MUSIC: Introducing … MelangeSoundz
LISTEN UP: Q&A WITH NEW YORK R&B SINGER/SONGWRITER MELANGESOUNDZ
Occasionally, we’ll cross paths with people who are clearly on their way to greater things. R&B singer/songwriter Melangesoundz neatly fits into that category as an up-and-coming artist with a lot of heart and soul. The R&B songstress rejoices in new opportunities to grow as a performer (ask about open mic nights at NYC’s Village Underground and The Bitter End). More important, she’s someone genuinely interested in making the world a better place through her music and by example. “I don’t have a formal musical background, but what I have is what most would call a gift of voice,” she tells Tania Fuentez Media in the following Q&A interview. “I always wanted to use my gift responsibly … what I mean by this is to use it to help create a positive impact and not glorify myself from it. I’d like people to feel good after they listen to my music, for instance, encouraged.” Stay tuned for more from this young woman.
NOTE: Photos courtesy of Melangesoundz via photographer Lenard Boone.
TFM: For those who aren’t familiar with Melange Soundz yet, describe your style and philosophy on music?
MSz: The name “Melange” comes form the French word meaning mixture. I’m not the typical stereotypical artist … I mostly drink alcohol at social gatherings, I don’t smoke cigarettes or smoke other drugs, I’m pretty level-headed and it’s all by the grace of the almighty God. My vice is music, I guess, lol. What’s important to me is creating good music and helping people. I want to use my music to inspire, and encourage with an impact giving off that “feel good, get up and dance with a two step if you want to” type music. The reason why I put “Soundz” behind the word “mixture” is because I want people to know I’m a mixture of two different cultures of music, which are Haitian and American. I grew up listening to Haitian Kompa as a child and adult, as well as American music. I’m still discovering new music from different Haitian and American artists. I currently listen to roots culture reggae, contemporary R&B, R&B soul, neo-soul, salsa, pop, soft rock, jazz, gospel and old school Hip Hop. I listen to different kinds of music because it allows me to formulate the direction I want to go with the music I create. I’m a vocalist who is creatively discovering how to continue to make music an art form. I don’t have a formal musical background but what I have is what most would call a gift of voice. I always wanted to use my gift responsibly … what I mean by this is to use it to help create a positive impact and not glorify myself from it. I’d like people to feel good after they listen to my music, for instance, encouraged. Music created today is easily done in the sense where people are using producers that only make tracks versus using live musicians to record music as artists did in the past. However genuine timeless music takes time and a lot more effort. I like to incorporate live instrumentation, as well as musical tracks, to keep the music sounding refreshing and live.
TFM: As a singer/songwriter, where do you find direction and creative support? How does the songwriting process begin for you and what do you need to make it happen? Have you done any pieces for other artists? What was that like?
MSz: As a singer/songwriter, I find direction from my heart _ meaning my negative or positive experiences and sometimes someone else’s. I sometimes find help finding the right lyrics from family members such as my brother who isn’t an artist, but has a sense of what sounds good. I also find assistance from my music friends who are artists. They suggest what lyrics sound better to capture the listener. Usually the best songs I’ve ever written came from the heart and I believe all songs should come from the heart because it will create more of an impact when it’s sung. The songwriting process begins for me really anywhere, for instance the shower, car, bedroom, at my desk at work, the studio, dinner; it all starts in my mind most of all. The mind is a beautiful world because no one but you knows your thoughts. I will have so many different random thoughts from my experiences that would lead to a melody and would later lead to a concept that brings on lyrics developing verses, then a song is born. It’s been a bit easier to write to a musical song track I receive from a producer then to just start writing a song from scratch, however I do write songs without music tracks. I have writing abilities and I’m still developing my skill as a songwriter. The more we do anything, the better we become.
I can’t really say I’ve written songs for other artists, however, I have assisted other artists with writing a chorus or verse for their song. I would say it has been a fun experience doing that because I have a chance to be around someone else who is creative. I mostly collaborate with people through my vocal ability. I have sang songs that other artist have written or done over. I’ve worked on a club song called, Thank You, with Richard Scotti and Billy Brown (they are both DJs and music producers/songwriters). I also worked on a salsa, reggaeton, soulful version of the song, Superstar, which is circulating internationally right now with Spanish artist Miguelito. I’ve worked with local Hip Hop artists by singing a chorus/hook or writing a short verse or building ideas. I’m usually assisting other local artists and believe it’s time for me to work on my project with the help of other artists. I always have fun working with other artist in the studio and the best thing of it all is that it’s a nice way to vibe with each other, rock out and build.
TFM: What are you listening to these days? Top 5 artists to watch out for in 2013, in your opinion.
MSz: These days I’m listening to Internet radio called Pandora radio. It allows listeners to listen to artists who they really enjoy and similar artists from the same genre of music on one radio channel. The artists that I have been currently listening to on a regular are R&B soul artist Ledisi, gospel artist Deitrick Haddon, neo-soul artist Anthony Hamilton, India Arie, Maxwell, Lauryn Hill, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and believe it or not, I’m enjoying an old British reggae band from the late 70s & 80s called Steel Pulse. I enjoy most of the songs from these artists. I get inspired by the messages they send out in their music. I also love the production of their musical choices. Music to me is about the production and how well the artist blends with the right production … that is what helps to create great sounding music.
In 2013, I would say watch out for Ledisi for sure. She is an amazing singer with a crazy vocal range. The soul that comes out of her can be felt like nobody’s business. She makes me want to make sure I bring my A game and sing with every emotion, nerve and bone in my body. Anthony Hamilton is another artist to watch out for _ he makes you think about the old school R&B soul, feel good music. He is on tour right now (he has about 13 shows in September). Adele is another artist to watch out for _ she is the “truth,” she has a voice that commands the room. I want to also add Alicia Keys, she is going to drop her album this year called, “Girl on Fire.” I could only imagine what she has in store for us music lovers. I had to add her to the mix since I’ve followed her music … she is a queen at what she does and I look forward to hearing her album. The fifth artist for 2013 that I would say is going to do their thing is “Solange,” Beyoncé’s lil’ sis. I know she has an album coming out and she has an amazing voice and she is really into the art of music, then the glam of music. She doesn’t get recognized enough in my opinion. Her songwriting skills are also great. There are other artists who I could think of but keep a look out for these five. I will be doing some creative work in the studio in 2013, as well. I hope I’ll be collaborating more with other artists.
TFM: Biggest musical influence and why? Let’s discuss those early days as an artist and how you’ve matured since then.
MSz: My biggest musical influence would have to be Bob Marley, believe or not. Marley is not even the genre of music that I’m singing. I don’t sing reggae but as a vocalist/artist I have songs that I have sung with a reggae beat live with musicians or musical track behind my soulful vocals. I understand and enjoy Marley’s music. I have been listening to his music since I was in high school. His messages and cool, calm delivery and righteous messages in most of his songs were truth and he related to people not just from his generation but to many generations after. His music is timeless and that’s why I admire him so much … his music carries him and the people within the world. He is like Michael Jackson, aka MJ, in terms of creating timeless music. The best of the best artists create not just for today but for the many generations to come. When music is not about you but about the music, as an artist you stand taller than any other artist.
My musical influences in general began to develop when I was in junior high school and once I reached high school I learned that I wanted to create beautiful music in all aspects of the word. Music for me was about the message and the positive feeling the message brought to the listener. The feeling can be described as comfort, understanding, love, hope, encouragement, battles with the crazy of everyday life.
These are all great topics, but the vocalist has to create the right emotions to help bring those feelings to life in the songs _ that’s the job of the vocalist in the studio and on stage. The right emotions help bring those feelings to life in the songs that are sung. This is what I want to achieve through the songs that I sing and write with the collaboration of the right producers, musicians and other vocalist/artists. I believe I still have to mature in my music because learning never ends. I took some time away from music for a while but it made me appreciate my coming back and opened a new can of passion. However, the area that I have to mature in will be songwriting. I was told that songwriting is about writing stories that people can relate to … everyone wants to hear a great story. I’m sure I have stories to tell especially since I took time away to just live and mature into a woman. I’m also continuing to work on my vocal techniques in making them familiar but unique so I can be that Melange of soundz that I’m constantly working to grow into. My stage performances have also improved a great deal and learning how to rock out with seasoned musicians and engage the crowed has been a true blessing. I also learned that being in the studio recording music has to be a different vocal experience than when an artist is on stage in front of a live audience. I’ve learned a lot, improved a lot, however it’s a continued learning process. As a vocalist/artist we have to make mistakes to know how to do it the right way and we won’t get it the first time around.
TFM: New York City offers an unlimited source of creative outlets. Best place to get inspired and find time to unwind.
MSz: I would say the best place where I got inspired was two places. It was also a privilege to share the stage with seasoned and gifted musicians at these places, which are the Village Underground and The Bitter End. I went to the Village Underground on Mondays to sing at their open mic night, which is hosted by Cheryl Pepsii Riley and her band, Black Velvet. I would use the open mic session at Black Velvet Mondays to practice my vocals and stage presence to learn from the other singers. I learned to humble myself, as well, because there is a lot of talent in New York City. The Village Underground also allows a platform for most genre’s of music. I’ve witnessed lots of gospel singers and many of them started out in church, which is their foundation. It was refreshing to know that Village Underground accepts all genres.
Another cool place I would go to enjoy good music and sing as well is a place called The Bitter End. I would go to the Bitter End on Mondays (after the Village Underground) since they had a jam session. It was a great experience. I would rock out with a band led by a well-known musician named Richie Cannata. I had a pretty good experience at both venues and met some great musicians along the way. I don’t go to either place at the moment because I’m working on creating music and getting in the zone in doing that. I hope to attend other venues that will assist me in being a better vocalist/artist. I don’t really know where my music will take me, but hopefully to a good place where I will be needed in a good way.
Village Underground: http://thevillageunderground.com/
The Bitter End: http://www.bitterend.com/