Having grown up living in numerous countries as well as being surrounded by family members who had successful careers of their own as solo singers and members of Duke Ellington's band, Amana Melome has never been far from the magic of music.
As a multi-cultural performer, she has long since been influenced by the likes of jazz and soul, intertwining them in order to create her own unique sound and style. Now with an exciting year ahead, Melome is more passionate than ever and kindly agreed to this interview to chat music, social media and the magic and mysteries of life.
PW: What would you say is your unique selling point in relation to other bands and artists out there today?
Amana Melome: Greetings and Happy New Year! Perhaps part of what makes my “voice” and art unique is my multicultural background, along with my imperfect and unstudied jazzy ear. I am Afro-American with Caribbean roots, born in Germany, raised in Italy, currently living in Sweden. I come from a Jazz family, but have never studied the math of jazz or music theory, so all that flows from me is communicated orally and created by ear and instinct/feeling. I am not a product of a music school, or a record label, and the music I create is outside of any one box and flows in many directions and in various languages.
PW: How would you describe your sound and style?
AM: Jazzy and soulful. Sometimes it ventures into world-music or reggae or such. It’s recently been coined as “Pop-Jazz” in various articles - especially with this last CD - which is a positive, I suppose. It signifies there is an appeal to “the masses” as well.
PW: Is there any particular artist you think you are most influenced by?
AM: Definitely different artists in different ways. A list of people who have and continue to inspire me. Firstly, Nina Simone, in the way she was a vessel and her music was her truth, and live performances were personal and not just for entertainment. Sade, perhaps for her simplicity and elegance. Then there’s Erykah Badu, for her strength and playfulness and also Zap Mama along with Bobby McFerrin and their usage of vocalizations as an instrument beyond vocals.
PW: To what extent did living in various places around the world influence the music you now create? Is traveling something that continues to excite and inspire you?
AM: Yes, both very much! I definitely have the wanderlust bug! To travel, explore and observe and take in as much variety as this world has to offer excites and inspires me. My global-nomadic upbringing and lifestyle are reflected in my music’s diversity. I find intrigue in things cross-cultural, and often create cross-genre music. I hop on a plane every chance I get!
PW: You come from a family of talented musicians, what with your grandmother, mother and aunt having been professional singers and your grandfather Jimmy Woode was a member of Duke Ellington's band, so do you think it was almost fate that you'd head down the same path?
AM: The funny thing is that I was never urged down this path by my family. I believe it was fate that I head down a path fueled by creativity - which they always encouraged - but it could have been anything; dance, painting, music, writing, even science - I actually started NYU with the intention of being an environmental scientist! Creativity is creating something that doesn’t already exist, thus thinking outside of the box. Singing was always a hobby I deeply enjoyed. Since I had pros in the family I was paranoid that they’d expect perfection of me…so I didn’t find my way to music as my ‘path’ until I was in my 20s and had the confidence and courage to share and embrace my imperfections, realizing perhaps they were positive, and a big part of what sets me apart.
PW: How would you say your song-writing has evolved since you released your debut album Indigo Red?
AM: I think I’ve shifted a bit from story-telling from an outside perspective, to sharing my story from the inside perspective, in a more intimate way. It’s become less scary to share my personal truths and bare naked emotions to the world, light or dark.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written?
AM: I don’t think there is one. There may be one for every mood or emotion and for me, and that list is constantly evolving.
PW: Do you enjoy making music videos?
AM: Yes! I personally love watching visuals to music, so creating something in collaboration with visual artists, to my own music is really fun! I really enjoy being involved in the creative process too.
PW: You've recently been featured on Jazz Times, Soul Bounce and Essence Magazine among others, all of whom have praised you as an exciting, refreshing talent. How does it feel to receive comments and praise like that, and is it ultimately important to you?
AM: It feels wonderful! It definitely carries importance, not necessarily to my ego-self, but because it is a means to extend my music to more people’s eyes and hearts across the globe. This is why I create music, in the hopes of connecting with people, touching a soul - or a million! I am fulfilled in knowing I have touched even one single soul on some level at a concert or through my lyrics. Having important magazines such as Essence Magazine “praising” me as a new talent and the next one to watch excites me on a people level as it’s an opportunity to spread the love and connect further! I am humbled and thankful, every time.
PW: Which artists would you most like to share a stage with and why?
AM: Sia, Moses Sumney, Bruno Mars and Laura Mvula. Those four artists are at the top of my list right now. They leave me in awe of their creativity, wonderful lyrics and spectacular voices! They also all happen to seem like really great people and souls.
PW: You've also had a lead role on popular Italian sitcom Un Medico In Famiglia. Is TV work something you'd like to do more of?
AM: I’d love to do more camera acting. You get an opportunity to “live” many lives - as other characters - within this lifetime! So fun!
PW: How has social media helped build your career? Would you agree it's a necessity for bands and artists today to be socially interactive?
AM: I would definitely agree that social media is a necessity for bands and artists today. The web puts a lot of power into the hands of the creatives, and you can put as much or as little energy into it as you chose. The more you share and post, the more possibilities you can create for yourself.
PW: What does 2016 have in store for you?
AM: An infinity of possibilities, which I get to enjoy one day at a time! Later this month I will be releasing a “Lock and Key - the REMIXES EP”, with a great array of remixes of the singles from my last EP, by various awesome international producers and taste makers. I am constantly writing, and have a couple of exciting collaborations in the works, one of which involves a couple of awesome artists from Ghana…but I can’t share the details just yet. You can however stay up to date with everything I’m doing via my website, Facebook and Instagram.
PW: Finally then, where would you like to see yourself three years from now and what's the ultimate goal?
AM: Great question! Three years from now I see myself getting a lot of love for the next 3 albums on their way between now and then. I see many international and cross-cultural musical collaborations, and festivals as well as perhaps a chance to share stages with some of the people who inspire me. I see I’ve learned to play an instrument. I see a happy life with my husband and hopefully babies to come. More travel. More music. More yoga. More exploration, inside and out. The ultimate goal? To spread joy and light. To live each day to the fullest, to learn, grow and evolve, in some way, from each of those days. To be and encourage a heightening of the vibration on this planet, through my music or any gift that may manifest through me. To be present, to connect, to be loved and to be thankful – always. THANK YOU!