We were lucky enough to catch up with MELYSSA LEE following the superb release of ‘Last Words’. Enjoy our full interview below!
Hi Melyssa, what is your earliest music memory?
I remember my parents used to sing songs for me when I was a baby. Mostly I remember them singing the Beatles, Bobby Vinton, and the Everly Brothers. I didn’t have a musical family, but I was obsessed with musical instruments. I was a toddler who would defiantly play with instruments whenever I saw them, in spite of adults telling me, “don’t touch!”. In preschool, during naptime, I would sneak away to play the piano they had there and would always get into trouble!
How did you get into the music industry?
I got into the music industry very gradually. It started with me playing in a cover band as a guitar player and backup singer. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to learn how to write songs, I got into songwriting and eventually entered an artist development program, and here I am!
Who influenced your brilliant latest release, ‘Last Words’?
Last Words was influenced by the life losses we were experiencing during the height of the recent pandemic. It wasn’t just deaths from the virus, but it was a different experience at that time. There were more suicides, overdoses, and resource shortages in healthcare to treat trauma, and people were not able to be with their loved ones in their final moments due to visitation restrictions in care homes and hospitals.
This song is a culmination of that, but overall – what really got me was an experience I had while I worked in health care, and I was part of a team trying to keep a young, healthy woman alive. She came in very sick, but prior to this, she never had any health issues. We tried and succeeded at first, and she was able to have a few moments with her family, but she ended up passing, and it really affected me. I got to chat with her a bit, and she was about my age and also had children.
So began all the reflections and sadness surrounding the last moments we spend with loved ones and a reminder to make the most of every shared experience.
‘Last Words’ is an acoustic track; what draws you to the acoustic guitar?
As much as I love instrumentation and production, I also love the other end of the spectrum. The acoustic guitar is an instrument that can communicate music with rhythm, melody and chords – and it can really complement a song where you want the lyrics to come forward. Because I have been really focusing on songwriting, I didn’t want to take too much away from the words of the song. It is in these situations that an acoustic instrument can really complement a track through its simplicity.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
That is a very difficult question. I have a very long list. I will say, though, that sometimes the best people to collaborate with are those around you who are not yet famous or well-known. They will surprise you with what they bring to the table and what they bring out in you – then you can create something that is different, beautiful and meaningful to all the co-writers.
Something in my gut tells me that if I got to collaborate with Brandi Carlile, it would be life-changing. Also, I am drawn to her life energy, and I feel that she and I have that in common.
What’s the music scene like in Calgary?
It is definitely there – we have a Music Mile and a supportive community of songwriters and supportive mentors. I am fortunate to be in a city and country that supports musicians and especially indie artists, with many resources. We also have a local program that helps musicians secure local gigs. I haven’t been in Calgary for long, but I am excited to be a part of this city. There is definitely more of a country focus here because of the Calgary Stampede, but I am okay with that!
What’s your dream venue to play?
Massey Hall in Toronto.
Other than music, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about my family – I have four kids aged 5 to 14 and a partner, and this brings me so much joy. I also love my other job in healthcare – just like I want to use my music for connection and healing, that is what I find the most gratifying in my job, and wherever the music takes me, I think I will always want to keep my foot in healthcare because it is a big part of who I am.
Other than that – health and well-being (mental and physical) is another topic I love learning and speaking about!
What changes would you like to see in the music business?
I would love for CDs to make a comeback! I realize they are still around, but the really good portable CD players are not as common, other than in the car. The technology is there to have better portable players than in the past. Vinyl is great merch and collectables, but they are hard to listen to continuously, given the limits of song numbers per side.
Also, I would hope that the streaming industry can find a way to make it more advantageous for musicians to release music and, at the very least, to break even. It is a very big financial commitment to start in the music industry as an indie artist – and you really have to believe you can make it, as that investment can be easily lost.
How do you feel about how the internet plays a role in today’s music business?
The internet definitely has some pluses and minuses. Now, more than ever before, we are able to open our music to fans worldwide. As listeners, we have exponentially more music available to explore and are not limited to local radio to decide what is worth listening to. In this way, I think there is something for everyone if you know where to find it. There are also people out there who will like your music; you just have to know how to reach them. The internet makes that possible.
The downside to the internet is that it can become overwhelming and make the industry seem saturated with music. This can also make it a bit harder to navigate and find your way to stand out as an artist. With the amount of new music being released online per day, that competition has now become fierce – and there is that volume because it has become much easier to distribute music.
What would it be if you could choose one thing for fans to take away from your music?
If I can make a person feel like they connected to my music, that somehow the music spoke to them, helped them through a hard time or helped express or empathize feelings they were sorting through personally – that to me is a win and my ‘why’ for doing this!
What is your favourite song to play live?
‘Last Words’! and ‘Learning to Love’ (coming soon with my EP release).
Have you started working on your next release?
Yes, I have my whole acoustic EP ready for release, it will be out in the spring, and it is called “Simply”, as it is a compilation of acoustic tracks that represent the simple life themes of birth, love and death.
I am also currently working on a produced album to come next and am actively songwriting for more to come!
FVMusicBlog March 2023