Remember the name Melissa James. The British neo-soul singer is creating a huge underground buzz with her enthralling live performances and forthcoming debut album Day Dawns.
Here, the 36- year-old talk about her blooming career and wanting to contribute to the black British soul experience.
Why did you get into music?
I didn’t grow up in a musical family, but I always loved music. Early on my parents made it clear that I had to work hard to have a ‘proper’ career, so I never thought doing anything with music. But when I went to university, I rekindled my love with music and began singing professionally.
You started singing 17 years ago, why bring out an album now?
It’s taken a really long time to get to this point because although I’ve always sang, I’ve never felt confident enough to say I am a performer. Three years ago I began writing my own songs and that built my confidence and it seemed the obvious next step to record the songs. From then there was no turning back, it has been a journey.
What can people expect from your album Day Dawns?
The songs are little stories taken from moments in my life and about periods that have led me up to this point. The message for me is reflective of the fact that it is a new day, a new dawn. I haven’t sat down and set out to try and make it sound like anything but it is a collection of very soulful songs.
What was your first professional performance like?
I did my first proper gig in a university club with other people that practiced music. I hadn’t planned to do it and was so nervous I ran out of the club after I performed. It was horrible for me but it gave me a taste and I went back in a couple of weeks.
What musical genres influence you the most?
I spent a long time listening to Billie Holliday and other jazz singers, I fell in love with them. My dad only liked soca and reggae.
What do you hope to contribute to the black British soul experience?
There’s such a rich soul and jazz music scene in the UK and I very much want to be able to strive and be accepted by people who enjoy that type of music. I feel like I have got something to contribute and my album will show that.
Hazelann Williams – The Voice, June 2012