Melanie Fiona: Time Of the Season

Some new artists are diamonds in the rough. We don’t 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 […]

Some new artists are diamonds in the rough. We don’t 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. Alternatives: Your internet buzz came so fast. I haven’t seen an artist get that

kind of internet love that quickly since…I don’t know. It’s been a while!


Melanie Fiona: I

know! It’s just like…everywhere! It’s 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. It’s crazy. 


AHHA: It’s insane.

Were you tuned in like that? Because there are some artists who will say

they’re doing this and this for the internet…but it seems like the internet

found you before you found the internet.


Melanie Fiona: Yes

that’s pretty much what happened. Because now I’m 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

everything’s good. It’s like everything is viral so it’s good because now when

people are checking and they’re online so whenever I have something exciting or

something going on to show everybody I know it’s out there and they can find

out about it.


AHHA: So you’re from

Toronto. What’s in the Toronto water because it seems like every artist that

comes out of there is brilliant. What’s up with that?


Melanie Fiona: You

know what? I really feel like it’s a slept-on city. It’s a great city and I

love being born and having grown up there. It’s very international, very

diverse and I just feel like because of that we have a really broad perspective

of things. I don’t 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 we’re 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. It’s good. I’m glad there’s 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?


Melanie Fiona:

Toronto’s a really small city. As big as it is, it’s small in the community of

people you hang out with so you kind of get to know everybody, whether it’s

industry or whatever. Like through people you know…it’s really easy to know

everybody or know of everybody. Like I know Drake, we’ve been friends for a

while. Colin Munroe…we’ve actually never met but we’ve spoken on the phone.

Kardi [Kardinal Offishall] and I grew up together and are friends as well, so

you know it’s 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 we’re all making this movement happen, creating

a community where people want to support their talent so it’s good.


AHHA: It sounds like

Philly in the late ‘90s.


Melanie Fiona: Yeah

like the Roots, that sort of stuff. It’s nice to see the city supporting our

own now. It wasn’t always that way.


AHHA: Speaking of

the Roots, how did you and ?uestlove link up? Was he checking in online and

discovered you?


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 they’re in New York doing Jimmy Fallon’s show so we work

together, we work together a lot more recently. It’s really great…he’s somebody

I’ve always admired and wanted to work with so it’s kind of cool.


AHHA: That’s

beautiful. So is he drumming on the album? Is he doing production? Like what’s

his input on the album?


Melanie Fiona: We

actually got a couple tracks that we’re working on, and we’ve actually done a

mixtape together which is pretty cool so that’ll be coming out real soon.


AHHA: Do you have

?uest deejaying?


Melanie Fiona: Well

we did a live replay of the songs [on the mixtape]. [?uestlove] is going to be

doing it and hosting it. It’s really, really fresh. I can’t wait. It’s a

surprise so I don’t 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

we’re 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, it’s a classic sample. People know it,

even if they can’t place it…it’s easy to remember, it’s easy to take in, it’s

very familiar to people. It’s great. It’s sexy and it’s 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…it’s just really no nonsense.

Like I’m just really like I just don’t have time…I know what I like, I know

what I don’t 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 I’m so thrilled. I feel so

empowered by it, and I just feel like it’s a really empowering song for people,

women especially. So I’m 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 what’s so crazy? Everybody says that, and I guess that’s just kind of

natural what comes out but everybody always says they hear the Caribbean flavor

on “Ayo” and I didn’t 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 that’s just my roots coming through and I haven’t even realized it.

That’s going to be the second single so it’s pretty exciting and I feel like

that’s 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 didn’t 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, they’re 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

I’m 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 I’m 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 it’s what I really want

to do. So they’re great. They always been very supportive and you know my dad

playing an instrument, he’s so happy to jam out with me and the guitar. We do

it at like family reunions and stuff now…it’s 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, I’m sure you had a variety of music coming up. What

were some of your favorites?


Melanie Fiona:

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 it’s pretty cool. I always love to go back to that. But also ‘90s R&B

and Hip-Hop is like the ticket for me. That’s what did me. That’s what made me

really fall in love with music.


AHHA: So there’s a

couple of songs we’ve 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

it’s not expected to be. Don’t 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 couldn’t 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 it’s pretty



AHHA: Not too many

new artists get to do that.


Melanie Fiona: No!

And I think it’s really important. You draw from a different energy and you

draw from a different sound and different people. That’s what it is. It’s like

people inspiring people. That’s what makes the best stories anyway.


AHHA: Now you’re

represented by the Roc right…Roc Nation?


Melanie Fiona:

That’s right!


AHHA: That must be

crazy. You mentioned ‘90s rap and then you think of Jay-Z being aligned with

the Roc…


Melanie Fiona: Yeah

it’s pretty cool. They’re really cool and Jay is great. I’ve always been a fan

of his so to be working closely with him is awesome and it’s 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 you’re doing and we’d be happy to be a part of the project, and we’re

really looking forward to working with you.” It was great and it’s good to have

Jay come to my showcase and show some support like that. He’s a really, really

amazing guy and it’s an honor, really. It’s an honor to be working with him. He

treats me like a little sister. He’s 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 don’t need to be mentioned. Now you’re

definitely a hit…how as an artist are you making sure that you don’t 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 what’s

out there. I feel like I don’t know, I just want to be real. I just want to be

a real person that makes music and I don’t want to have to live up to this

façade of something that I’m not. It’s just really me, it’s just really who I

am and I just feel that people will relate to me. They’ll see that I’m a

regular person as well; I go through the same things. They’ll just feel

connected to me on that level and always feel like they believe I’ll always put

out quality music and I won’t disappoint them for what they’re looking for musically.

That’s just something I’m always going to try to do…just make good music. 


AHHA: I read

somewhere that you mentioned that you’re living out of your suitcase…


Melanie Fiona: This

is a career. It’s like no pain, no gain…short-term pain for long-term gain.

That’s really what it is and truthfully, like it’s cool, it’s a humble

beginning. This is the first time I’m going to be a new artist. There’s going

to be a time when I’m settled in one city and people will know who I am and the

groundwork will be done, but you know for now I’m just having a blast. This is

the first time I’m ever going to be here and the last time I’m 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 I’ll be living in New York,

tomorrow I’ll be in California, last week I lived in London. I’m living in

different cities.


AHHA: If you weren’t

here doing this, where do you think you’d be?


Melanie Fiona: Oh my

goodness. Now that I do it, I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a crazy

thing. I mean I went to school, and I have a business degree and I don’t even

know! I’d probably be in Toronto because that’s home and doing something

productive there as well but I just couldn’t tell you what else I’d be doing

because I just can’t imagine doing anything else.