Some new artists are diamonds in the rough. We dont realize
their true potential until their second or third album, where their artistry is
in full bloom. Others are like Melanie Fiona. The Toronto-born songbird
epitomizes that intangible something that most try to manufacture, but
ultimately fall short after many attempts. Fiona, coming from a diverse
background of both sound and culture, garnered all of that creative energy for
her debut album The Bridge a
work, which combines the old school and the new school (hence the title). While
in New York, a city on her long list of semi-residences since living out of her
suitcase, Melanie took some time to discuss Toronto and other famed graduates
like Drake, as well as being the newest recruit of the Roc.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Your internet buzz came so fast. I havent seen an artist get that
kind of internet love that quickly since I dont know. Its been a while!
Melanie Fiona: I
know! Its just like everywhere! Its kind of crazy to me. People are like I
can Google your name! I remember one day being like, Do people know who I am,
and putting my name in Google and seeing nothing. Then a month later putting my
name in and a million things came up. Its crazy.
AHHA: Its insane.
Were you tuned in like that? Because there are some artists who will say
theyre doing this and this for the internet but it seems like the internet
found you before you found the internet.
Melanie Fiona: Yes
thats pretty much what happened. Because now Im trying to get caught up on
Twitter and Facebook. I had no idea I was just doing regular blogs and things
like that and we kind of have to get everything up now because people were
looking and so it worked itself out though. We have all the sites up so
everythings good. Its like everything is viral so its good because now when
people are checking and theyre online so whenever I have something exciting or
something going on to show everybody I know its out there and they can find
out about it.
AHHA: So youre from
Toronto. Whats in the Toronto water because it seems like every artist that
comes out of there is brilliant. Whats up with that?
Melanie Fiona: You
know what? I really feel like its a slept-on city. Its a great city and I
love being born and having grown up there. Its very international, very
diverse and I just feel like because of that we have a really broad perspective
of things. I dont know I love the culture there; that has a lot to do with it.
I just feel like there are a lot of hidden gems in Toronto. You know we move
quietly and do our thing and just kind of come out of hiding when were ready.
But you know we get slept on. I think the city gets slept on and we have a lot
of talent up there. You got Cardi, you got Drake, me, Colin Monroe you got a
lot of people coming out of there right now. Its good. Im glad theres a
movement kind of spreading the word about Toronto.
AHHA: What is the
community like there? You mentioned Cardi, you mentioned Colin Monroe, you
mentioned Drake is it like a little friendship circle or is it you just bump
into each other?
Torontos a really small city. As big as it is, its small in the community of
people you hang out with so you kind of get to know everybody, whether its
industry or whatever. Like through people you know its really easy to know
everybody or know of everybody. Like I know Drake, weve been friends for a
while. Colin Munroe weve actually never met but weve spoken on the phone.
Kardi [Kardinal Offishall] and I grew up together and are friends as well, so
you know its just a really cool community. And now with everybody kind of
coming out and doing their thing, we kind of have more of a look for one
another and more of a family. Because it was kind of divided like everyone just
did their thing but now I think were all making this movement happen, creating
a community where people want to support their talent so its good.
AHHA: It sounds like
Philly in the late 90s.
Melanie Fiona: Yeah
like the Roots, that sort of stuff. Its nice to see the city supporting our
own now. It wasnt always that way.
AHHA: Speaking of
the Roots, how did you and ?uestlove link up? Was he checking in online and
Melanie Fiona: Well
I met ?uest a couple times and you know it was just like hey, how are you like
totally just on some running into each other meeting at events and stuff like
that. And then I did the tour with Kanye [Glow In the Dark] end of November
last year, and they did the show in Paris and it was the day that their bus
crashed. And I got to say hi to him and we just really spoke about working
together that day. And then from there I went out to Philly and sort of worked
with them and now theyre in New York doing Jimmy Fallons show so we work
together, we work together a lot more recently. Its really great hes somebody
Ive always admired and wanted to work with so its kind of cool.
beautiful. So is he drumming on the album? Is he doing production? Like whats
his input on the album?
Melanie Fiona: We
actually got a couple tracks that were working on, and weve actually done a
mixtape together which is pretty cool so thatll be coming out real soon.
AHHA: Do you have
Melanie Fiona: Well
we did a live replay of the songs [on the mixtape]. [?uestlove] is going to be
doing it and hosting it. Its really, really fresh. I cant wait. Its a
surprise so I dont want to say too much about it yet.
AHHA: Your single
Give It To Me Right is amazing. How did you go about choosing that Zombies
Melanie Fiona: Well
this album I worked really closely with a writer and a producer, and artist her
name is Andrea Martin. Her and I had chemistry instantly from the minute we
started working together. And you know we recorded songs and wrote songs and
were working and we got really the bulk of the album together. I always knew I
wanted to make classic music. I wanted to make something that was old and
something new that had a soul. Andrea Martin, she actually wrote Give It to Me
Right and she knows me personally, she knows me professionally.
The Zombies sample, its a classic sample. People know it,
even if they cant place it its easy to remember, its easy to take in, its
very familiar to people. Its great. Its sexy and its strong, and with a song
like Give It to Me Right, which basically is a real reflection of how I am in
my life, with relationships and life and work its just really no nonsense.
Like Im just really like I just dont have time I know what I like, I know
what I dont and I want what I want. So knowing that, she called me up like,
Girl I got a record for you, and it was just instant like it was just
perfect. I was so excited, and we recorded it and Im so thrilled. I feel so
empowered by it, and I just feel like its a really empowering song for people,
women especially. So Im really, really excited.
AHHA: Not too many
of your tracks have been released but I heard Ayo, which has more of that
kind of like a Caribbean flavor going on.
Melanie Fiona: You
know whats so crazy? Everybody says that, and I guess thats just kind of
natural what comes out but everybody always says they hear the Caribbean flavor
on Ayo and I didnt even realize it. I thought it was more like
Rock/Hip-Hop/Soul type thing. People like, always go to the Caribbean side. I
guess thats just my roots coming through and I havent even realized it.
Thats going to be the second single so its pretty exciting and I feel like
thats a good summer record as well.
AHHA: So you come
from a musical family right?
Melanie Fiona: I do.
AHHA: As far as you
pursuing music full time was it something that they urged you to do, was it
something they didnt want you to do? Or was it something like hey, let it fall
where it may?
Melanie Fiona: Well
you know my dad, my dad used to play in a band. My mom listened to a lot of
great music growing up. So like my mom used to sing. She was as far as
I was concerned, but I was a little girl the best singer ever. She was
always singing along with Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand, and I just
always loved music. They always encouraged me to do music. My parents have been
very supportive. Like whatever it was that I wanted to do school-related,
sports, whatever it was they were always very, very supportive. But you know
like every parent, theyre very concerned with education and getting wrapped up
in the industry.
West Indian parents especially, they always want you to be a
doctor. Like always some sort of doctor, some sort of lawyer is just always the
dream job. But you know when I came home, it was like I want to do music and
Im actually going to take some time off of school and do this right now. They
were kind of shocked at first. They were like, Whoa, are you sure this is what
you want to do? But they never shot me down. They did definitely encourage me
to be like yo go for it. Like school will be there, the rest of your life will
be there but your dreams and your talents are something that you really need to
go after. So they have been so supportive.
When I came home and was like, Yeah Im leaving and going
to California, they were like you know they held their breath for three
seconds, but then they were like ok because they know its what I really want
to do. So theyre great. They always been very supportive and you know my dad
playing an instrument, hes so happy to jam out with me and the guitar. We do
it at like family reunions and stuff now its cool. I appreciate so much more
now. I never realized how much it would influence me because he used to always
try to get me to play the guitar when I was a kid and I would complain that it
hurt my fingers. So I know now that I really should have appreciated it more
because now I want to learn to play the guitar. That would be my next thing. My
dad would be happy.
AHHA: So with your
multicultural background, Im sure you had a variety of music coming up. What
were some of your favorites?
Honestly my favorite music was always Soul music. Like the oldies. Like I was
the only kid that I knew listening to Sam Cooke and knowing all of the words.
So its pretty cool. I always love to go back to that. But also 90s R&B
and Hip-Hop is like the ticket for me. Thats what did me. Thats what made me
really fall in love with music.
AHHA: So theres a
couple of songs weve heard what else is to come from The Bridge?
Melanie Fiona: The
Bridge is a real reflection of who I am culturally and what
influenced me musically and you know on the album, just expect it to be what
its not expected to be. Dont expect it to be just a bunch of throwback
records. I mean the common theme on the album is definitely Soul, but it mixes
with R&B and Hip-Hop and Reggae and Pop you know everything that really
influenced me musically. I named it The Bridge because I wanted it to be the thing that brought people together. You
know genres of music, age groups, genders, ethnicities I really wanted it to be
a body of work that couldnt be put in a box; it just was music for everyone.
So expect a lot of live instrumentation, great lyrical content, strong stories
and yea just a classic piece of work that I think people would be able to
relate to emotionally and go back to years from now and enjoy.
AHHA: In putting
this album together, you mentioned that you traveled to a lot of places to get
inspiration for it?
Melanie Fiona: Yeah
I absolutely did. Like I said I wanted to make an international album. I wanted
to make a seamless, classic album. So I had the opportunity to go work with
producers in London, Jamaica, Canada and the States so you know I felt the best
way to make an international album was to work internationally so its pretty
AHHA: Not too many
new artists get to do that.
Melanie Fiona: No!
And I think its really important. You draw from a different energy and you
draw from a different sound and different people. Thats what it is. Its like
people inspiring people. Thats what makes the best stories anyway.
AHHA: Now youre
represented by the Roc right Roc Nation?
AHHA: That must be
crazy. You mentioned 90s rap and then you think of Jay-Z being aligned with
Melanie Fiona: Yeah
its pretty cool. Theyre really cool and Jay is great. Ive always been a fan
of his so to be working closely with him is awesome and its an honor.
AHHA: What did you
do when you first met him or first spoke to him? What was that like?
Melanie Fiona: When
I met him it was pretty cool. I was with Jay Brown and Ty Ty and we were
talking about working together and they went and introduced me to Jay and
played him the records. He was just really cool; he was like, Yeah I really
like what youre doing and wed be happy to be a part of the project, and were
really looking forward to working with you. It was great and its good to have
Jay come to my showcase and show some support like that. Hes a really, really
amazing guy and its an honor, really. Its an honor to be working with him. He
treats me like a little sister. Hes really funny and really cool.
AHHA: It seems like
for a good long while the Roc was kind of testing as far as getting the right
females in the crew as far as representing women. They had hits obviously like
Rihanna but they had misses that dont need to be mentioned. Now youre
definitely a hit how as an artist are you making sure that you dont fall on
the other side?
Melanie Fiona: You
know again I think it always goes back to the music. I think the difference in
what happens is that the music is different from what people hear, from whats
out there. I feel like I dont know, I just want to be real. I just want to be
a real person that makes music and I dont want to have to live up to this
façade of something that Im not. Its just really me, its just really who I
am and I just feel that people will relate to me. Theyll see that Im a
regular person as well; I go through the same things. Theyll just feel
connected to me on that level and always feel like they believe Ill always put
out quality music and I wont disappoint them for what theyre looking for musically.
Thats just something Im always going to try to do just make good music.
AHHA: I read
somewhere that you mentioned that youre living out of your suitcase
Melanie Fiona: This
is a career. Its like no pain, no gain short-term pain for long-term gain.
Thats really what it is and truthfully, like its cool, its a humble
beginning. This is the first time Im going to be a new artist. Theres going
to be a time when Im settled in one city and people will know who I am and the
groundwork will be done, but you know for now Im just having a blast. This is
the first time Im ever going to be here and the last time Im ever going to be
at this point so I just enjoy it. It gets a little stressful sometimes but I
just try to make the best of it and say like today Ill be living in New York,
tomorrow Ill be in California, last week I lived in London. Im living in
AHHA: If you werent
here doing this, where do you think youd be?
Melanie Fiona: Oh my
goodness. Now that I do it, I cant imagine doing anything else. Its a crazy
thing. I mean I went to school, and I have a business degree and I dont even
know! Id probably be in Toronto because thats home and doing something
productive there as well but I just couldnt tell you what else Id be doing
because I just cant imagine doing anything else.