Singer and songwriter Melissa James released her debut album ‘Day Dawns’ this week. We caught up with her to ask about influences, aspirations and the release.
MTTM: For those who haven’t heard of you before, what is your background?
MJ: I’ve always sung and have always enjoyed writing but, apart from the occasional song and poem, I never really thought of myself as a songwriter until more recently.
I used to think I’d be a writer of magazines but I never really enjoyed that writing process. Now that I’m writing songs it seems to make sense that actually this suits me better and is what I really enjoy doing.
MTTM: Your debut album ‘Day Dawns’ is released on 25th June. How would you sum it up?
MJ: It’s a collection of very soulful songs which takes on a bunch of my musical influences from rootsy folk to blues to soul to jazz with even some gospel and country tinges thrown in.
It’s all the musical styles I like thrown together. Not that that was ever the plan – it’s just what happened when I put pen to paper.
MTTM: Are there any stand out or favourite tracks on the record for you?
MJ: All of the songs are like my babies so it’s hard to pick a favourite – like picking a favourite child but Long Road Travelled is the one that means a lot to me at the moment because it describes a journey that I’ve had to walk to get this far.
MTTM: You recently played the Oxford Jazz Festival, but there are certainly influences other than jazz on the album. Which genres are you most heavily drawn to and who, if anyone, has had an impact on the style of music you play?
MJ: I’ve got so many musical influences. Joni Mitchell is an artist from whom I’ve always drawn a lot both lyrically and musically. I love what she does. I listen to a lot of Eric Bibb records – I love his blues but then I also listen a lot to Nina Simone and I’m really into Amos Lee these days.
Lizz Wright is another artist whose work I really love and respect and Ray Lamontagne, Paolo Nutini, Gillian Welch, Natalie Merchant. I don’t want to leave any out but there are just too many to mention.
MTTM: If you could duet with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
MJ: Of those still living, I would love to duet with Amos Lee. I am really in love with his work and I have this vision of us having a great day working together. I’d also love to work with Gillian Welch.
MTTM: What are your plans surrounding the album release, and for the future?
MJ: My plan is to try to spread my music as far and wide as it can go and to gig as much as possible both on home land and abroad.
I’ve been so busy working on the release and launch of the album that I’ve had to take a break from song writing so I’m keen to get back to building on that creative streak too. There are so many things I want to do musically – this feels like the beginning of another long road.
Jo Cox – More Than The Music, June 2012