Good Monday, readers! In our very first Sundry Spotlight, my guest’s interest lies in the heart of music. Her tale will inspire you to never give up on chasing your personal dreams no matter what. Allow me to introduce you to Melissa.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a wife and a critter mom. I have a dog and two cats. I am an introvert which means although I enjoy being around people, I need a certain amount of alone time to recharge my batteries. I love reading, traveling and sci fi stuff like Star Wars and Star Trek. I am also a nature girl. I love hiking, sunshine, trees and being outdoors in the fresh air. For my day job I work in the helping, human services profession.
You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?
Sure, I am an Americana folk rock singer. I am a recording artist/songwriter and I also do some live performances. I also have a custom song writing business where I write custom love songs for weddings.
How long have you been singing?
I have been singing since I was a little girl. When I was a kid I would spend hours in my bedroom playing records, mesmerized and memorizing the lyrics and notes and I would sing along with the artists. I quickly learned all the notes and the changes and nuances of tons of songs because I enjoyed it so much. My childhood dream was to become a recording artist.
What led you to start it in the first place?
I used to sing in church and when I was about 6 years old I started doing solo performances on Sundays. This was a big deal for me because I was a very shy little kid but I felt the magic of the music so strongly that I could look past that and just get up there and do it. I started taking voice lessons as a child and throughout high school and in college. After college, I joined a rock band and did a ton of performances at venues and weddings, for quite a few years. I got out of the business for a while and finished a master’s degree in psychology. Around 2013, I was longing to get back into the business again and I joined a new grass group and then I was in an acoustic duo called CHILL for a couple of years. I did some recording with CHILL and fell in love with being in the studio. It ignited my childhood recording artist dreams! In 2016, I decided to strike out on my own as a solo artist.
What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?
The decision to become a solo artist was challenging as I have always kind of hid behind having a band to back me up so I feel more vulnerable now when performing. I have always wanted to do this but was afraid to be on my own but have taken a lot of steps in my life around personal growth so that has improved my confidence. The other challenge as a solo artist is that I am solely responsible for everything from booking to making decisions around production of tracks, follow up calls, just all the details that go into doing this. However, at the same time there is this sense of excitement and empowerment that goes along with it.
I actually got an F in chorus in high school. My teacher was bullying towards me and treated me like had a contagious disease..lol. But I still decided to go after my dreams so don’t listen to the naysayers!
If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?
I am very blessed and feel like I have a pretty ideal set up right now. I have a supportive husband, enough free time to write and record and all the tools I need here at home to do that plus I have access to session musicians, recording studios and colleagues who are helpful and supportive.
If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?
Don’t give up on your dream. You can do this. Just take a little step or two on most days towards your goal and you will make it happen. Record deals are overrated. They are basically a glorified loan that you must pay back and then you are basically a slave that can be dropped anytime at their whim. It sounded so glamorous and amazing to me when I was younger but I have had a few musician colleagues that have suffered at the hands of record labels. It doesn’t mean they are all bad but just be careful, get a good lawyer, etc. Don’t worry about making mistakes. There is a great quote from John Mayer which is “Mistakes are the exhaust of the dream machine.” You will make mistakes and bad decisions but just keep moving forward. Don’t take it too seriously because then it will start to feel like work and once that happens then the magic is gone. However, do treat your music as a fun and creative business or a startup, show up, follow through, schedule time to create, have a business checking account There is nothing wrong with having a day job and it does not delegitimize your craft! Don’t listen to the naysayers who will tell you this. It is honorable to take care of yourself and your finances so that you can free your mind of worry so that you CAN create. Nothing stifles creativity more than financial pressure. If you are hungry/broke then it is hard to concentrate and relax so that you can truly enjoy and excel at what you are doing. Also, you can have more than one calling in life. For example, I am in the human services field. I feel it is a calling for me to help people and serve my community. I also feel that my music is a calling. Both callings feed me in different but very wonderful ways.
Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?
Yes, I’m just getting started! I am an independent artist, so I am not doing this the conventional way through big tours and major record deals, but I am finding my own way in a grassroots/on the ground kind of way and that feels so empowering.
Where can people find you/your work?
Vermontmadesongs.net. I am giving away my new single, End of the Day, plus another bonus track. I also have a Kindred community. Would love to have you become part of it.