by Randy Wayne Belt (of Barley Station)
I always love when I come across a true artist in every sense of the word. And I had a good hunch I was right because you won’t find many female country artists with such colorful hair, and large beautiful handmade earrings. And they look great on Edmonton, Alberta recording artist Melody Lovejoy. And she could well be a trendsetter here because her EP “Letting Go”, released in fall of 2014, has already received airplay in Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands.
Melody can best be summed up by her song “Barefoot In the Backwoods” where you will find country music smoothly blended with the roots of rock and a very powerful impassioned vocal delivery. You’ll feel like you are “chasing butterflies and dreaming and running with the wind” right along with her. The same moving passion for singing is felt in an incredible way when you hear Melody’s moving duet with Sawyer Brown member, Shayne Hill. The lyric in this song, “I can almost feel the rhythm of our souls” is rendered even more effective by the sibling-like blend of vocals the two brought to the song.
With lyrics like these, I am definitely on the right track in my quest for another true artist. The closing track “Letting Go” delivers another powerful punch in the gut to all the false promises of love by the insincere. The carefully placed banjo blended with solid rock guitar parts makes one think of music by artists like Keith Urban but with a female vocalist instead.
So to put my artist theory to the test, I decided to spring the question on Melody right off the bat. No beating around the bush here. No, not THAT question. This one:
Randy: Your hair color – do you always keep the color in your hair?
Melody: haha! oh the hair!! Yes. Yes, I love color and I’m always changing it
Randy: Is it a trademark of your appearance live? I’m finding my angle here now…
Melody: I love color. I really do. I hadn’t really thought of it as my trademark until I put it on my album cover! If I have a trademark with my hair…it’s that I like to change it!
Randy: I think it is very distinguishing and it shows your artsy side.
Melody: Thanks…yeah, I guess there aren’t many multi hair colored country artists out there.
Melody: Yeah, it all comes out in the rainbow! I’ve had turqouise, blond, purple, pink…black. All of the above at once… My current hair is a dark purple that fades into different shades of pink with some blond.
Randy: And I bet your favorite color is…?
Melody: Purple! I even have a purple feather tree that I bought for Christmas one year. I am very serious about purple.
Randy: (How did I know that was coming? You think I have been hanging with the girls too long? Probably – I didn’t tell her my favorite color is also purple) Do you paint? Or draw yourself?
Melody: I used to draw when I was younger, but I didn’t pursue it too much. I do love photography and playing with colors. Instagram is my favourite social media platform! I like making jewelry though.
Randy: (Having made jewelry myself, my attention now perked, we delved into conversations about art which I have removed for the sake of space. But my suspicions were correct. We have a true artist here) Ok, so now I’m going to pop the bigger questions: What bands or recording artists were you exposed to growing up?
Melody: My Dad’s family are all self-taught, grass roots musicians so I grew up listening to them! I was around a lot of bluegrass, country, acoustic and southern gospel style music. Some of the other artists we listened to might not be well-known to most people, but I grew up on the Dixie Melody Boys, Don Francisco, Keith Green and of course, my own uncle, Dan Utz, who put out several albums with different groups over the years. I think we maybe listened to him most of all. We were all very proud of him.
Randy: What kind of impact did they have on your music today?
Melody: Growing up in an environment where music was about community and was just part of life had a big impact on my reasons why I do music. Playing music has always been about connecting with people and hopefully leaving them better than you found them. My Dad also liked a good rock beat even though he only listened to country music…in fact country music was pretty much all we were allowed to listen to! So, even though I went on to study and perform all different genres and I love a good screaming Van Halen guitar solo, those roots definitely influenced my personal taste and style for music now.
Randy: You mentioned your Dad’s side all played? What instruments?
Melody: My Grandpa used to stop at garage sales and buy second hand instruments and then give them to his kids to play. They were all self taught…kind of trial by fire sort of learning I think! There were guitars, banjos, accordions and a fiddle most of the time.
Randy: Cool. How about you? Were you self-taught?
Melody: No, I wasn’t. I still envy those players that can just play by ear with no training! I had formal piano lessons for several years, and played mostly classical piano until I learned about chord structuring. Now I mostly just use it for songwriting….although I watched LIGHTS play recently live in Edmonton in July and she makes me want to bring that piano back on stage!
Randy: What recording artists are your biggest influences personally?
Melody: I’m a big fan of Keith Urban. He really is one of the reasons I decided that country music was the genre I wanted to be in because he is so musical about marrying emotional lyrics and really rocking beats and guitar lines. I’m also a big fan of what I call “vocal music”…singers that blow your mind and just make you want to work your butt off like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Beyoncé , Jessie J, Sia, Martina McBride etc.
Randy: So then what’s playing on your iPod (or whatever you use to listen to music with) lately?
Melody: Actually Jason Mraz’s album “Yes!” is a go to right now, his song “When You Love Someone” stays in the heart and in the head!
Randy: How would you describe your live shows? Do you play live shows with a backup band or solo or with one or two guests? How do you do your live shows? Different each time?
Melody: I do shows both with a full band and as just an acoustic duo of me and a guitar player. I like both ways! The band show is fun because it’s easier to bring in the big sound and rock it out, but I also really love doing the acoustic stuff too because it’s a bit more intimate.
Randy: What was your best or most memorable performance? Best or worst experience, whatever you like, or even both!
Melody: I’ve had the opportunity to play for a lot of people on some big stages over the years, but one of my favorite shows is still the first time I played a songwriters circle because it was the first time I felt like an artist…like I was sharing my songs and people were listening to what I had created. It was a very small show, but it felt really significant. The worst show…that’s tough…when you’ve played years of cover shows there are a lot of bad shows you’d like to forget. Haha! One of the best and worst shows we did though was for the Grey Cup Huddle Town in Edmonton. It was amazing because our hometown was hosting the biggest CFL game of the year and we got to play in the city square, so it was exciting! But it was the end of November, in western Canada and we had to play on an outdoor stage. It was at least -25C (I think that’s around -15F) and windy! There was still a decent crowd because football fans are die-hards! But I thought our guitar player’s fingers were going to fall off.
Randy: Do you write mostly on the piano? Is that how it works for you? I was going to ask if you played guitar at all.
Melody: I don’t play guitar….but it’s on my bucket list. I’m very drawn to the guitar sound. I write on the piano because that’s the instrument I play, so I can get the ideas and chords figured out there, but then they’re all transferred to band/guitar arrangements. I barely have any piano on my current EP…but I have a feeling that might shift a bit in the future.
Randy: Yeah, I have done that – have written on the piano and transferred it. And the other way, but it seems easier in a way because all the notes are sitting right in front of you!
Melody: Yeah, that’s how I see it too! Although, I’m sure guitarists feel that their instrument is easier.
Randy: It can really turn the song around from how it was first written and make it go places you hadn’t thought of… I bet you wrote “Play That Song” on piano?
Melody: haha! I definitely did! Yes, that is a piano song. I played that one for years on my own on the piano, so hearing the recorded version is still really cool for me. Because it’s so different…and so romantic!
Randy: Yes I love that song.. I can hear the emotion in the voices.. and the harmonies blend so well! Like siblings. That was Shayne Hill right?
Melody: Yes, Shayne Hill, who is a member of Sawyer Brown, did the guest vocal on “Play That Song”, which is on my current EP, “Letting Go”. I actually cried when I heard the first mix with his vocals in it – I had always done the song as a solo but adding that second voice felt really good. Such a wonderful human and amazing musician. It was really an honour to have him sing on the song.
Randy: And do you have any plans in the future for any more collaborations or duets?
Melody: I would love to do more collaborations.
Randy: The string arrangement on “Play That Song” – how did that come about?
Melody: In my head I always heard this song with strings. It’s a wedding song truly…so Clay (from 7-17 Music) had some great contact in Nashville that came up with the string parts.
Randy: The strings sound stellar!
Melody: Thank you! I was very happy with them.
Randy: What made you want to create/do music? And is it the Number One thing you want to do for a living?
Melody: I had an ‘aha’ moment when I was about 15 years old. I was at a family gathering after a funeral, actually, and I was watching everyone sing and play together and was feeling the way the music was bringing joy even in the middle of a sad time. That’s when I realized that “this” was what I needed to do for the rest of my life.
Randy: If you weren’t doing music, what is the next thing closest to your heart you would be doing?
Melody: I would still be involved in a creative field of some kind, maybe graphic design because I’m also very visual and I love photos and color. But I actually can’t imagine music not being part of my life. Even if I wasn’t performing, I would be focusing more on the voice coaching side (which I do already) and the business side of the music world.
Randy: What’s your top 5 favorite songs in the past musical decade?
Melody: That is such a hard question! I was never a person that could have an all time favorite song either…there are so many good ones, but I’ll go with these ones today: Glitter In The Air by P!nk Stupid Boy by Keith Urban Wine After Whiskey by Carrie Underwood Human by Christina Perri Paris (ooh la la) by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.
Randy: If you had to pick just one, which of your tunes means the most to you personally?
Melody: They all mean something different and are significant to me in their own ways of course, but “Barefoot In The Backwoods” means a lot to me. It’s a snapshot of my life, including some of the things that were heavy, but it’s packaged in a positive, carefree feeling song, so it makes me feel really happy about exactly where I’ve come to in my life.
Randy: I think that song is a good representational choice too. As a recording artist myself, a couple of questions that are always intriguing to me are these: First, what’s the writing and recording process like for you?
Melody: With writing, I usually find that I’ll get a lyric line and a melody line and then the song builds itself around that. The music and arrangement side usually comes last for me. I really like collaborating with other writers, and several of the songs I recorded were co-writes. I really like the recording process too. I feel like that’s when the songs really come alive and all this additional emotion and sound finally gets created because we’re adding in all these instruments and elements I was only able to imagine before.
Randy: How much time do you spend getting your vocals just the way you want them? Do you ever feel rushed in the studio or do you have the luxury of taking your time? How does it work for you?
Melody: For this project I had the luxury of spending about a day on each song to record the lead vocals. I didn’t feel pressured for time, which was nice. I put a lot of trust in my producers at 7-17 Music and they did an amazing job. We decide to go back into the studio and do a few more takes the night before I left Nashville and we actually ended up fully re-recording Barefoot in the Backwoods and parts of I’m Letting Go because “it” was just happening. So, it’s interesting how it is nice to have all the time you need, but at the same time when everything comes together…sometimes you don’t need that much time at all.
Randy: What do you find most challenging about being a recording artist? And most rewarding?
Melody: The studio is like looking into the mirror of your soul. Haha! It can be so exposing vocally and emotionally. I think that is the most challenging part about recording and performing your own material. It takes a lot of courage (or maybe crazy?) to get that vulnerable in front of the world. But then the most rewarding part is when someone hears your songs and they ‘get it’ and it helps them or moves them. I love that. It makes the “scary” and the risk of being that open totally worth it.
Randy: That’s a great way to put it! “Looking into the mirror of your soul”. Love it! That leads me to this question: How would you describe yourself as a person? (i.e. funloving, carefree, wild n crazy, introspective, mysterious and brooding, etc)
Melody: I’m like a fun-loving, gypsy, hippie adventurer that thinks she can run the world. My favorite motto is “head in the clouds, feet on the ground”.
Randy: If you could tour with any artist you wanted who would it be and why?
Melody: Keith Urban!! … I may have mentioned that I think he’s pretty awesome… I would love to be part of that kind of big show. I also have my musical alter ego though, and if I could spend a summer doing outdoor festivals with Christina Perri, Sara Bareilles and Jason Mraz with just a guitar, a cajon and cello, I’d die so happy.
Randy: Do you have any thoughts or plans for what you might do next? Or has any new projects been thought about or discussed?
Melody: Yes, I do! I don’t think you get to not think about what’s next in this business, and I love thinking up new ideas. So, the next step is moving across the country actually. I was accepted into Canada’s Music Incubator program so I will be moving to Toronto, Ontario for 3 months to attend that program and work with Coalition Music. The Incubator is basically a program where I get to work with amazing industry people and immerse myself in the business and the visioning of the next phase of my music!
Randy: Do you have any live shows coming up or any events you’d like to share?
Melody: Before leaving Alberta I completed one last farewell show in Edmonton at Café Blackbird on July 31st. Upcoming shows after that will be posted on my website or Facebook page.
Randy: What are the top 5-10 things in life that are most important to you.
Melody: The ocean, a mountain and some trees, adventure, fun, love, Spirit connection, those people that are close to me that I get to call ‘my people’, and my cat… yeah that’s it…what else do you need? Maybe shoes. Shoes and wine. Make that red wine. And a really good gin and tonic. With lime and raspberries of course.
Randy: Any music awards you’d like to mention, or any final words before we go here?
Melody: The process of getting this project recorded and out to the world was a long and very personal one. For the final recording process I was very fortunate to work with some amazing talent in Nashville, but I certainly didn’t start out thinking that I would get to record my first project there! So, I feel really honored to have had that opportunity and then to be nominated this year by the Edmonton Music Awards for the Country Recording of the Year for “I’m Letting Go” and be a semi-finalist in the Unsigned Music Competition for “City Country”. I didn’t make the music to win awards…I don’t think that I really thought of that on this project, I just wanted people to hear it, but when a project feels this personal it’s even more meaningful to receive some of that recognition.
So there you have it. What a sweet and humble girl! She didn’t mention everything so here’s some other awards and recognition Melody has received:
•2015 Edmonton Music Awards nominee: Country Recording Of The Year for “I’m Letting Go”
•2015 Edmonton Music Awards nominee: People’s Choice •2015 Top 10 Finalist, HOT107FM Hot Factor Artist Contest
•Unsigned Only Semi-Finalist for “City Country” (http://www.unsignedonly.com/) – Winners announced Sep 2015
•Finalist in the Road to Big Valley Contest – Finals held on site at Big Valley Jamboree on Aug 2nd
•Accepted into the Coalition Music Artist Entrepreneur program in Toronto (http://www.coalitionmusic.com) Aug – Oct 2015. Coalition Music manages artists like Our Lady Peace, Finger 11, Simple Plan, USS, Andee etc
Artist Website: www.melodylovejoy.com
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MelodyLovejoy
Twitter: @Melody Lovejoy