theaussieword.com meets Mellie for a special #TheAussieWord interview.
Tell us how it all started. What had you first interested in music?
I think it all really started for me when i was given a little Yamaha Keyboard for Christmas when I was about 5 years old, my family set the piano up for me on Christmas day and I remember everyone being shocked because I immediately just started playing chords and playing music on the piano. For some unknown reason I had a very good ear and I could copy music I heard on a record or on the radio and play it on the piano straight away.
But music was always something that was a source of fun for me from a very early age. I started watching Young Talent Time and Countdown when I was about 3 years old and I loved singing and dancing along with the YTT team as I watched the TV show.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
For me, it’s definitely about the message within the music. The music I write today is very different to the music I wrote for The Saddle Club and the music I was writing when I was trying to get a record deal back in the early 2000’s. I took a huge break in song writing before I wrote Reach Out For You as I just wasn’t inspired to write the same kind of music as I had been in the past. I was afraid for such a long time to write from my heart and to tell people my experiences through song. I found that I was always trying to write what I thought everyone wanted to hear, and that somehow I was trapped in the past trying to just write pop hits and I wasn’t focusing on what my job as a songwriter now was. So the songs I kept writing just felt alien to me. I didn’t know how to put my experiences into my songs in a truthful way. But then that all changed.
I would say my biggest influences for me changing my songwriting have been listening to Ben Lee’s music and seeing his evolution as an artist, beating severe clinical depression and working in aged care.
The job I had for a while in aged care taught me to open my heart and have compassion and empathy which also motivated me to to write the kind of music I write today. Working with the elderly made me understand the journey of life and death a little and it sort of helped me to find purpose in my own life. Beating depression helped me to write my songs from a place of truth and honesty. I found out that I wanted to write music that is going to help people, maybe help someone to see the light at the end of the darkness, to give someone hope or to help someone see themselves and others with compassion or maybe to simply help someone feel understood and validated.
What are your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist?
My goals in regards to my music have changed so much over the past couple of years. When I started song writing again before I went into the studio to record Reach Out, I think I was still clinging onto the same old goals I had when I was trying to get a record deal in the early 2000’s. I had ideas of touring and wanting to win awards with my music and maybe signing with an Indie label and agents and then I actually took some time to really think about what I wanted truthfully from my music and I realised my goals for my music are hugely different from what I thought I wanted because I have grown so much in the last couple of years as a person and as an artist, if that makes sense.
My goal for my debut single Reach Out For You, is to raise money for the charity organisation Lifeline. They help people in crisis and people who are at risk of suicide and they also helped me many times when I was suicidal. In all honesty I can say my goals as an artist are just to keep writing honest music with a sincere message that raises awareness about mental illness and the human condition and highlights that recovery is possible. But another one of my goals is to create a bigger community on my Youtube channel and to keep releasing singles and eventually have an album.
Success, what is the secret to it?
I’m very enthusiastic about the subject of success and I could talk for a long time about it. Success is made out to be harder to achieve than it actually is because everyone’s version of success is so very different. It’s subjective. I see myself as successful. I have beat severe clinical depression and suicide, I am living my life with vitality now, I have a roof over my head and a husband i love very much, I’m releasing music that has a message and I’m creating content that is authentic, whereas someone else might see what i’m doing as an artist and see me as having ‘failed’. Not everyone will agree on what success is because it means something different to the individual. Over the years I’ve looked at many successful people in different fields of work and studied what they do and read books on success and I’ve had mentors and I think what I have learnt is that success boils down to quite a few important key factors
Success is about routine, getting up each day and working on your craft, it’s about repetition, doing something until it becomes second nature and you no longer need to think about it therefore you’re able to be in the moment, especially with art. I’ve also found that having a hands on approach and testing out what works for you and what doesn’t is an important factor in being successful, if something isn’t working, try it another way until you get it right for you, be persistent but patient. I really believe you have to be clear about your goals too. Have goals that inspire you each day to take massive action in getting closer to achieving those goals and find someone who inspires you (see if they can be your mentor) and then watch what they do and apply what they do to your own steps toward success. I’ve also learnt over the years to ask better questions to get better answers. Successful people ask themselves better questions. I was always asking myself questions like ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why am I such a failure’ and getting the answer ‘cause you’re hopeless’ so I kept creating negative vibes for myself by asking those types of questions and then I would just feel worse and not try to do anything about what I desired in life but then I learnt from people like Tony Robbins to ask myself better questions such as ‘How can I use what I’ve been through to help myself and others’ and I started hearing positive answers from myself that also gave me the momentum to work towards my goals. And the very last thing I’ve learnt about success is to stop comparing yourself to other people. Be grateful for your own strengths and work on what you love. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Comparison is a success killer.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
So far it would be releasing my debut single Reach Out For You. Having people who have heard the song tell me their story of mental illness or suicide. It has made me feel that I am finally on the right path and also that everything that happened to me in my life with bullying and battling severe clinical depression happened so I could survive it all and help other people with my music.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
Ben Lee is hands down my biggest inspiration. I discovered Ben’s music in 1998 and have been a massive fan ever since. The evolution of his music has inspired me in so many ways. I’m very thankful for his music and the message he has been sending out. But I have also always been inspired by artists such as Tori Amos, Bjork, Stevie Nicks and Vanessa Carlton. I’m always inspired by artists who create music organically.
The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?
Still creating music and releasing music. I’m also hoping to get back into co-writing with other musicians.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
I have to admit, I’m so old school and I’ve had to let all my old beliefs go in a way. I’m from the days of you worked to get a record deal, you got a manager and an agent, you did a showcase of your work for A & R guys and record labels, the record label and your manager did everything for you, you know, that kind of old mentality about the music industry, so I’ve had to learn to love how the music industry is now and embrace how musicians get their work out into the population and now I actually think it’s much better than back in the old days! Yes, anyone who has a computer can release music and there is probably more music available on the internet than any one person could ever listen to in any one lifetime but I think the positives outway the negatives. I’ve learnt that social media is an excellent platform for connecting with not only possible fans of my work but also becoming friends with other musicians. Social media and the internet on a whole has been fantastic for me. I’m pretty much an unknown in the music industry but due to social media and the web, I’ve been able to connect with so many people with my music. I’m able to create my music and have it heard all over the world by anyone who wants to listen to it. That in itself is a very positive thing for an artist.
Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists.
Ben Lee is my all time fave, Darren Hayes, Vanessa Amorosi is such an awesome vocalist and songwriter as is Sia and I’ve always thought Delta Goodrem is amazing. But I also grew up listening to Australian artists like The Divinyls, Kylie Minogue, Tina Arena, Eric Weideman (1927) Inxs, Iva Davies (Icehouse), Olivia Newton John, Dannii Minogue, John Farnham, Bee Gee’s, Men at Work and Wendy Matthews.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
I’m heading back into the recording studio to record my second single and i’m releasing that single around September 2016. I will be creating more content for my Youtube channel such as live music performances, Vlogs, hauls, sit down chat videos. I’m doing a few live shows around my home town but in all honesty I have no desire to tour or to do lots of live gigs. I suffer from anxiety, it’s a left over from depression and I’ve learnt that I need to keep myself as stress free as possible. Doing tours or lots of live shows tends to heighten my anxiety. I’m fine when I get onto the stage (I love being on stage and always have) but it’s the lead up to the live shows and the logistics of the shows that unfortunately tend to not sit well with me. This year, I’ve been doing quite a few acoustic live performances for the charity Lifeline to help raise awareness for people in crisis and I find that I cope very well with small intimate live acoustic performances rather than larger shows.
Tell us a bit about your latest record, how would you best describe your music?
My debut single Reach Out For You is written about a darker subject matter, mental illness and suicide, but it is written in a way that is accessible to everyone, it’s melodic, hooky and catchy and you can hum along to it but it is also has the message in the lyric of reaching out to someone when you are in crisis or at risk. My music is about raising awareness for mental illness and sending the message that recovery from mental illness is possible, recovery isn’t easy, it’s never an easy process, but it is achievable. I write about the human condition.
Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
I’m currently organising my second single at the moment and working out producers and which recording studio i’m going to for this particular song and I also have an online business that sells jewellery, dreamcatchers and vintage retro stuff that i’m currently working on. I’m a self confessed hippie and I make all the dream catchers and the jewellery I sell. It’s another art form i’m very enthusiastic about.
Thanks for the interview! What final message do you have for us today?
Thank you so much for chatting to me, it really means the world to be able to get my message out there and hopefully inspire others with my music. I’d like to say that If you are in need of help, don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out to your local community or organisations such as Lifeline. There is always someone who will understand and listen to your story. Life is so short and fragile, find ways to do what you love in life. Be kind to others and love each day.