Melanie Dewey, aka MELD, is an artist who can’t quite be nailed down. She has worked consistently in the Nashville music scene without getting sucked into the commercialized Broadway sound. She takes influence from the likes of Papadosio‘s Anthony Thogmartin (who produced her forthcoming debut album), but has also been compared to artists such as Hiatus Kiayote and Ayla Nereo, the latter of whom she toured with in 2019. In this cross-genre limbo, Dewey has created her own style to describe herself with: UniverSOUL. Her self-titled, debut record will hit airwaves in August, and will serve as a true testament to how passionate MELD is toward her craft. Live For Live Music was able to talk with Melanie about influences and how the current state of live music is shaping the industry.
Chris Snyder: Times are strange right now. What are you doing to try to stay creative during this time?
MELD: I definitely agree. Times are strange. Like you and I were saying earlier. It’s a perfect time to be creative. If you have a creative personality you’re always looking for ways to be innovative. Now we have more time then we’ve had in years probably. I don’t know about you but before all of this, I was constantly running around from job to job. Doing a bunch of little things and my sanity was a little out of whack. I’m trying to look at this positively, that I am fortunate to have this time and space to create. It landed at the perfect timing for me because I have an album coming out at the end of August. I’ve been putting everything into that and I’ve been able to. That’s been nice!
Chris Snyder: So talking about the album. You worked with Anthony [Thogmartin] from Papadosio and EarthCry. What was the experience like?
MELD: Anthony mastered it, and is great at what he does. He has been mentoring me through this process on the low, not officially. We had a nice Zoom conference, where he helped me on the best ways to promote the album, with some Spotify tips, and we even talked about Tik Tok. It was pretty funny! He’s very knowledgeable and such a hard worker. He heard the music and just took it to the next level with mastering. Anthony works on all of Papadosio’s projects, with mixing and mastering. He kills it!
Chris Snyder: You mix genres from soul to jazz among others. Can you pinpoint your genre or can’t you really pinpoint it?
MELD: It’s hard to pinpoint so I came up with my own name. I call it “universoul.” It’s kind of a play on words. My last EP I worked on with Matt Harris (ZOOGMA). He helped me hone my sound back then. That was sort of like a “cinematic soul” and R&B. You could actually almost call it atmospheric soul and I feel like that carried over so I have lots of fusion elements and lots of jam influence. I’d also like to say it’s Tedeschi Trucks meets Papadosio meets Hiatus Kityote. Anything that evokes a unique emotion and makes people feel connected is what I’m drawn to. I want to make sure people know that we’re all connected on this planet and universe. Drawing from different experiences can help create that feeling within the musical realm.
Chris Snyder: Your first single coming out is “Freedom”, you really take the listener in just a few minutes on a heartfelt personal journey. Can you dive into how you recorded it and what inspiration it came from?
MELD: Absolutely. I’m really excited about “Freedom” because this is a song that I wrote three or four years ago. My drummer at the time was like “We have to turn this into something.” It came from a time when I was in a very shackling relationship. If you’re in a relationship like that in some ways it can be mind over matter, so it became a song about mental health too. Allowing to free yourself from your anxiety, and if you reach that breaking point you’re already there. At that point you’re just throwing your hands in the air saying “this is insane” or laughing at the insanity of your situation which I’m sure a lot of us are during coronavirus. You are free because there’s nowhere to go but up from there. I wanted to capture that musically. That’s why I had the horn section in there, because I feel horns are epic. From beginning to end I wanted a swell of emotion and at the end you really feel the freedom. Breaking free into that moment.
MELD — “Freedom”
Chris Snyder: I was on a Zoom meeting with my family and we reminisced about past shows we’ve been to. It really hit me hard that there will be no live music this summer.
MELD: I had a similar experience. Relix put out a call to everyone to write one hundred fifty words on the power of live music. I sat down and was like “Yeah! I’ll do this” and by the end of it I was crying. The power of live music is everything. Soul reflection is good to an extent but togetherness, we go to shows to connect with people who normally don’t connect with on a real soul level and have more humility for everything. If we don’t have that it’s tough, especially in times like these.
Chris Snyder: During festival season I really enjoy musicians supporting each other, whether it be side stage or in the crowd. I love that the bands are putting out live streams but for me and hopefully the musicians feel the same way it’s not the same emotional level of connection.
MELD: It’s not. Say you’re listening to a live stream and you’re getting into it. You put your headphones on and turn off all your lights and you’re immersed in this live stream. Then maybe you could feel it a little more. I still think everyone is going to go that far with it you know. Not everyone is going to project it or put it on their big TV. A lot of people are going to watch it on their phones and it’s not the same experience but I’m still glad bands are doing it and innovating. I love the drive in-theatre that’s kind of circulating that Spafford just hopped on.
Chris Snyder: Bands like Phish that are bringing back shows every Tuesday for Dinner and a Movie. It’s a great music community to say the least. It’s still not that connection.
MELD: It’s very cool to see people being innovative and that’s what I’m loving. Papadosio, for example, just did a fan vote set. That’s the first time they’ve ever done that. Bands are engaging with their fans, and artists are more accessible than they have ever been forever. Which is so cool. There is just something about being surrounded by music in every sense of the word and enjoying it with so many people. It gives you hope for humanity. Going to a Phish show and there’s thousands of people and everyone is in it with you. Just everyone is enjoying themselves and that’s what the world (and life) should be like. It’s possible and it reminds me of that.
Chris Snyder: When it comes to the Earth, you’re a big proponent of protecting Mother Nature. Can you tell us about what you’ve done in the past, what you are doing now, and some future projects?”
MELD: I’m in Nashville, TN and in the past I did a four concert series called the Gaia Getdown. Gaia means Earth and we did a show for each element. We did one at Mercy Lounge, one at The High Watt and two at The Exit/In. It was a coming together of the local scene and we raised over $2,000 over the course of the whole event for various environmental charities such as OceanAid, Coalition For Clean Air, and these were all themed shows. We raised money for the wildfires when they were happening out in California. Urban Green Lab, which has a bus that drives around to schools and helps teach kids how to be more sustainable. I have been working with charities like that to raise awareness and also get them some funding because I think it’s very important. On tour, I designed a t-shirt that I call the “water t-shirt.” Every time someone bought it they got to donate 10-15% of the proceeds to the charity of their choice. I had buckets and little water droplets and I would say “Take a water droplet and put it in the bucket you want.” I’m trying to be inventive with this next record coming out, maybe tree planting.
Chris Snyder: Maybe you can get fans to sign up before the tour to plant a tree when you come to their city and you can meet up.
MELD: Yeah. Rising Appalachia everywhere they play they do a horticulture action day. Either in the morning of the show or the next day, they have a community garden, there’s music and planting. I’d like to incorporate more action like that when touring picks back up.”
Chris Snyder: It’s not only about the music but about the people and how we are going to survive for future generations.
MELD: I think this quarantine has been really good for that. Allowing people to reflect and connect with nature in a way we haven’t been doing for a long time. My hope is when everything comes back to normal we have a different headspace about it.
Chris Snyder: What advice can you give for up and budding musicians?
MELD: Networking is huge and has been drilled in me forever. Meet people, go out and support other bands. If you’re doing it for the love of the music, it’s going to work out for you. I, myself, have gotten caught up in the “Am I doing everything right?” just to meet a metric, or some level of success or standard. You see all your friends having certain success or numbers on Spotify. It’s genuine human connection that’s a big part of the live music experience. Wouldn’t you say?
Chris Snyder: I would agree with that a million percent.
MELD: “Why do you think people go see Phish over and over again? They have created an entire catalog of music that is very personable and interactive with the audience too. It’s all about the genuine human connection. Don’t get caught up in the industry. Don’t get caught up in the business of it. Yes, that’s important. That’s just part of it, that’s not the heart of it. Hey! That rhymed.
Look for MELD’s self-titled debut album this coming August. Stay tuned to her website for any announcements and new releases.