WW: Hey Mellani, welcome to WildWritings.com!
How are you?
MD: I’m great, thank you! I’m excited to share
with WildWritings everything that’s going on with
me and my music.
WW: Tell us about your childhood. Did music
always play an important role in your life?
MD: Yes very much so. I am blessed to have grown
up in one of those families where Dad sat and played
guitar most nights and sang and Mom and all us
sisters (there were 5 of us) joined in. I also sang in
church and school choirs every year as I grew up. I
started learning piano at age 4. I did a brief stint at
the violin in 3rd grade, and then a year of guitar in
high school. When I started college I started out as
a music major. Life got in the way and that changed,
but I’ve always had the music.
WW: When did you know you wanted to become a singer?
MD: I’ve never actually put that in a future tense – I’ve always been a singer. To want to be a singer with my own music and band, I guess is what you mean? Well I guess that kind of evolved a few years ago. I had been writing songs for a while, and singing lead for a cover band, Live Wire, in Denver. We incorporated a few originals, and I wanted to do more. I kept writing and the songs started piling up, and I just thought I need to do this!
WW: Who were your musical influences while growing up?
MD: I have to say that I have an eclectic group of influences. I have to believe that in some ways you are influenced by everything you hear from the old to the new. You take what moves you and leave the rest. As a singer/songwriter there are two sides, the lyrics and the music. On both sides I have been inspired by such varied songwriters and artists as: Don Henley, Bernie Taupin and Elton John, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, the Carpenters, Sade, Cher, Tina Turner, Sting and the Police, Peter Gabriel, the old hymn writers, old show tunes, old country and folk tunes, other classic rock and R&B artists, an odd list of international artists from my years in Europe (I lived in Germany over 13 years), reggae artists like Boney M and Bob Marley, more recently I've been soaking up classic jazz and blues.
WW: When did you write your first song? What was it about?
MD: Yikes, my first song – I keep those early ones stuffed away only to bring out once in a while and shake my head at them. I started writing poetry as an assignment in college – required – and found out that I loved it. I was driving in my car one day, I was living in Germany then, and started singing the first line of one of my poems. The melody just popped into my head. I realized then that I could put the poems to music. It was a long road though to learn about song form and writing memorable melodies and learning the rules, so that you could know when to break them, all that. What was it about? Well, the lyrics started like this: “Sometimes it seems you’re stumbling blind, what more is there to see? How can you know the way to act, what should you’re choices be?” Kind of schmaltzy, but amazingly I do remember them still…
WW: Where do you draw the inspiration from to create music?
MD: It’s an internal creative drive, I guess, an outlet for ideas and thoughts that otherwise could get jammed up inside, HA! It’s also very therapeutic and spiritual for me at times. I get ideas from all sorts of places in life from personal experiences to news articles to conversations and so on. You just have to be aware and be looking for them. For example, “Yesterday’s Lei” was written after I was driving down the highway in Hawaii, and I saw a beautiful partially wilted lei on the street. The thought popped into my head: “used up and thrown away like yesterday’s lei” – metaphor for a relationship, and the song
idea was born.
WW: Your solo debut received rave reviews from the independent music industry. Tell us about your debut record.
MD: I had been writing for a few years, and decided to test the waters with a 3-song EP of my own (then added tracks without vocals as an experiment). I wanted it to do double duty – act as a demo to present to sell the song itself, and use it as a CD as an artist. Industry people say that could be confusing – are you a songwriter or an artist? I just say, yes! I met Eric Gunnison who agreed to produce it and hired the best musicians I could to record. That was before I had the band Dazed. I had to learn all the ropes on the business side as well. I hired a local promotion company for press, and an on-line promotion company for Internet-promotions and went through an Indie distribution outlet. I also entered two of the songs, “Shy to Sure” in
the jazz category and “Jade to Sapphire” in the world category, in the Billboard songwriting competition and they both won honorable mentions. I have received a lot of Internet radio play, and note that a couple of my songs have been downloaded as podcasts as far as Japan, France and Switzerland! I also submitted to 99.5 The Mountain a Denver commercial radio station that has a “homegrown” program to support local music. They loved “Losin’ “ and it ended up being played on other shows of the station as well.
WW: How would you describe your music?
MD: I describe my music as jazz-infused vocal originals with blues, jazz, island/reggae and world influences. Seems awkward doesn’t it? But because of my varied background, I have actually come to jazz later in the game (there’s a lot to catch up on), and I enjoy spreading the jazz
approach over various other styles. Which to me is the way the spirit of jazz works. The musicians I work with are so talented that they really do “get” what I’m trying to do cross-genre. Of course, that makes it really tough for the music industry that wants to categorize
it – does it go into jazz vocal? or pop? or blues? or world? Well, put a little bit of me into all of that!
WW: You're also a part of a band called Dazed. How did Dazed form?
MD: Along with the decision to put together the CD “Shy to Sure,” I gave myself permission to be an artist as well as a songwriter. Does that sound strange? Once I crossed that hurdle, I reached out to the best players I could find. I had a few changes in guitarist and keyboardist, however the band now seems to have really gelled. In the band Dazed, I have Keith Whiting who plays drums, he’s been with me since the beginning and plays on Shy to Sure as well. Then there’s Michael Willis, an amazing jazz bassist, Jamie Krutz a versatile guitarist who also plays electric violin and is a singer/songwriter in his own right, then the newest member of the band is Jerry Weiss, a jazz keyboardist (who studied under Eric Gunnison for 5 years by the way). All of these guys (yeah, I’m the only girl) also play solo and with other bands as well, so we have a lot of talent to share all the way around!
WW: What are your plans for the future; where can we catch you?
MD: I’m still writing and playing and recording, just begun, really, so there will be more to come. For now, the new CD “Mostly True” is available as of August 8, you should be able to find it on all your favorite on-line music stores, you can walk into your favorite music store and order it, or you can get it directly from me at www.mellaniday.com. Also if you are in the Denver area, we play regionally about once a month, so go to our website for the latest show info.
WW: Thanks Mellani! Best of luck to you.