have an advocate to speak about what we go through as women such as finding strength in hardship and in love and heartbreak. In this industry as a female artist, I’ve seen a lot of things with young girls and young women that can really compromise your character and I really just wanted to create music that didn’t compromise my character. I wanted to make music that women could find strength in and realize that I go through the same things that they go through and would be able to find strength in the music.
Rhythmic Soul: Has it been difficult to make music those appeals to both men and women while staying true to your female aspect on life?
Melanie Fiona: I don’t think it’s difficult for that reason. It’s difficult trying to make music because like I said, some executives didn’t understand what it was that I was trying to do, some producers didn’t get it and I couldn’t work with them to get the sound that I wanted to do. Men are cool. Men just kind of roll, but I’m more satisfied if I can get the guy’s girlfriend to listen to my music. You know, because the guy, he’ll be on board if he likes the music and he thinks it’s hot. I really think it’s important to get the guys girlfriend to like the music.
Rhythmic Soul: As a new artist, are there any stereotypes placed on women that you want to see changed in the industry?
Melanie Fiona: Oh yeah, absolutely! I want people to recognize that you can be beautiful, you can be talented, you can be sexy, you can be strong, and you can do it with class, and you can have it all at the same time.
Rhythmic Soul: I can only imagine how competitive the industry is. What has your journey been like so far?
Melanie Fiona: You know it’s been my journey at every up and down and I would not change it for the world. I’ve experienced a lot of frustration, a lot of hardship and struggle. It hasn’t always been easy and it’s still not easy. It involves a lot of hardwork. I guess in the back of my mind, I never really saw defeat or submission as an option. If something is bothering me or stressing me, I’m just going to channel it and it motivates me to improve wherever or whatever is wrong. I just kind of kept my eyes on the prize and paid attention and was humble enough to be able to learn and trust the team that I had around me. So I owe a lot of what has happened to me in the industry successfully to having a strong team to keep me grounded, keep me focused and believe in the project.
Rhythmic Soul: Your songs have a very soulful yet eclectic vibe, which I love by the way. Does this represent your personal musical tastes?
Melanie Fiona: You know I like all kinds of music across the board. But I think it’s very reflective when I look back at artists that I love. Like Bob Marley, Sade, Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, you know soulful artists. I guess it kind of does come across as a reflection. You know I’m a fan of pop artists as well and what they bring to the table. I like Rock, I like really anything. It has to have a good feel to me to be honest.
Rhythmic Soul: What can fans expect from Melanie Fiona within the next five years?
Melanie Fiona: First and foremost I hope that I can continue to make good music. I hope that they can expect good music from me. I think once listening to this first album I hope I set the standard for them to expect great music from me, because that’s what I really want to do. That’s why I kind of feel like I made this album to feel the way I want it to feel. I wanted to make music that I thought people would want to hear. Expect some great albums and great music that hopefully will have that classic feel that you love and will always remember. Expect to see a lot of shows…I love to perform. Hopefully Grammy’s and being a positive figure as an artist.