Brought up in London, Melissa acknowledges her West Indian heritage that steeped her in calypso, soca and reggae from an early age.
Gospel and church music were an influence too, although it was her sisters’ prompting to check out soul singers Anita Baker, Percy Sledge, Marvin Gaye and Roberta Flack, plus exposure to Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday that formed her own voice.
A period in Paris playing clubs followed, before hooking-up back in the UK with musician/writer Ross Lorraine. It has led to a debut recording of impressive soul, jazz and blues, also featuring Tony Kofi (sax), Matt Park and James Pusey (guitars) and Dave Lennox (Hammond). Assured singing, refined playing and production plus an inspired focus makes for class music.
What is your earliest musical memory?
I remember singing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush in hand. I’d rush home from school and sing the songs of Mary Poppins, Annie or some other musical film. I got caught when one of my elder sisters came back slightly earlier than usual and watched me twirl and sing around the house. I was very embarrassed.
The first recording you bought?
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Bananarama. I’ll say no more!
Who is your dream collaborator?
I would love to work with Amos Lee. I love his music and I’ve seen him live quite a few times. I’m very inspired by what he does.
Your most uplifting live experience?
It’s hard to choose one. I’ll pick the last one though, which was Gregory Porter’s show at Pizza Express Jazz Club, earlier in 2012.
And your most special studio recording?
It would have to be my latest one; the recording of my album, Day Dawns. I recorded at The Cowshed Studio in north London – a special and memorable time.
What is your favourite instrument or piece of equipment?
My voice. It’s precious to me and I don’t know what I’d do without it.
What is the best piece of music advice that you have received?
Never try to please others. Always do what feels right for you.
Has the MU helped you?
Yes. I should give a special mention and thanks to (MU Section Secretary) Paul Burrows who, in the few months leading up to the release of Day Dawns, was prepared to take many a call from me to advise on all the things I needed to do. I called him so frequently that eventually I no longer needed to remind him who I was! He always took time to help and was happy to do so.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
To promote the album and my music as much as possible, introducing my work to a growing fan base. I also plan to write many more songs.
Keith Ames – The Musician, Autumn 2012