Grammy-winning R&B artist Melanie Fiona continues her mission of inspiring and connecting people through her art. After taking a break from music to have her first child and adjust to motherhood, the eclectic singer/songwriter is back creating music that seeps into the soul of her listeners.
With a plan of never selling out and doing what she’s beloved for, Fiona plans to touch fans while tackling controversial social and politically-charged issues. I spoke with the songbird recently about a plethora of things from being a first-time mom to getting engaged to the creative process around her upcoming third studio album, ‘Next Train.’
What’sup Mel, we haven’t seen each other or spoken in a little while now?
I know right, I’ve been hiding out in these streets. [laughs]
So, tell me about motherhood. How are you enjoying being a first-time mom; was it everything that you expected?
You know what; It was all I expected and more, both good and crazy. As a first-time mom, there’s really no rule book. You can have all the support, all the advice, all the mentors and everything, and then that kid comes along, and they have their own personality and their own needs and wants, and you have to learn how to adapt. Honestly, it is one of the greatest growth lessons that I’ve ever experienced because it teaches me more about patience and focus because I have to be for him. On the flip side, it’s the most immense love I’ve ever felt. It’s interested because when you’re in a relationship, and you fall in love with someone, you’re like ‘It’s so great,’ and when you have your kid, you automatically love your kid, but now as the days, the months, and the years are going by, I’m falling more in love with him at each stage, which is really fun because that’s the stuff that helps you get through those hard moments when it’s frustrating or tiring or really busy. I’m so excited to continue to see who he’s becoming, how he can communicate with me; it’s just a lot of fun right now. I really do love it, and it’s giving me greater purpose and passion. I love being a mom.
What have you learned as a person since becoming a mother?
It teaches me how to be a better person and a better partner in all my relationships. The relationship with his dad, my fiance, my team, my friends, and my parents, because I recognized that I can exercise a certain level of patience and forgiveness. Having a child allows me to not operate from a selfish place because I put him first and always think about his needs. This kind of mindset allows me to be more rational with my relationships.
So you just dropped a bomb, I didn’t know you were engaged!
[Laughs] Yes, I am, I’m engaged. I’m so used to calling him [Jared Cotter] my boyfriend, I should really start calling him my fiance, which he is, so it’s wonderful. It’s nice to be able to switch it up!
So did you guys already set a wedding date:
[laughs] All things are TBD!
Both of you are like our babies because we’ve been pushing you both musically from the beginning before the world caught on. It’s good to see you both happy.
Thank you so much, and we love you guys.
So in contrary to all this love, your new single “Remember U” is like a lyrical stabbing to an Ex, what motivated this record?
[Laughs] I actually did this song when I was first starting the project. I did it with Jack Flash and Andrea Martin, who I’ve had success with in the past with “It Kills Me,” “Fool For You,” and “Wrong Side Of A Love Song.” Creatively, it was just a great point for me to start because it’s classically what I do and where I kind of left off with “Wrong Side” and what people have come to love about me — classic, soulful ballads and truth and vulnerability. This song particularly represents a moment in time in the process of me getting to who I am now and where I am now. It’s a record that everyone can relate to. When you’re trying to move on with your life, and you’re trying to be done with a past situation, and you want to be over it, but it’s these feelings and emotions that you carry that you can’t shake because you’re not ready. I remember being in a space after my last relationship before Jared came along, and it was just a lesson that I had to learn. So that’s really what “Remember U” is about; It’s about the struggle of wanting to let go of the thing that’s holding you back from moving forward. Relatively to the album, that’s what the album is about; It’s called ‘Next Train.’ I really kind of classified all the songs as lessons in life and in love that you have learn or moments that you have to go through in order to move forward with your life and become who you want to be or where you want to be. You can’t forget memories; that’s a beautiful part of life, but it’s also a struggle, so you have to heal from those things and move on.
Musically, what kind of space are you in, and what should we brace ourselves for? What are we going to learn new about Melanie Fiona, the artist, and the person?
There are a lot of songs on this album that are really personal. From my journey of being in a relationship to being an independent artist to being a creative to being moved by social issues, being a woman, being strong, and being weak. For this album and these songs, people will really feel the maturity of where I’m at. I’m not really trying to chase any sounds that’s trendy; it’s a collection of what I classically do, but it’s evolved, and it’s strong. Also, everybody who has listened to my music knows I really like dipping into different genres; you can always expect a reggae song or a pop song. I have a song on the album called “Love So High,” and I’m really excited for people to hear it; it’s like a beautiful ballad over tribal/dance kind of music. It’s not dance music or a house track; It’s like what “4 AM” was for me on the last project. I always stay true to who I am. I’m really excited, and of course, love is the foundation of the album. Also, I always make relatable music that people can feel, whether you lived the experience of the story or not; the music will make you feel, the vocals will make you feel, the progression will make you feel.
You touched on a bunch of the topics surrounding your forthcoming album ‘Next Train,’ but from a social vantage point, what’s your underlying message?
Well, I released “I Tried” in 2015, right before I had my son in 2016. I’m always an advocate for supporting the issues that needs to be discussed through my art. “I Tried” was definitely a personal journey of emotional struggle, but I choose to use the video address Black Lives Matter and police brutality in the country as well as injustice. I everything that I feel right now, even down to the visual I’m getting ready to shoot for ‘Remember U,’ it’s about the healing that women go through and what is necessary. With everything going on right now — feminist movement, women’s empowerment, women’s rights — these songs are needed. I have a song on the project called “Love Is Love,” and in a time when we are so jaded and negative, and there are so many things that are distracting us from coming together and being united because that’s actually what can heal the world. We’re in a time of division right now; we’re in such a space that even love needs some love [let that sink in]. It’s up to us to give it back! I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial topics — I’ll tweet Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, Gun Reform, whatever I’m feeling — I’m very passionate about using my voice and my platform to bring awareness and attention to what we need to be talking about. It’s cool to discuss what’s happening on ‘Love & Hip Hop’ or what’s trending on Twitter, but if we’re not discussing real issues that define the success or destruction of our world, then we’re failing as a human race. It’s very important that we take care of each other.
Speaking of accountability and responsibility, recently, Tory Lanez dropped a video for his song “Shooters” where he tackles police brutality. His approach was sort of from a revenge vantage point, which to me, dissolves the message. I salute him for doing his part as an artist and using his platform, but I think his aggressive approach (shooting at a police officer) will miss the audience needed to help with change.
That’s the thing about art; it is subjective. It might make sense to him, but it might not make sense to you; it might make sense to somebody else. I haven’t seen the video so I can’t comment on it from a personal standpoint, but some people might argue that the answer is not to retaliate with guns and some might agree — it’s the wild wild west out here, it’s either kill or be killed. Whether you agree or disagree, my opinion is irrelevant since it’s not my art, but people are upset, and they’re trying to find different ways to release. Whether the message gets lost or not, I commend any artist that’s willing to take a stance on anything. I don’t care if the majority or minority agrees with it. Just take a stand on something; If you have a million people following you and you’re out here acting like the world is perfect then shame on you. If you can do something to reach 5 percent of your followers, then you’re doing your job. It’s your responsibility; this platform is not about just poppin’ bottles and making money. We need to inspire people to do more with themselves. I’m gonna check out the video now.
You’ve already secured something that many artists thrive for, which are Grammys, what else is on Mel’s bucket list to accomplish?
Well, winning more Grammys would be awesome [laughs]. It’s great being a part of that legacy and they’ve shown me a lot of love. Winning a Grammy is the highest honor in music, and I’m proud to be in that class. But greater than that, in a time where music is so social, I just really want to reach more people than I’ve ever reached before. I’ve been blessed to have such a diverse audience. I broke my first album in Europe and then came back to the States. Having that fanbase on an international level is wonderful, but there are even more places to touch. I want to tour and go to places I’ve never been before; I want to reach more people than ever. I want to become more solidified in the music industry as an artist. I pride myself on being a great vocalist and a great singer so it would be great to be recognized by more people for that. Also, I want to use my music to connect more people; connect strangers.
So, it’s been a while since you released your last album. Do you feel like you have to cater your music to a particular audience or follow what’s trendy — meaning make a song with a good melody and lyrics that don’t make any sense, but it’s a hit.
[Laughs] I love that that’s what you said is going on right now, that’s hilarious. You better keep it all the way real. I feel like I’ve been learning how to adjust in this climate and this environment of what music is. Not necessarily the style of music per see! It would be a disservice to myself, my fans, and the people who enjoy my music, not to diss anyone, to dumb myself down to fit the description of what you just said. That’s just not what speaks to me, that’s not what comes out of me when I create. How I have adjusted is understanding the landscape about how music is shared and discovered. Social media is a huge part of your branding – I understand that it’s a necessity for people to get to know you and that’s fine. I’m never out here painting pictures that’s not my reality! I don’t feel like I could ever compromise my art. I would never want anyone to call me a sellout or feel like I’ve abandoned what I do best to maybe “fit in.” I’ve never wanted to “fit in.” I stay true to who I am!