Melanie’s inspiration for Mellow Music
Having been in the music industry for over 15 years now, I am well aware of how difficult the industry is and how daunting it can be for newcomers. When I first started out I was incredibly naive. I was so passionate about my music and I thought passion would be enough! That’s how naive I was;) I remember begging my mother from a young age, for a musical instrument of any kind. I found myself gravitating towards music when I was very young. It was like a magnet pulling me. There was never a question of what my ultimate dream was!
We didn’t have much money to go around with four kids in the family and buying an instrument just wasn’t an option. The day came when my begging finally paid off and my dad handed me my first guitar! He had paid R5 for it because it was broken. The body had split open and that meant it sounded more like a banjo than a guitar! I didn’t care. I carried that guitar like a badge! I had no case for it but I walked with it to school and back with a chest bursting with pride because I felt like a real musician!
Guitar lessons weren’t an option but I joined the guitar club at school and, as long as I went to the weekly club get-together, I could have my own, free lesson once a week with my english teacher, Mrs Immelman*. I lived for those lessons and I played that guitar until my fingers bled. I started writing my own songs pretty soon after starting my lessons and I became known around school for my passion. My classmates were constantly asking me to sing a song for them, as unskilled as I was at that stage! I remember how much I loved singing for them. It made me feel on top of the world:)
Not long after I started my lessons, my parents told us we were moving. I was devastated. This meant a new school and NO MORE guitar lessons. That was when I started teaching myself. I spent the next few years working on my guitar skills and writing songs. My parents were given a casio keyboard when I was in high school which I adopted as my own much to my sibling’s disgust;) I locked myself in my room for hours teaching myself how to play chords by simply listening to what sounded right. I had no books to refer to. All of these unorthodox ways of learning meant that I have a rather unorthodox way of playing as well as composing songs and I am never limited by what chords I “should” use. I go with what I feel and I throw musical curveballs that seasoned musicians shake their heads in wonder at;) I like to assume that’s a good thing! I have never liked to travel with the mainstream and I believe it was actually an advantage for me, not having any kind of structure musically. I do regret that I can’t read music though.
Up until I left school I had thrown myself into every possible situation where I could gain stage experience. I joined my first proper band at the age of 15 alongside Garth Taylor and Daryl Swart (from Tree 63) and we did quite a few shows together after coming second in a talent show at the Bluff Mardi Gras! But I was an incredibly shy teenager. I used to shake and go blood red in the face, and have a terrible stomach ache everytime I had to perform! I’m not sure what drove me to get on that stage everytime. The side affects were not pleasant at all! I just loved singing and I learned to shut my eyes and lose myself in the music so that the audience became a distant hum that was completely separate from me. I still do that and probably always will!
After school, studying music was not an option. It was too much money to go to university and not a practical career choice. My parents were adament that I choose something more within my reach. I started studying teaching and did music in my spare time. My guitar came with me to college and I wrote many of my songs sitting under the trees outside the cafeteria. I joined several bands and busked for cash at flea markets where I drew quite a crowd. I played at the Durban Folk Club regularly and I found it thrilling to be at least a small part of the industry.
I joined Ichabod in 1996 and we stayed together and gigged for 4 years, recording our own album and making a name for ourselves on the music scene. At the end of all those years I had not one cent to show for all the hard work we put in but it was worth it. We did all our own marketing and admin and we recorded the album at a studio our bassist was working at, in Westville. Life was all about my 8am-5pm job and then gigging until the early hours of the morning and rehearsing and recording every other night. The experience I gained from it was priceless and it was such fun! I was beginning to realise though, that I needed to start earning some money if I was ever going to be able to do this for a living. It was time to start pursuing a solo career.
That wasn’t as easy as I make it sound! In fact I had no idea which direction to go. I met up with many people over the years after my decision to go solo and I started doing corporate gigs and working with a friend, Micaela Varalla, recording some demos. It was tough though. Without someone knowledgable in the industry, to guide me, I just didn’t know which way to turn. I carried on singing but lost hope and began throwing myself into my day job which was lecturing.
It was while I was doing that job, that I heard about Idols and the rest is self-explanatory really! I left my job and used the stepping stone I had received from Idols, to try and build on what I’d started. Thanks to a bit of knowledge about the industry, I knew it wasn’t going to be plain sailing, no matter what they told us! It is very hard to make a music career in South Africa without financial backing and the right kind of knowledge. I had a bit of the latter, but that was it!
This was where my previous experiences came in handy! I did the usual trick of being everywhere and doing everything that came my way and this opened more doors. I had so many wonderful opportunities and I used them all! I am convinced the reason they came along is because I was following my passion. My drive to succeed at doing what I loved, was visible to everyone. The universe heard me.
About Mellow Music
Mellow Music is a South African based booking agency and artist management company working with corporate clients, artist’s management, entertainment agencies, talent agencies or booking agencies. We serve to book talent for corporate entertainment, event planning, private parties, concert bookings, fundraisers and any other special events, providing high quality artists from original artists to bands to cabaret singers to musicians to MCs to comedians and every kind of entertainment you may require for any event, anywhere in the world.
We are looking for new artists! If you think you have what it takes to be a Mellow Music artist, then you should be on our website!