Australian singer/songwriter Joanna Melas releases eclectic collection of originals and jazz standards
"This dance will set you free/To the rhythm of your heart," sings Joanna Melas on "We Had No Cares," one of the original compositions on her latest album, A Natural Selection.
The song's theme of romantic escape fits comfortably into the record's overall message, which is to let yourself go in the liberating world of music. Melas exemplifies this attitude in her breathtaking eclecticism and stunning versatility; her voice is like a chameleon altering its skin colors, constantly shifting with the different moods and styles on display here.
From the funky Latin pulse of "Dance Da Chuva" to the Spanish sultriness of "We Had No Cares" to the shimmering piano introspection of "Such As These," Melas reveals no artistic boundaries. On "We Had No Cares," her vocals soar with crystalline clarity; it expresses the untainted joy of being swept away by love. On "Such As These," on the other hand, Melas' voice conveys a more reflective tone as hauntingly pensive piano flows like a waterfall. There are inventive covers as well as Melas explores reggae and the blues in the most unexpected places.
Hailing from Australia, Melas discussed the musical roots from which A Natural Selection sprouted.
Q: When did you learn how to sing?
A: If you mean formal lessons, I was 20 years of age when I had some singing lessons spanning about two years.
Q: What kind of education did you have in singing?
A: During those two years I had singing lessons on a fortnightly basis with an opera singer/singing teacher in Sydney who had great aspirations for me having recognized my gift. She urged me to consider a career in singing and undertake more serious studies. Being unsure which direction I should take, whether jazz or opera, I did some workshops and short courses and sang in Gospel groups. This resulted in my following up an invitation to study a music internship at the Heritage School of Evangelism and Communication in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I completed a one-year diploma. However, this included mainly choral work and not solo performance development.
Whilst my intention was to study there for two years, I was compelled to return home to Sydney due to both my parents falling ill. My singing style and technique has developed mainly from regular weekly performances at my gigs over the years and from singing in church in the earlier days. However, I do believe a good vocal coach would take me to another level and bring out my best.
Q: What vocalists had the greatest influence on you?
A: Karen Carpenter, Barbra Streisand, Julie London, Randi Crawford, Eva Cassidy.
Q: Are there any tracks on your album that are deeply personal to you? And why?
A: "Such As These" is deeply personal to me. I wrote this inspirational folk ballad many years ago when I was teaching myself guitar. I started playing these chords and a feeling of being free as a child overwhelmed me. I was reminded that a wise heart is pure, unpretentious, and honest like a child; it's the stuff that opens the door to a-heaven-on-earth-kind-of-life. I feel this song holds a valuable message to people everywhere and the innocence it evokes can touch hearts in a unique and effective way.
"We Had No Cares" is also deeply personal to me. The inspiration to write this song came to me during production of the album. Realizing I was fulfilling a dream by now recording, I put feelings and imagery from my travels in the form of a romantic Latin dance song. It conveys a message I hold dear, that we bring happiness into our lives by purposefully creating good memories that we can draw from at any time and share as soul food with others.
Q: How long did it take for you record the album? What was the process like for you?
A: Recording took place over three months, with around 113 hours in the studio working as the co-producer and co-arranger of each track. Arriving at Style Music Studios in the Hunter Valley felt like a homecoming for me. The collaboration with Phil Tweed was magical; I was very much in my element. Creating the arrangements with meticulous detail and exploring the sounds we used was a journey I'd been waiting to take for a long time and now it was actually happening.
A Natural Selection is the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself a long time ago. As I revisited some of my earlier compositions, including "Such As These," I became inspired to write again. Creative energies taking over, I wrote "Danca Da Chuva" and "We Had No Cares." The new arrangements on the seven covers were approached with as much fervor as my originals.
It was so exciting to have some of Australia's most talented jazz musicians come into the studio and be featured on my album. Guitars were played by Phil Tweed, Dieter Kleemann, and myself. Phil also played piano, keys, bass, drums and percussion. Craig Walters was on tenor saxophone, Stewart Kirwan on muted trumpet and flugelhorn, and Leigh Sherringham on trombone.
Working on the album gave me a chance to re-evaluate where and how I wanted to focus my energies for my music career. Things just got clearer for me. My only wish was that I had done it earlier. I'm now really looking forward to producing and recording more music in the months and years ahead.
More Information: http://www.joannamelas.com