So what's a life in music and performance like? We find out when we catch up with Melanie as our Hip + Urban Girl of the Week!
How did you end up with a career in music?
I grew up in a musical family in Halifax. After studying music I ended up in theatre for a number of years before I started writing songs. That led to a record deal with Sony Music in the late 90's.
Tell us a little bit about your role in War Horse!
I play the part of the Songwoman, who sings, plays violin and acts as a kind of musical narrator and catalyst for moving the story forward. It is a joy to play and I get to be a small part of many pivotal scenes in the show. My friend and colleague, the wonderful Tajana Cornij, plays the other songperson role. She is an accordianist.
How long did it take you to produce and record your latest album, The Emerald City?
Well, I took a number of months to write all of the songs and then recording was a fairly fast process. My brother produced the record and he is quick. We work in his Toronto studio and I love working with my brother. We have been making music together our whole life and have been professional colleagues as well for many years.
What's it like to perform in front of thousands of people? Do you get nervous?
It's a thrill to be in front of a big crowd – a ton of fun! I do get nervous sometimes and other times I'm totally relaxed. It’s not always something you can control but both energies are fun to perform with and it's my job to be consistent and solid either way.
Is it weird to be driving along in your car and hear your songs on the radio?
There is nothing better than hearing your song come on the radio. It’s really fun!
What did you study in College/University? Is there anything you would do differently or advise others about?
I studied music at Dalhousie University. I was planning to be a music teacher and then I started working in theatre which took me on a bit of a ride that is still going. I'm very happy with how things have worked out for me. I think the best advice I can give young artists is to get excellent training. Music school, theatre school, dance . . . I know what I'm doing musically and it gives me huge confidence in all the different jobs I find myself doing.
What is your typical day like?
I am a mom first and foremost so I get up around 7 am and make lunches for my kids, make their breakfast and get them to school. Then I usually teach at a school or two (if it's a weekday). I do a ukulele in the classroom program in a number of Toronto schools. Now that I'm in War Horse I get things ready for my babysitter. After that and I head to the theatre around 5 or 5:30 and start my show warm up. Then the curtain goes up at 7:30. It’s a full day but I am enjoying myself very much. When I can fit it in, I go for a run and I also hit the tennis ball around. I have a few recording projects on the go as well in my free time.
Are there any disadvantages to your job that maybe we don't think about?
I think that playing music for a living is a huge privilege. Not everyone gets to do it and it gives me so much. It keeps me happy and healthy. I don't see many disadvantages.
Who do you draw inspiration from?
As far as songwriting goes, I tend to write about the people I care about and the things I am going through in my life. But, I have also learned to write about things outside of myself, which is an important development if you want to be a writer with any longevity. Collaborating with other writers and writing for other artists has also taught me a lot about getting outside of myself.
Where are your favourite places to hang out in Toronto?
I'm an East ender so I like to eat at Seven Numbers. I like coffee at the Rooster on Broadview or at The Only on The Danforth. I like an occasional cocktail at Lolita's Lust and Brunch at Relish.
Where would you go on your dream vacation?
I always head home to the Maritimes in real life, but Italy or Spain sound pretty good to me. I've never been to either.
What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?
I guess I go back to training. Lots of young people tell me they want to record music - they want to write and they want to sing. That is great and I encourage that dream 100%, but if you are also a singer who reads music, can play an instrument or two, arrange your own string parts and background vocals, be a band leader and produce in the studio . . . you will have a lot more success and WAY more fun. Know your craft - whatever it is you choose.
Download Melanie's latest song or visit her online at www.melaniedoane.com
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